Wednesday, May 1, 2013

2013 AHA National Homebrew Competition

Drinking the beer that advanced while reading the Judges notes is nice.

This was my second year entering the National Homebrew Competition.  In 2012, I entered 3 beers.  All scoring well, but not all at the level I wanted them to be.  I want to say I was more prepared for this years competition, but the truth is that I wasn't.  I just happened to have more beers bottled this year vs last year.  Mainly because of my Blichmann BottleGun.  This afforded me to pick the beers I thought would be better suited for the competition.  Meaning I didn't want to deal with Pale Ales or any IPA's and what I had on hand.

The beers I decided to send:

Gail Belgian Dark Strong.  18E Final Score 41.3 (Advanced to Mini-BOS) 2nd Place

Farmer Daughter Flanders Red Blend #7  17B Final Score 40 (Advanced to Mini-BOS)

Cucuy Russian Imperial Stout aged on Coco Nibs 13F Final Score 33.5 (Advanced to Mini-BOS)

Farmhouse Saison w/Rayon Vert Dregs (Now named Dirty Gnome)  16C Final Score 32.5

Belma Trials: Saison 16B Final Score 29

I made a promise to myself to send 4 beers to NHC this year, but with the registration snafu, the 4th and 5th beers processed at the same time. (Yes, I had multiple browsers open)  Knowing the mess they were having I didn't want to "Rock the Boat" and paid for my entries before the system crashed.

Right in the middle.

Gail Belgian Dark Strong:  Scored a 41.3/50 Overall. Category #18E Belgian Dark Strong.  Advancing to the 2nd round at NHC.

Judge #1, National 41/50

Aroma: 10/12 Malty, aroma strong.  Malt is toffee, dark fruit esters.  Slight sourness, come chocolate.

Appearance: 3/3  Brown/red, very clear.  Thin resilient head.

Flavor: 16/20  Complex malt/ester flavor - dark fruit.  Toffee and caramel.  Hop character is low, alcohol flavor, slight phenols.  Finishing towards sweet.

Mouthfeel: 4/5 Medium - full body, relatively low Co2.  Some warmth / alcohol - some heat.  Slight astringency.

Overall Impression: 8/10 Really nice Dark Strong.

Judge #2, Provisional 42/50

Aroma: 10/12  Moderate banana esters, sweet rich malt, slightly toasty, brown sugar, raisins, no hops.

Appearance: 3/3  Dark Amber, clear, thick light tan head.

Flavor: 17/20  Spicy and peppery, balanced toward malt.  Rich toasty malt, slighty dark fruit character, raisins.  Moderately low bitterness, brown sugar, slight alcohol. 

Mouthfeel: 4/5  Medium body, medium carbonation.  Creamy with slight alcohol warmth.

Overall Impression: 8/10 Overall on style and well balanced.  Fruity esters could lean more toward dark fruit - you could try another yeast strain or ferment slightly higher.  You could use a little more carbonation as well. 

Judge #3, No Rank Listed 41/50

Aroma: 10/12 Malt sweetness and fruity esters dominate.  Low peppery phenols.  Alcohol aromas evident.  A nice balance.  Low backround of hops.

Appearance: 3/3  Dark copper color.  Very clear.  Dense tan head, dissipates quickly.  Significant legs on glass.

Flavor: 16/20  Malt and fruit dominate.  Sweet but in balance for style.  Low spicy phenols.  Alcohol flavor evident but not "Hot" Well balanced with a little complexity. 

Mouthfeel: 4/5  Moderate body.  Noticeable alcohol warmth.  Not astringent. 

Overall Impression: 8/10 Very nice.  If I want to nitpick:  maybe a bit over attenuated.  Maybe a more complexity.  The malt did not hold up over time as well as I'd like.  But honestly really hard to fault. 

Chris's Notes: I am really happy with this beer.  I feel this is spot on with what the beer should be.  Malty, fruity and strong.  Strangely enough, this is the same beer that was entered in the America's Finest Homebrew Comp a couple months ago.  (You can read the judges thoughts on the link)  I also have the second batch on draft right now to compare against.  The 1st one is a little better due to some recipe changes that I didn't like. 

Farmers Daughter Blend #7:  Scored a 40/50 Overall. Category #17B Flanders Red Ale.  Advancing to the Mini-BOS.

