I'm looking to enter a local brewing contest that requires each brewer to create a "Winter Ale." The specifics of the contest are listed below. The judging format involves a preliminary round of scoring by certified AHA/BJCP judges, and the top ten are then rated by the public and the highest score from the public rankings wins.
First, I need something that can be turned around fairly quickly (see below), since their intention is to brew the winner in production. I also need something that is good enough to get past real beer judges, but also a beer that the average casual craft beer drinker will vote for.
I'm thinking about going one of two directions.
1. A recipe based on pfeffernuesse (peppernuts) cookies my great grandma used to make. It would be a malt forward beer and would involve some brown sugar, as well as cardamon, cinnamon, cloves, and just a touch of lemon rind. Think old, German holiday cookies, but in beer form. The challenge here, I think, would involve getting the hops balance just right where they're in a supporting role without coming through over the sweetness of the malt and brown sugar and the flavors from the spices.
2. A piney Christmas tree pale ale. Something that when people smell it they think of evergreens, Christmas, etc. I would want it to be more piney than hoppy, with just a little bit of something like Northern Brewer for bittering, and then a larger very late (flame out?) charge of NB, Perle, and/or Willamette to give it a piney, resiny, woodsy aroma.
Any feedback and/or favorite recipes would be greatly appreciated. The contest specifications are below:
• Our goal is to expose the public to as wide a variety of beers as possible in this category, everything from pale to dark, from sweet and smooth to crisp and bitter.
• Because this is a contest to get quality beer first and not necessarily style-accurate beers here are the parameters:
Original Gravity: 1.050 – 1.068 (12.5 – 17 degrees Plato) IBUs: 15 – 80+
Yeast: Ale or Hybrid – NO lager yeasts
Adjuncts: Any NATURAL fermentable, herbal (legal), vegetable or fruit is welcome!
Flavorings: Spices or flavorings appropriate for winter are ok. NOTE: any extract containing alcohol can not impart more than 0.6% alc/vol to the finished beer.
• WHAT STYLES QUALIFY: These styles, as defined by BJCP fit into our parameters Categories 10, 12, 13, 18, 21, 22
• WHAT STYLES DO NOT QUALIFY: As a busy production brewery we are limited in the time we can tie up resources like tanks. For this reason we can not accept beers that require “bugs” wood aging, lagering or any other process that will require more than 20 days of ferment and maturation time. Also gravity limitation is due to our brewhouse which is not designed to produce full batch wort over 1.068.