Quantcast

Embarrassing Results From First Brew Competition - What Went Wrong?

HomeBrewTalk.com - Beer, Wine, Mead, & Cider Brewing Discussion Community.

Help Support Homebrew Talk:

inkman15

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jan 12, 2011
Messages
390
Reaction score
28
Location
West Orange
My favorite local bar decided to hold it's first home brew competition, so my friend and I were excited to enter.

A little background: we've been brewing for about 10 months and have brewed 5 batches (not anywhere near as much as I would like to have done). Overall, I've been pretty satisfied with our results but I'm well aware that we have a lot to learn and improve upon.

Our most successful brew to date was the Deception Stout recipe found on this site, so we decided to brew that again for this competition. Of course, because we really needed this one to go well, it didn't. We cracked open the fermenter after 4 weeks and found what people on this site said could be a Brett infection.

Since it was too late to brew another batch, we decided to make the best of it. We racked under the infection, bottled, and called it a day. Three weeks later, we tasted it and didn't detect any "infection flavors." It wasn't sour or anything and it still had that coffee taste that it was supposed to. So, we submitted it.

Well, the results came back last night and they were dreadful. There were 3 judged who rated based on aroma, appearance, mouthfeel, and taste. Here were our scores:

Judge 1: 20/50
Judge 2: 19/50
Judge 3: 14/50

Yikes. All three judges said it tasted "metallic" and that the aroma was "baby diaper." They also said it was a little "roasty."

So, what went wrong? Is the infection to blame? Something else? I know we're all a bit biased towards our own beer but this also has me wondering if my palate isn't developed enough yet to taste what the judges did
 

bottlebomber

Well-Known Member
Joined
Apr 15, 2011
Messages
14,300
Reaction score
2,747
Location
Ukiah
There's no way for anyone here to tell what you might have done... I think a good place to start would be your water. Are you on a municipal system? What is the water profile and how much chlorine is there? Do you filter it?

I would love it if we could have more contests around here, this kind of feedback is exactly what helps you make better beer.
 

friday

Well-Known Member
Joined
May 28, 2009
Messages
185
Reaction score
10
Location
emerald triange
Sanitation is the first thing that comes to mind. Sanitation is the difference between a bad beer and a good beer.

Yeast could also be a factor, use a liquid yeast.

Water plays an important role but the first two are what I would focus on first.
 

usfmikeb

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jan 9, 2011
Messages
3,127
Reaction score
243
Location
Leesburg
There are many nuances which could be making an impact. This is where keeping good notes during the process is critical, so that you can make changes to each variable one at a time. If there's a local homebrew club, join it and start taking samples to meetings to get feedback.
 

ZamaMan

Well-Known Member
Joined
Mar 29, 2011
Messages
263
Reaction score
9
Location
Sacramento
What's your fermentation like? Are you making a appropriate starter or pitching a couple packs of liquid?
 

houndsbreath

Well-Known Member
Joined
Apr 17, 2011
Messages
195
Reaction score
9
Location
houston
Remember to look at this as a learning experience and keep brewing to learn more. I saw a hugeimprovement in my beers whe I started brewing 1/2 with tap water and 1/2 with bottled spring water. I think hard water and roasty malts can result in mineral/metallic tastes in beers when the hard water is not diluted enough. Don't quote me on that, it's just my own observation.
 

rexbanner

Well-Known Member
Joined
Nov 8, 2008
Messages
1,378
Reaction score
101
Location
DC
You submitted an infected beer. Why would you do that? I mean, it's one thing to submit a beer just to get some feedback, but what kind of feedback are you going to get on an infected beer?
 

mmb

"I just got a new pet toaster!"
Lifetime Supporter
Joined
Feb 20, 2008
Messages
40,700
Reaction score
9,902
Location
Mid Mittigan
The infection obviously didn't help but they are also judging your beer against others in the flight and to the standard. All beer might have been judged low in that flight or your beer might have had major problems. But always submit your best work.

Usually I submitted the same batch to more than one event to get some other judges opinions of the beer. Now I save the money and just drink it with friends. Win your first ribbon and then you can "retire" as a award winning brewer.

:mug:
 

Jawbox0

Well-Known Member
Joined
Dec 1, 2009
Messages
475
Reaction score
31
Location
Debary
Don't knock the dry, a properly rehydrated dry yeast is going to make a good beer as long as it is appropriate for the style. I doubt that's where metallic & diaper aromas are coming from, especially given that there were signs of infection already.