Judge #1, Provisional 40/50

Aroma: 10/12 Lactic sourness backed by dark stone fruits.  Hop aroma is not evident, as per style.  Mustiness comes out as it warms up. 

Appearance: 3/3  Nice red color.  Crystal clear.  Beige head with moderate retention.  Fine bubbles with nice lacing.

Flavor: 16/20  Mild sourness back with a slight hop bitterness.  Malt flavors are muted.  But contain some raision and caramel notes.  Finish is long with mild sourness that beer begins with.  Sour cherry flavors is nice. 

Mouthfeel: 4/5  Body is full.  Carbonation is low.  No alcohol warmth to note, per style.  No astringency. 

Overall Impression: 7/10 This is a great beer overall.  Nicely hits style points.  Great job. 

Judge #2, Certified 40/50

Aroma: 9/12  Very light caramel malt note.  No detectable hops.  Esters of dark currents and cherries.  Red wine like, slight sour aroma detectable. 

Appearance: 3/3  Brilliant burgundy red.  Head is decent with off white color.  Blastly clear.

Flavor: 16/20  Moderate malt.  Flavors of caramel and chocolate.  Fruity esters of cherries and dark currents.  No hops noticeable.  Some spicy phenolics of a pepper in nature.

Mouthfeel: 4/5  Medium bodied with a moderate amount of carbonation.  Great sourness that blends well, no astringency. 

Overall Impression: 8/10 Wonderfull beer, Great blend of fruits with sourness.  A little more complexity/age might make this beer phenomenal.  Great Job.  Would like this beer with a rare steak!

Chris' Notes:  I love this beer.  It really pains me that we will never be able to reproduce this beer again.  This also reminds me that I never did a tasting session with this beer.  I'll get on that this week. 

Cucuy Russian Imperal Stout:  Scored a 33.5/50 Overall. Category #13F Russian Imperial Stout.  Advancing to the Mini-BOS.

Judge #1, National 33/50

Aroma: 8/12  A somewhat malty aroma.  A little roasty but more fruity - OK.  The fruit is not complex.

Appearance: 3/3 Black in color, dark tan head.  Opaque

Flavor: 12/20  A fairly rich dark malt flavor.  Low roast to grain profile.  Moderate hop bitterness.  Medium hop flavor.  

Mouthfeel: 4/5  At most full-bodied.  There is some of the luscious feel - velvety. 

Overall Impression: 6/10  Wanted more complex aroma.  Looking for more intensity and complexity in the malt.  Nice beer though, pump it up a little. 

Judge #2, National 34/50

Aroma: 7/12  Sweet dried fruits - plums, fig and grape fruity piney resinous hops.  No DMS.

Appearance: 3/3  Deep black with some dark brown highlights.  Dark tan head of moderate retention.  Appears clear, but difficult to tell.

Flavor: 13/20 Dark roast followed by figs, raisins, chocolate and pie crust.  Piney resinous fruity hops poke through in finish.  Dried cherries come out as beer warms. 

Mouthfeel: 4/5  Full body, rich and robust carbonation is fairly light.  Some moderate heat is detected, but within style.

Overall Impression: 7/10 Nice complexity, seems to show benefits from aging.  Dark fruits marry well with strong roast and just enough hop flavor to keep it interesting.  A bit more aging and hops might benefit well.  A little bigger on the recipe overall would do well for category.  Still a very nice beer. 

Chris's Notes:  I was a little let down by this beers results.  I expected it to get to the second round.  So much so that I rebrewed it for that reason.  I have a feeling this 8.9% beer just didn't have the ABV to stand out enough in the mini-BOS.  I also will have the carry the fact that Danny's beer beat mine in the mini-BOS.  That hurts more than anything. 

Farmhouse Saison:  Scored a 32.5/50 Overall. Category #16C Saison

Judge #1, Certified 33/50

Aroma: 7/12 Fruity esters upfront-lemon.  Spicy floral hops presence.  Yeast derived phenols also present, peppery.  Sour aromatics also present.  Low malt aroma.

Appearance: 3/3 Lt Golden color, crystal clear.  White creamy head w/large bubbles - persists. 

