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Old 01-17-2013, 03:23 PM   #1
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Default Evaluating Homebrew

I'm new here to the forum, and although I'm sure this has been touched upon, it's not an easy topic to search for. I'm just getting into homebrewing, I have two batches still in primaries and I have a third brew planned for next weekend. In the meantime, I'm getting excited at the proposition of opening and evaluating each of the batches. This includes opening some before they've fully matured to better understand how each progresses and understanding in the future when beers may just need more conditioning.

The question I have, is there a generally recommended evaluation means? I know beeradvocate has some recommendations on looking, smelling, and tasting, but I want to be sure I have a somewhat repeatable procedure for evaluating and comparing beers.

I've been drinking all sorts of quality beers for years, but I'm not sure I have the ability to pick up some of the nuances that may be affecting my beers, positively or negatively.

Am I overthinking this?

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Old 01-17-2013, 03:32 PM   #2
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We the brewers are the most critical of our own beers! Some of the beers I have made that I felt were "OK" got raves of praise from other beer lovers I shared them with.

I have found that if you spend your time concentrating on perfecting your process (Mash pH, Yeast pitching rates, Yeast health, Temp control, adequate time for the yeast to finish up and clean up off flavors, proper sanitary practice, etc, etc). If you process is good and your recipe is OK you WILL make excellent beer! I used to taste my beers and try to figure out why it did or didn't taste a certain way but once I stopped wasting time with that and focused on process all my beers started coming out awesome, repeatedly!

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Old 01-17-2013, 04:47 PM   #3
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Whether it's tasting beer or (in my day job) studying history, I think the key to better analysis is to use some sort of structure to break the object of your attention into more manageable chunks.

While there are pros & cons to the system, I think for the sake of not reinventing the wheel you might look at the BJCP evaluation format (www.bjcp.org for the full monty) :
Aroma (1st b/c it disappates quickly)
Appearance (head, clarity, color)
Flavor (hops, malt, yeast, etc.)
Mouthfeel (thin, thick, astringent, etc)
Overall Impression (is the beer more or less than the sum of its parts?)

With some experience and some careful attention, you'll start to find yourself picking up different aspects of the beers you drink. While it may sound like work, it's work with BEER!

Cheers!

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Old 01-17-2013, 05:04 PM   #4
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OP must be an engineer. May I suggest that at least for your first few batches, just enjoy the wonder of drinking beer that you brewed. Then, like most of us, you will become hooked on brewing and obsessed with making each beer better.

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Old 01-17-2013, 06:04 PM   #5
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I taste the wort when done boiling and have come to the point where I know when it is "off" by tasting the wort.
I also taste the fermenting beer at various stages.

After a while if you brew the same or similiar recipes you will get to where you notice particular flavors and what you are looking for in your wort and beer as well as if they are present in your beer or wort from taste.

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Old 01-17-2013, 06:07 PM   #6
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You could always use a BJCP scoresheet: http://www.bjcp.org/docs/SCP_BeerScoreSheet.pdf

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Old 01-17-2013, 06:14 PM   #7
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OP, you need to judge, with experienced judges. Join a group and ask to help judge. They will guide you in assessing beers per the BJCP guidelines. Some homebrew clubs also have kits to let you taste/smell off flavors.

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Old 01-17-2013, 06:27 PM   #8
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I like this post as I am a biologist and tend to analyze, and sometimes over-analyze, things. I have to agree that you are probably going to be your own biggest critic. But I think you are on the right track by tasting your beer at different stages and so forth. I have read multiple tasting articles and brewing texts that try to explain these things. But I think the only way to get familiar with off flavors and flaws is to taste as many homebrews as you can (yours as well as other people's). Brew often and trade brews with friends. Learn from your mistakes and from your buddy's.

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Old 01-17-2013, 07:15 PM   #9
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Also, read the descriptions and know what to look for in common off flavors:

http://www.howtobrew.com/section4/chapter21-2.html

Picking up nuance is one thing -- solving problems is another. And we all had novice brewer days where we drank one of our beers, asked "gawd what exactly IS that flavor -- I don't like it!" Knowing how to identify off flavors is the first step to making them go away.

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Old 01-22-2013, 02:16 AM   #10
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Thanks for all the advice. The info on the BJCP website is awesome. The scoresheets, the definitions and solutions to off flavors, and the style descriptions will definitely help.

And don't worry, I won't be filling out score cards for every brew I taste. I just want the ability to understand, evaluate, and improve my beers.

Thanks again!

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