My suggestion is to throw out these results, because you already knew the batch was infected. That infection isn't going to just stay at the top, it's permeated your beer, and is probably detectable by a good nose, or at warmer temperatures. You might not smell it chilled, but upon warming, that aroma might be right out in front.

Instead, concentrate on cleaning and sanitizing that infection. Everything the wort touches from the brew kettle spigot onward are suspect. Replace hoses... scrub, sanitize, scrub, and sanitize more. Take apart spigots, joints, get in every nook. Look for scratches. If you're using any disposable tubing or fermenters, replace them before the next one. Brett is a tough infection to clean up.
 

jmf143

Well-Known Member
Joined
May 27, 2010
Messages
609
Reaction score
24
Location
Wixom
I've never read "baby diaper" as an aromatic attribute on Beer Advocate or Rate Beer.
 

Seven

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jan 2, 2011
Messages
1,540
Reaction score
195
Location
Pittsburgh
Maybe it's just me but it seems odd to expect rave reviews when submitting an infected beer.

Did you inform the judges it was infected before they tasted it?
 

OHIOSTEVE

Well-Known Member
Joined
Sep 13, 2009
Messages
3,546
Reaction score
79
Location
SIDNEY
A local bar? I would wager the judges were not JUDGES but the bar owners or random guys picked?
 

dcHokie

Well-Known Member
Joined
Mar 8, 2010
Messages
1,562
Reaction score
269
Location
Washington, DC
When you do get critical, but honest feedback about off flavors and aromas detected by other palettes it is useful to know the typical root cause of the issue.

There are other sources for this, but I think it can be helpful to refer to an 'off flavor' key. This can help you reverse-engineer and identify issues in your brewing processes. The more you brew, the more you can dial it in.

http://morebeer.com/content/homebrew-off-flavors
 
OP
I

inkman15

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jan 12, 2011
Messages
390
Reaction score
28
Location
West Orange
Thanks for all the replies. To answer a few questions:

  • We always use bottled spring water
  • I used Wyeast liquid yeast (Denny's Favorite 1450, specifically)
  • I'm pretty good with sanitation. I think the infection came about because the fermenter was previously used as a secondary with 4 pounds of blackberries. I've replaced all plastic equipment that was associated with the infected batch.

I know it was foolish to submit an infected beer but it was just hard to bow out of my first competition after getting so excited for it and spending so much time preparing.
 

badhabit

Well-Known Member
Joined
Mar 30, 2010
Messages
721
Reaction score
13
Location
Evanston Wyoming
Call me a prude but I learned the hard way and now only enter competitions if the Judges are BJCP certified. That way you can count on a clear and specific evaluation and information that you can learn from and do something with, not just someones beer taste opinion. I can get folks opinion of what they like every time I serve a brew to someone. I appreciate that information but It is not the same as a judges score sheet at a competition.
 

Airborneguy

Adjunct of the Law
Lifetime Supporter
Joined
Sep 24, 2009
Messages
10,743
Reaction score
869
Location
Isle of Staten
Call me a prude but I learned the hard way and now only enter competitions if the Judges are BJCP certified...
I agree with your post in cases where you are looking for an evaluation of your recipe/process. But, I've found that the best prizes are in "best of show" style competitions. We just had a local one with a top prize of $1000.
 

Yooper

Ale's What Cures You!
Staff member
Admin
Mod
Lifetime Supporter
Joined
Jun 4, 2006
Messages
74,496
Reaction score
12,021
Location
UP/Snowbird in Florida
Actually, 20 isn't THAT bad of a score, believe it or not. In many BJCP competitions, the best (winning) beers score 35-37, with most of the good beers falling 27-34.

Here's a chart of what the scores mean:

Outstanding: 45-50
Excellent: 38-44
Very Good: 30-37
Good: 21-29
Fair: 14-20
Problematic: 0-13

When I've judged in the past, the lowest score we were "allowed" to give was 13. Those were the obviously infected, no redeeming quality, rotten beers. Anything 18 or above isn't really that bad, as there is still something worth judging there.
 

datamike

Well-Known Member
Joined
Apr 13, 2007
Messages
105
Reaction score
3
If the judges were BJCP certified, the "baby diaper" description was probably spot-on. This is a common description of beers with an Enteric infection.