Flavor: 13/20 Very Fruity / lemon and cloves upfront and sour flavor up front also - dominates w/peppery notes also upfront and thru out. Balanced toward spice.  Finishes dry, low hop bitterness and flavor.

Mouthfeel: 4/5 High alcohol warmth and med body.  Very low astringency in the finish.  Med Carbonation.  Moderate tartness.

Overall Impression: 6/10  Sour aromatics and flavor are very dominate in aroma but ok for style from the yeast.  Could be more balanced w/ malt and hops so that the sour/tartness is not as dominate.  Refreshing and drinkable, good job.

Judge #2, Certified 32/50

Aroma: 7/12 Light malt, and subtle fruitness and sour notes prevail.  Hop character very low.  Dark fruit.

Appearance: 3/3 Clear straw gold color.  Head formation moderate.  Fine white head, clings.

Flavor: 13/20  Light malt base quickly overtaken by strong fruit notes and moderate spice.  Hop bitterness and character low but not subdued by fruit, spice and underlying sourness.   Finish is moderately dry via attenuation, slightly pepper notes. 

Mouthfeel: 3/5 Light bodied, carbonation a touch high.  Warming but in line, no astringency. 

Overall Impression: 6/10  Overall am interesting product, a touch lean.  Spice and fruit notes are nice, but underlying sourness complicates balance.  Finish is moderately dry.  Seem that with the flavors, nothing really stands out.  Overly complex.

Chris' Notes:  I think this beer would of done really well in the Belgian Specialty Category.  I ended up going back and forth on this entry and entered it as a Specialty beer.  But at the last minute I switched the entry to the Saison category.  Having such low marks on this beer was kinda like a gut punch, but as long as I liked it that's all that matters right?

Belma Trials: Saison:  Scored a 29/50 Overall.  Category #16B Belgian Pale Ale

Judge #1, Provisional 30/50

Aroma: 6/12  Big fruity nose, some mild banana notes give way to a restrained bready aroma.  Hops are muted in, allowing malt and yeast to drive the aroma. 

Appearance: 3/3  Pale straw color.  Thick white head with great retention.  Foam is fine with nice lacing.  Crystal clear. 

Flavor: 11/20 Sweet and bready at first.  But quickly balanced by the hops.  Hop character is moderate and spicy, as per style.  I'm not getting much Belgian yeast character in the flavor.

Mouthfeel: 4/5  Full body with a rich creamy mouthfeel.  Finish is a bit flat, but clean, body is a bit much for a Belgian Pale.

Overall Impression: 8/10  This is a decent beer, but I would like more malt and yeast character.  I'd like to see a bit more attenuation as well, as the body was a bit to full. 

Judge #2, National 28/50

Aroma: 6/12  Dominated by esters and phenols - banana, pear, flowers and plasticky phenols.  Hops aroma is restrained, malt is a neutral sweetness.

Appearance: 3/3  Deep yellow and very clear.  Smooth moussy head forms, large and fades very slowly.  Leaves lace on glass.

Flavor: 9/20  Sweet malt is quickly overtaken by banana and floral ester profile.  Phenol spicyness comes in with ozone and plastic.  Malt is somewhat thin.  Low hop flavor.  Moderate bitterness comes through at the end.  A bit metallic.

Mouthfeel: 4/5  Medium bodied, medium to high carbonation.  No warming, co creaminess.  A bit rough in the finish.

Overall Impression: 6/10 Phenols dominate aroma and flavor - the style admits some phenolic character, but it doesn't allow other components in it.  The malt bill could use some caravienne or biscuit.  Beautiful beer, defiantly in the style.

Chris' Notes:  Wow, this was my "Worst" beer that I entered.  I do get all Judge #2 is saying, I'm just afraid that the flavors coming out are contributed by the Belma hops?  This is the oldest beer that I send, kept warm BTW.  I guess I will have to open one up and see about the flavors that the beer has today. 


  1. Chris, congrats on your award! I didn't realize you were the guy behind homebrew finds until I connected the dots today when I saw this post on Homebrew finds. I've followed homebrew finds for quite some time and purchase items off of it occasionally (just bought the insulated growlers off it today). Keep up the good work

    1. Ha, no that's a different Chris. But I've heard that before. On a different note I saw you placed a couple also. Congrats.


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