Sunday, October 27, 2013

My First SMaSH - Simcoe and Maris Otter

I finally got a chance to brew on Labor Day weekend.  I unfortunately had not spend to much time into recipe formulation so I decided to use what I had on hand to make a Single Malt and Single Hop (SMASH) beer.  I used the base malt I currently have on hand - Munton's Maris otter.  I chose to use Simcoe for the hop as I was a big fan of Uinta's wyld, which is majority Simcoe.  Brew day was fairly smooth other than having to run back and forth from the back porch into the basement for various brew day gear.

Mr. Mo Simcoe Label

Brewed On: September 1, 2013
Kegged On: September 21,2013
Style: 10A - American Pale Ale
Batch Size: 6 gallons (5 gal into fermenter)
Efficiency: 77%
OG: 1.047
FG: 1.010
IBU: 39 calculated (Rager) 
ABV: 4.8%
Yeast: Safale S-05 American Ale Yeast.  Fermented at 64° for 3 days then rise and held at 68°

Grist Mashed at 154 for 45 minutes
100% - Munton's Maris Otter - 10 lbs

Hop Additions
.5 oz - 
Simcoe  - FWH - 28 IBUs
1 oz - Simcoe - 10 min -11 IBUs
1 oz - Simcoe - 0 min
Dry Hop Addtion of Simcoe
1st Addition - 2 oz ~9 days (ran out of CO2 so it stayed in longer than planned)

Water Adjustments
Montgomery County, MD Water - 1/2 Campden Tablet for all brewing water
12 grams gypsum to mash water
5 oz acid malt

Tasting Notes

The aroma has a moderately high and complex citrus which is a combination of sweet orange and grapefruit with a hint of a more sour citrus fruit - think lemon/lime.  There is a low bready quality from the malt, but the hops are the star. Light gold in color and clear, just shy of brilliant, with a fairly thick white head that fades fairly quickly to a coating on top.  The flavor contains a moderate bready malt character and moderately high grapefruit/lime citrus hop character.  The moderately high hop bitterness is a tad too much for the malt backbone which leads to a decidely balance bitter balance.  The beer has a moderate carbonation and a medium light body.  The beer finishes slightly dry.  

Overall, it is a very drinkable beer and coming in at 4.8% is very sessionable.  For hop heads this is a solid pale ale, but is definitely too bold for the BJCP determination of APA. After doing my first SMaSH, I think simcoe is a great hop which can contribute a complex citrus character to beers, however, it needs the synergy of other hops to produce a great beer.  I guess the sour citrus fruit I perceive is what others attribute the "catty" quality of simcoe and although I kind of like it, I can see how it would deter others.  The maris otter malt does a good job against the highly hopped competition, and I think a standard american 2-row would have made this beer even more of a hop star.  It provides a depth and I believe mouthfeel the 2-row just cant compete with.

Monday, October 21, 2013

BJCP Tasting Exam

I have been rather quiet over the past couple months.  Partially due to the new house, but a lot due to my beer-based hobby time being devoted to studying for the BJCP Tasting Exam.  I knew fairly quickly after entering two different competitions in the summer of 2011 I would want to become a judge.  I received scoresheets back from the two competitions with a 29 and and a 38 for the same beer - a Scottish 70/-.  In the one competition I didn't place at all.  In the other, I received 2nd place Best of Show.  This is not the first time this injustice has happened to a homebrewer, and I am sure it won't be the last, but I knew I wanted to become a well-qualified judge and do my part to prevent this!

I looked at the BJCP exam schedule and found out the closest exams to me where held a few miles north in Frederick, MD.  In April of 2012 (10 months out), I contacted the exam organizers to get into the exam in February of was already full and I was placed into the 12th spot on the waitlist - Wow!  I knew you had to sign up early, but didn't realize it needed to be that early.  I was then informed another exam would be administered in September of 2013 - I signed up.

Fast-forward to this spring and the organizers contacted everyone and let them know of a tasting course they teach to prepare people for the exam.  The class was 12 weeks long, meeting for 2 hours once a week.  We went through all of the BJCP style guidelines trying a dozen or so beers at each meeting.  The teachers also graded sample scoresheets for us and halfway through the course we took a practice test.  We had a few "flaw" sessions which were critical as I came to learn that some of the descriptors for a certain off-flavor were not the tastes I would natural associate.  For example, DMS to me tastes like regular V8 tomato juice.

BJCP Entrance Exam Certificate
Entrance Exam Completion Certificate

As you can see above, I passed the new online entrance exam - required before you can take the tasting test.  I took the tasting exam the last Sunday in September and was pleased with how I think I did.  After the exams were handed in, the proctor told us the judges consensus scores and what beers we had.  I was only 5 points off the judges consensus scores at worst, and one of my beers was within a point and a half!  Being the nerd that I am, I looked up the scoring guidelines and it looks like my scoring should average around 16.8 points in the scoring accuracy part.  16-17 points on scoring accuracy is required for a "National" ranking.  I figured this will put me fairly close to the score of 80 which is what I am striving for as this score will make me eligible to take the written exam (after accruing the necessary judging points) and to try to become "Nationally" ranked.

Now I just have to wait for the exams to be graded.  This will take a couple of months as it is all volunteer based and a very time intensive process.  In the meantime, I can get back to brewing!