Competition vs. tasting at home

Homebrew Talk - Beer, Wine, Mead, & Cider Brewing Discussion Forum

Help Support Homebrew Talk:

pdxal

Well-Known Member
Lifetime Supporter
Joined
Jul 19, 2010
Messages
1,839
Reaction score
269
Location
Portland, OR
Hi everybody, a humble question for those with competition experience and knowledge about an issue I have had several times.
When submitting a beer into BJCP/AHA sanctioned competitions I have had a similar thing happen several times. A beer I submit apparently gushes when opened to be judged and scores low. This has happened several times with entries in multiple competitions organized by different clubs in my area.
When I have tried the same beers at home before and after I have no issues with over carbonation or gushing. These beers were carbed with 2.5-2.7vol CO2, all bottle conditioned. One was a sour with a fair amount of sediment in all bottles, 2 were Belgians (a Saison and a Dubbel), and one was a Doppelbock.
Ironically, other beers I have entered in the same competitions have done well, and not gushed.
Any ideas on what is going on? I have ruled out infection (in 3 out of 40-50 bottles in a batch) and overcarbonation (via random submission out of each batch) with other comparison to other bottles from the same batch.
I generally drink the beers at 40-45 degrees, but have tried some at 50-55 to see if temperature was the culprit with no gushers.
Any ideas on what might be going on, and a solution? Thanks for your input.
 

RM-MN

Supporting Member
HBT Supporter
Joined
Nov 26, 2010
Messages
14,794
Reaction score
5,682
Location
Solway
As a guess, those bottles had the sediment stirred up during shipment to the competition and it hadn't all settled out again. Sediment makes a wonderful place for bubbles of CO2 to begin forming and if there is much in the beer, it will gush. I had that with a spiced ale that gushed when I opened the first bottle but by leaving it set another week the problem went away. You might need to send your beer submissions in earlier to let them have time to resettle.
 

Homercidal

Licensed Sensual Massage Therapist.
Lifetime Supporter
Joined
Feb 10, 2008
Messages
33,269
Reaction score
5,695
Location
Reed City, MI
Not sure what your process for bottling is, but I recommend using a bottling bucket and making sure to mix all of the sugar gently, but completely before bottling. It's hard to know exactly what has gone on in the competitions you entered. They may have mishandled the beer (Although in general these people are trained to handle the beer properly) or what kind of glasses they used to judge with (Most use a small plastic cup).

Another possibility is that some bottles you have filled had a small amount of gunk at the bottom, possibly harboring some bacteria. This could lead to some of the sugar that normally wouldn't have been fermented turning into more CO2 and ovecarbing the beers. Kind of a long-shot IMO, but I had to put it out there.

I've had one gusher that I can recall, and I'm sure it was because of some gunk because it came out when I poured the beer. Not sure how I missed cleaning that bottles, but that was back when I scrounged bottles from the recycle place a lot. I've had some that were simply overcarbed because I forgot to adjust the priming sugar for a smaller batch. They *kind of* gushed, but it was more like a heavy foam pouring in the glass, rather than a bottle gushing of it's own accord when opened.

If it was a rare and random event I'd not worry about it, but if you are seeing this happen more than a couple of times, it's time to really analyze the process and figure it out. It is completely possible to prevent this.
 

MindenMan

Well-Known Member
Joined
Aug 9, 2012
Messages
2,770
Reaction score
473
Location
Carson City
When I wasn't super careful about keeping trub out of the bottle, I also had some serious gushers. Think about Mentos and Diet Coke, there are so many micro surfaces on the candy, the Coke dumps all of it's bubbles at once. Same thing with bottle dregs. Since then, I cold crash everything until it is clear, and the yeast cake is solid.
 

Darwin18

Well-Known Member
Joined
Nov 3, 2008
Messages
5,335
Reaction score
959
Location
Fuquay-Varina, NC
I don't think you can rule out infection. Gushers typically result from infections in the bottle or incomplete fermentation prior to bottling. While they're amusing to observe in competition, it sucks for the judges and the entrant. How are you sanitizing your bottles? Are you also sanitizing the caps? It sounds like your carbing with CO2, and I doubt that would lead to overcarbonation if you're bottling from the keg. I'd be willing to bet that you're picking up an infection somewhere in your bottling process or your beer is still fermenting after you've bottled it. Since it seems to be occurring inconsistently, I'd lean more towards infection in the bottling process.
 
