Monday, August 15, 2011

The Sweetness of Bitter

The results are in and one of my beers brought home some bling on Saturday.

Of the seven beers I entered in to the Dominion Cup, the weakest as far as I was concerned was my Fuggold Bitter. Fuggold bitter uses 4 malts, pale, amber, brown and caramel 10, 2 hop varieties (can you guess what they are?), and the Windsor yeast strain. At 3.3% abv, it is very much a session beer, and one that every time I drink it I tend to think is a bit on the thin side, though tasty enough. Yet on Saturday afternoon my little Ordinary Bitter came away with the gold medal in the Bitters and English Pale Ale category, pushing a couple of ESBs into second and third.

As you can imagine I am very please with this. Everyone likes to win competitions and get some freebies, I particularly like my new Sierra Nevada glass, which will likely make an appearance soon. Most intriguing though is a small packet of unlabelled hop pellets, seriously, I have no idea what they are. I think I will make a SMaSH beer with them though, perhaps with a base of 100% Vienna or Munich, just for fun.

Despite the bling and the freebies, it is the feedback on the score sheets that I am most interested in. I like getting feedback on my beers, and the medium of judging beers anonymously really is helpful as it takes away the element of being nice to the brewers face. Some of the comments about Fuggold Bitter were in stark contrast to my own opinion, for example one judge thought the beer had "too much body for this category" and that it might be better as an ESB, another judge thought it "a bit full flavoured". Maybe the next time I am back in Blighty I will have to go on a bitter drinking spree, but thinking back on a pleasant afternoon in Oxford's The King's Arms, drinking mostly Young's Bitter, I don't recall it being as thin as I think my bitter is.

Some other interesting comments on the beers I entered included both my witbiers being described as closer to saison than wit - mainly due to the colour and being "too hoppy" for a witbier, I never thought I would read that 18 IBUs of pure Saaz would be too hoppy. From this feedback though, I think I will enter both witbiers in the saison category at the Virginia Beer Blitz in October. On the subject of the three wit experiment, it was the American Witbier - same base beer as the other 2 but fermented with the American Wheat Strain - that scored the highest of all my beer and was in the running for another medal as it was involved in a category Best of Show playoff.

The beer with the lowest score was my Export India Porter, which I entered as both a robust porter and a specialty beer. For the base beer in the specialty category, I put British Black IPA, as it uses all British hops to achieve the same IBU rating as an American Black Ale/Cascadian Dark Ale/Insert Name of the Week. It was as a specialty beer that I got the dreaded "not to style" comment, at which I chuckled broadly as there is no such thing as a British Black IPA, so what possible style could it not conform to? The beer did better as a robust porter, and I entirely agree with one of the judge's comments that "a bit more substantial malt base" would "support the formidable hop bitterness". I attribute this to the fact that the first batch, which took gold as a robust porter in last year's Beer Blitz, had an OG of 1.062 as opposed to this batch's 1.052.

As a club, the Charlottesville Area Masters of Real Ale pulled in a total of 16 medals, including some for mead and cider, and a second place in the overall Best of Show. Not only is the Charlottesville area something of a hot bed for good breweries, but also seems to be something of a breeding ground for homebrewers.

With my medal hanging with the others in the kitchen, my attention has already turned to preparing for this year's Virginia Beer Blitz.......


  1. Good job! Always nice to get a little something from all the effort.

    'not to style' comments on judging forms are mostly useless and irritating. I'm not quite sure how a judge finds themselves writing that on a scoresheet.

  2. Congrats! It's good to walk away with a pat on the back and something shiny in your pocket!

  3. Thanks for your comments gents! It is indeed great when other people appreciate your beers.

  4. "not true to style". I always laugh when I see that.

    Congratulations on your competition success.

    The Barclay's Dark Lager was really nice at the GBBF, by the way. Though that probably wasn't true to style either.


Czeching out Cola Town

Since the demise of the Flying Saucer I have been somewhat bereft of places to drink when I am in Columbia, SC visiting Mrs V's family. ...