Yesterday was the 2018 Greg Noonan Memorial Homebrew Competition. I went pretty big this year, with 12 entries between all my beers and meads, and it paid off with seven medals — including a successful defense of my Mead Maker of the Year title. In addition to competing, I had the privilege of judging and hopefully I will earn some experience points for it after the exam in two weeks.
The Big Winner
Not gonna lie — I was pretty excited that I was able to bring home the Vermont Mead Maker of the Year award for the second year in a row. I scored a 42 for the rhodomel version of Imposter Syndrome — which the judges loved and described as red wine-like, with a rich aroma, and a dry finish. It seemed fitting that the mead I made on behalf of the club for 2017’s Mead Day demonstration should go on to be the big winner.1 My only regret is that I didn’t make more of it.
I also brought home a few other medals:
- 2nd Place in Mead for Evil Clone (consensus score 41.52)
- 2nd Place in American Brown & Portder for Tilde Porter (consensus score 37.5)
- 2nd Place in Saison for “Green Mountain Grisette” (née Grisette Traditionnelle; consensus score 363)
- 3rd Place in IPA for “Hainaut IPA” (née Grisette Moderne; consensus score 344)
- 3rd Place in Double IPA for Tilde Galaxy (Mk. II)5
- 3rd Place in Smoke-Flavored Beer for Count Roggen6
“I’m sorry I made you drink that.”
One of the big disappointments for me was Prosody (Mosaic) which got 20 points. While hardly a “courtesy score”, this is probably my lowest-scoring competition beer to date. When it was super fresh, I was pretty satisfied with this beer — all those juicy tropical fruit notes from the Mosaic being super-strong and all that. But they faded faster than I expected and (worse) when they faded it was like a window into the beer’s big flaw.
And that flaw? Petite mutants.
It was the fifth or sixth pitch (and after a year, at that) from the originally cultured colony. This was just a dumb mistake on my part. I thought I could break with the conventional wisdom around how far you could stretch your yeast. I was wrong. With the hop aroma gone, you got all the acetaldehyde and diacetyl and everything else.
“I’m sorry I made you drink that.”
Themes in the Feedback
In some ways I count myself lucky that there was no single theme that cropped up in all of the feedback. That tells me that, for the most part, I’m doing the right things and that any given bit of feedback is situational to that specific beer.
Mild/light astringency was observed on a couple of beers (but not all), which is feedback I’ve heard before. (Again though: not on all of the beers.) I’m still trying to piece together the patterns here to see why some would suffer from this (but not all) — and thus what I can do about it. That research continues.
One or two of the beers had sanitation issues cited. This is always frustrating feedback to get because I’m notoriously clean and a stickler for this sort of thing. I’ll have to look at those beers and see if I can line them up on timing — was there any gear I needed to replace etc.
Oxidation came up on a couple beers ago, and is equally frustrating as when sanitation is cited. I’m not sure what else I can do in my current set up and process to cut down on oxidation. I have a feeling though that investing in something like an Anvil or Ss brew bucket could help here — but still: why wouldn’t this get cited on more beers?
Dry hopping rates. I tried to dial back on this a little bit based on some feedback from previous competitions and shared beers. Seems I over-corrected?
And with the meads… Anything I entered as petillant came back with comments that they were really more in the sparkling range. Noted.
I got to sit with Dan Hament and judge a flight of six British Stouts. I learned a lot from him over two hours. Also, hilariously, our scoresheets were identical for the calibration beer. As I recall, we only had one beer where we were wildly divergent. Otherwise we were pretty darn close. It was a great experience.
And as I looked around the room, I saw a lot of friends from my BJCP study group paired up with experienced judges, cruising through flights.
Great day of homebrewed beer. Cheers to Greg!
- It also seems fitting that the big winner should be named “Imposter Syndrome”. [↩]
- And apparently a very tight race between this and Imposter Syndrome for first place. [↩]
- In other words, it performed better for BJCP judges than it did for the Make the Cut firing squad. [↩]
- To be fair: I’d mostly entered this for the feedback because members of our BJCP study group thought it might be kind of a hot mess. So there. [↩]
- Which, this is the same ribbon it brought home two years ago. That said, I find it ironic that I tried to take the judges’ advice from last time and wound up with a beer that was somehow “more hot/fusel/solventy” after lowering the gravity a few points. I think I have the table sugar to blame there? And/or fermentation or pitching issues? This will require closer inspection. [↩]
- Which, to be honest, “Smoke-Flavored Beer” seems like a weird place for a Roggenbier to land — nothing about the style says “smoke” to me and I have to wonder what happened there. Still, a third place ribbon is nothing to complain about, I just wonder how it would have ranked against the other German wheat beers. [↩]
About Rob FrieselSoftware engineer by day, science fiction writer by night; weekend homebrewer. Author of The PhantomJS Cookbook and a short story in Please Do Not Remove. View all posts by Rob Friesel →
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