I figure I'll add my results here and maybe get this thread going a bit. Good write-up Hex, hopefully you'll have a better go of it the next time. Sorry, long post.
I submitted two entries, a special bitter and an ESB. Both recipes were pretty standard for bitters, with the one exception of an addition of No. 2 invert syrup for the ESB. For those of you who may not be familiar with invert, this is NOT the same stuff as rock sugar or the D1/2 syrup used in Belgians. British invert is not entirely fermentable and will add significant flavor to a beer. Here are the recipes:
ESB: O.G: 1.054, F.G: 1.010, 12 SRM, 40 IBU, (UK) EKG and Fuggles. 81% Pale MO, 8% C120, 11% Invert. Mash 154F. WY1968 London ESB.
Special Bitter: O.G: 1.044, F.G: 1.010, 11 SRM, 35 IBU, (UK) EKG and Dryhop. 90% Pale MO, 8% C120, 2% Amber malt. Mash 154F. WLP022 Essex Ale.
Similar recipes, both use a good bit of C120 that is a bit unusual for most traditional bitters. I often like using a higher % as it adds a lot of toffee/caramel flavor, though this has a downside in that it can hurt drinkability or make the beer cloying if the yeast does not attenuate or there is not enough IBUs. Yeast choices were standard for the ESB and the WLP022 was one I had never used before. As I ran out of DME, I did not make a yeast starter for the ESB.
My normal process for fermentation is same as in the other thread, pitch a good amount of yeast below ferment temp (64F) and let rise to 68F within a day. Ferment at 68F until 3/4 of gravity drops then lower back to 64F until finished. If the beer needs a diacetyl rest I will sometimes give it a few days at 70F. By day 12 or so, I crash cool the beer down to 38-42F before kegging. Serving and drinking by day 17. However, for both batches of beer for this comp, I did not follow this. Due to work conflicts, I had to go out of town for two weeks and was not able to crash cool or keg both beers on time. I kegged the ESB after 24 days in the primary and the special bitter after 33 days, with a two week (!) dry hop. Both beers were kegged, force carbed, and bottled the next day. Needless to say, this is NOT how to make proper bitters.
Here are the judges comments;
Special Bitter, Judge 1.
Aroma: Sweet and sour aroma. Sweetness if full of caramel and dark fruit. Orangey-citrus. Toffee as it warms. 9/12
Appearance: Dark orange/copper. Slightly hazy. Poured with very little head. Clears up as it warms. 2/3
Flavor: Nicely malty. Well-balanced bitterness. Finishes dry. I'm getting a bit of tartness on the back of the palate that is accompanied by fruity-apple flavors. 16/20
Mouthfeel: Medium body, med-low carbonation. 4/5
Overall: Very enjoyable beer. Nicely balanced with malt/bitterness. My personal preference would be to a little more overall malt flavor but is to style. The slight tartness detracts a little. 6/10
Aroma: Caramel dominates the aroma. A little plum. Faint herbal aroma. 8/12
Appear: Dark amber, a little haze, almost no head - strings of foam look like a spider web. 2/3
Flavor: Good bitterness, lingers on the palate. Some peat smokiness up front that fades as the bitterness takes over. Slightly spicy hop flavor. Easy drinker, but not so refreshing. Dry finish. 14/20
Mouthfeel: Prickley at first, then drying bitterness. Definately has a warmth to it. 4/5
Overall: Again, an easy drinking beer but there is something about the flavor that I can only describe as peat smoke that keeps everything from really coming together completely. Still, solid with no major flaws. 7/10
ESB, Judge 1:
Aroma: Great aroma. Fruity esters combine with a rich malt and caramel/toffee. Slight diacetyl lends a richness and butterscotch character. 9/12
Appear: Chestnut brown with strong red hues. Fairly hazy. Poured with some off-white head with large bubbles. 2/3
Flavor: Really digging the flavor. Strong malt character with lots of toffee. Relatively low but balance of bitterness. A little fruitiness carries through to the finish. Very slight bitter aftertaste. A hint of (?) with the fruit. 16/20
Mouthfeel: Medium body, med-low carbonation. 4/5
Overall: Very good beer but I can't help but feel it is missing something. Unfortunately, I cant say what. It's got nice flavor + aroma but it somehow wasn't as satisfying as it should have been. 7/10
Aroma: Definite diacetyl, but Brian and I appreciate it at the right levels. Perfumey English hop, almost rosy. Actually, I think the diacetyl in this is a bit high. 7/12
Appear: Reddish with orange highlights. Bubbly head-big bubbles with little retention. Decent clarity, though a little hazy. 2/3
Flavor: Caramel flavor with a little diacetyl complementing it. Esters come out here in full force. Fermentation products are a little overpowering. Good bitterness. 12/20
Mouthfeel: Slick, carbonation is appropriate. No obvious flaws here. 4/5
Overall: Fermentation products were the problem with this beer. They overpowered otherwise decent caramel flavor and aroma. Bitterness gave a refreshing quality to it. 6/10
In summary, I was ok with how both beers came out, considering the circumstances. I will not be using wlp022 again, as I do not like the tartness it gives - similar to wy1098/99. I should have used a yeast starter for the ESB, doing so would have reduced the production of diacetyl to a more acceptable level for American judges palates. However, I do like some diacetyl in a caramel forward beer. Obviously, judge 2 did not like it. Overall, this was a good learning experience and I hope we do this type of thing again.