Monday, May 13, 2013

Homebrew Tasting: NHC 1st Rd Results

I decided (and actually was able) to enter 3 beers into this year's NHC Competition. It is always tough for me to enter beers since I don't often brew to style guidelines. I do however like the idea of anonymous feedback and validation if you win is pretty nice also. The price has gone up considerably in past years, so I try to be more selective about entering beers that don't have any obvious flaws and I'm on a quest to perfect. The other benefit is that I like readers to be able to see tasting notes from beers discussed on this blog (so you don't have to trust my opinion).

Spolier Alert: 1 of my 3 entries won 1st and will advance to Rd 2.

Category 17B : Oud Bruin - Score: 40 - Place: 1st
This is a style I have tried to brew for several years and with mild success as a stand alone batch. In my opinion this style is extremely difficult (or lucky) to brew an outstanding example without blending. Mine have always gotten too sour, dry and funky. Here are recipes for those attempts - 2010 , 2011. I decided to do some blending with beers I have on hand and enjoy separately  The Oud Bruin final blend consisted of:
75% - 2010 Flanders Red - first Roeselare pitch - so it was barely tart, had a great cherry nose, but lacked any malt complexity
15% Imperial Oatmeal Stout - at ~14% , this is a super rich, dark fruit, malt bomb - a definite sipper and thick
10% Belgian Dark Strong w Maredsous dregs - Rich dark candi sugar flavors, a bit sweet for the style and balanced Belgian esters/phenols

They liked the complexity, which I really think is only possible with blending and that I kept the tartness on the subtle side. I think sourness is where most people go wrong with Oud Bruins. I think there should just be enough tartness to make the fruity esters pop.

Score Sheets:

Category 17C: Flanders Red - Score 33.5
I have been brewing this style the longest and I think I'm closing in on a recipe and process that will work without blending. My previous batches have been good on their own, but are really nice when I mix in some beer with a rich dark fruit malt character.

85% 2011 Flanders Red - Nice beer on its own, good level of sourness, nice tart cherry nose just lacks malt complexity
10% Imperial Oatmeal Stout  - my go to malt complexity blending beer
5% 2010 Flanders Red Kriek - just my 2010 Flanders Red with a lb of tart cherries aged in a gallon container

This one was a bit of a head scratcher as far as the judging remarks. They mention everything that the style should have and that is a great example of the style but then score it relatively low. I think it comes down to the individual judging tastes and that the beer didn't have enough WOW factor. I actually thought I was going to get dinged for too much acetic acid (the kriek is quite acetic for me), but that might go to show I have a lower threshold than most. I think the judge comment about metallic comes actually from the acetic bite.

Score Sheets:

Category 22 C: Wood Aged Beers - Score 38.5 Mini BOS - Farmhouse Ale aged in French Chardonnay Barrel

100% - Chardonnay Barrel American Saison

We knew this was a great beer, but finding a category and describing the beer is the trick to scoring well in competition. Notice I didn't even mention the Brett, but called it a Farmhouse Ale. The brett character is minimal in this beer and I didn't want the judges searching for it. The barrel character is the main flavor and hence the reason for entering it in Wood Aged beers versus Belgian Specialty. This is a beer that I knew would be up to the judge's taste and that winning involves luck. It was entered because it would be fun to have the whole group celebrate if it won.

Score Sheets:

I'm quite excited to blend the beer for the second round and hope it does well.


  1. Awesome idea blending the Oatmeal stout with these beers for malt complexity. Congrats on the 1st place Jeff!

    1. Thanks, the blending is starting to become more instinctual as I get experience. It is a lot of fun and I encourage people to try it with all beer styles.

      P.S. your blog is off to a good start.

    2. Lol thanks, I am slowly getting content up there. I didnt know anyone was looking!?!

  2. Congrats! I've got about 20 gallons of sours that I'll be blending and fruiting sometime in the future. I think the biggest draw for entering in a competition for me is the completely objective opinions of the judges. You get a better feel for your brewing skills from strangers that you never meet then your friends.

    1. Agreed. Blind tasting is a powerful tool. One issue that I do find sorta tough at least with the beer styles I like such as sour ales is finding qualified judges. We are pretty lucky in San Diego to have a knowledgeable judge pool. These beers are very diverse and most people don't brew them (so they can't help you with possible improvements - like telling me a 3 yr old beer could use some more age) and haven't got to drink too many beers of that style. Think about how many different Oud Bruins you have tried versus an IPA.

      I do enjoy your blog and if you ever want some feedback on beer I'd be happy to help.


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