OP
P

pdxal

Well-Known Member
Lifetime Supporter
Joined
Jul 19, 2010
Messages
1,839
Reaction score
269
Location
Portland, OR
Thanks for the responses.
I do bottle condition, so there is a small amount of sediment in everything I bottle. I work hard to decrease it by cold crashing, and by using a bottling bucket and leaving the dregs behind.
I also boil the priming sugar in water, add it to the bucket first, rack beer into the bucket and swirl the whole bucket, then wait a while to mix thoroughly.
Regarding infection, none of the score sheets has mentioned sour/funk flavors or off smells, and none of the other bottles in those batches have had those off flavors or cloudiness. I'm scrupulous about sanitation and use iodophor and the dishwasher (with hot water, steam, and heat drying, but no soap or rinse aids) for sanitizing the bottles before bottling. I've never had an (unintentional) infection so far. Point taken, though. Definitely a possibility, especially with those slow developing gusher bugs.
I've turned in most of these entries early to drop off points at homebrew shops, but one was a last minute entry.
Any other input?
Based on responses so far... are there any people here who have judged/stewarded a competition? Are entries subject to getting mishandled/swirled up so that any sediment in the bottles can become nucleation points?
Again, thanks for the help everyone, keep it coming for me, and perhaps for others with similar problems. :mug:
 

Darwin18

Well-Known Member
Joined
Nov 3, 2008
Messages
5,335
Reaction score
959
Location
Fuquay-Varina, NC
I've judged several competitions, and I can't say for sure that entries aren't getting jostled around and having their sediment stirred around. I will say though that gushers are competitions are rare. I've had two personally and I've seen a few more. The two that I had, in separate competitions, were both brewed with honey and obviously fermented while in the bottle. One of those actually scored pretty well. Usually there's 1 - 2 for a good sized competition. That you're getting so many is unusual, and I don't think with that number that potential mishandling by the competition is a factor.

Are you perhaps bottling too quickly before fermentation ends, or are you perhaps using too much, or thoroughly mixing enough, the priming sugar?
 

Wynne-R

Well-Known Member
Joined
Aug 26, 2009
Messages
980
Reaction score
129
Location
Texas
I’ve done plenty of check-in, those bottles get handled a lot even before judging begins. They get shook up in transit, and get handled something like ten times as entries’ information gets checked and double checked before being sorted into categories and checked again.

On judging day the first thing you do with a flight is check it against the judging sheet to verify you have the right numbers.

Another thing to consider is that judges do a rowdy pour.
Judges pour about two ounces down the middle from a height of about four inches above the plastic cup.

Judges need to see the head and the retention. A big head is going to bring up the aroma. We’re only spending about ten minutes with a sample, we’re not worried about it going flat.

If you go to mini-BOS your beer will get poured at least six times. Twice initially, and four for the mini-BOS.

Elvis wasn’t talking about beer, but he could have been, when he sang ‘All shook up’.
 

WayFrae

Homebrew Enthusiast
HBT Supporter
Joined
Feb 27, 2014
Messages
1,260
Reaction score
198
Location
Lehi
Are you shipping your beer to competitions at a higher altitude? If so, I think altitude may be the culprit.
 
OP
P

pdxal

Well-Known Member
Lifetime Supporter
Joined
Jul 19, 2010
Messages
1,839
Reaction score
269
Location
Portland, OR
Thanks for the judging insight.
Darwin, I am meticulous about priming sugar calculations, mixing, and reaching FG for weeks before bottling. None of the other beers in the batches gushed or were under carbonated.
The competitions I am entering all have 200-300+ entries and are local at the same altitude here in Western Oregon and have been dropped off at my LHBS then picked up by organizers or dropped off at the competition site personally, but one recently was dropped off last day of entries being accepte one week before the competition.
I'd love to hear if anyone has other ideas or input too.
 
Top