Regardless, you submitted an admittedly infected beer, and you received poor scores. I am not sure why you are surprised. The score sheets are (should be) filled out without regard to other beers in the flight. They're scored against the style guidelines only. (assuming a BJCP-sanctioned event, and not including mini-BOS, BOS)

You've also only been brewing for 10 months. It's somewhat unrealistic to assume your beer is going to be in the > 35+ range. You may get lucky right off the bat, but the guys who are winning medals over and over typically have years, if not decades of experience.

I've been brewing for 22+ years. Years ago, the beers that received medals were the least flawed - minor infections, off-flavors, carb problems. At today's popular comps, it's common to have entire flights without any technical issues, and the winners are based solely on how closely they match the style guidelines.

Treat this as a learning experience and move on. Make your next beer even better and keep entering. Enter in multiple comps for a thorough understanding of what other knowledgeable judges think of your beer. Also consider becoming a BJCP judge yourself. You'll learn a ton in a short period of time. Also note that most of the serial comp winners are judges.....

Michael
BJCP National




Call me a prude but I learned the hard way and now only enter competitions if the Judges are BJCP certified. That way you can count on a clear and specific evaluation and information that you can learn from and do something with, not just someones beer taste opinion. I can get folks opinion of what they like every time I serve a brew to someone. I appreciate that information but It is not the same as a judges score sheet at a competition.
 

bottlebomber

Well-Known Member
Joined
Apr 15, 2011
Messages
14,300
Reaction score
2,747
Location
Ukiah
Airborneguy said:
We just had a local one with a top prize of $1000.
*whistle*... I need to get in on some of that. That's free homebrew for a year.
 
OP
I

inkman15

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jan 12, 2011
Messages
390
Reaction score
28
Location
West Orange
@Airborneguy - yes, this was at Cloverleaf! Did you compete too? Were you one of the winners?

Thanks again to everyone for the advice and thoughts. I'll chalk this one up to stupidly submitting an infected beer. I never expected to win at all. I just did this for fun and so I could get honest, unbiased feedback on my beer. I feel like everyone I know is inclined to tell me that they like my beer, and that's not a good thing. Moving forward, I'm definitely going to only submit something that I'm confident is without major flaws.
 

Airborneguy

Adjunct of the Law
Lifetime Supporter
Joined
Sep 24, 2009
Messages
10,743
Reaction score
869
Location
Isle of Staten
No, but I was going to. I'm working on my MBA there, my wife is from Roseland so we go there a lot. I had to back out because I agreed to participate in two other events and couldn't brew enough for all of them. If they do it next year, I will enter for sure.
 
OP
I

inkman15

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jan 12, 2011
Messages
390
Reaction score
28
Location
West Orange
No, but I was going to. I'm working on my MBA there, my wife is from Roseland so we go there a lot. I had to back out because I agreed to participate in two other events and couldn't brew enough for all of them. If they do it next year, I will enter for sure.
Yeah, Cloverleaf is my favorite place around here. I'm working on my second PhD right now. Hoping they hold this event annually.
 

Airborneguy

Adjunct of the Law
Lifetime Supporter
Joined
Sep 24, 2009
Messages
10,743
Reaction score
869
Location
Isle of Staten
I just realized I meant to say PhD. I did the MBA when I first met her. Do they give you a new list for your second Phd or is that just something you're doing for yourself?
 
OP
I

inkman15

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jan 12, 2011
Messages
390
Reaction score
28
Location
West Orange
I just realized I meant to say PhD. I did the MBA when I first met her. Do they give you a new list for your second Phd or is that just something you're doing for yourself?
They give you the same list for the PhD, but since they're all seasonals, you're always drinking something different. If you complete a 2nd one, you get a sweatshirt and if you complete a 3rd, you get to drink out of these big white beer steins they have. Who needs to save money, anyway?
 

Zamial

Well-Known Member
Joined
Apr 4, 2010
Messages
3,171
Reaction score
190
Location
WI
The deception stout is a FANTASTIC stout however, it is not a "standard stout" by any description. Judges have to judge your beer against a format. Because this was the case you got "dinged". This does not even come close to covering the infected entry. When you add all this up you get a score of 20...seems fair to me.
 
OP
I

inkman15

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jan 12, 2011
Messages
390
Reaction score
28
Location
West Orange
The deception stout is a FANTASTIC stout however, it is not a "standard stout" by any description. Judges have to judge your beer against a format. Because this was the case you got "dinged". This does not even come close to covering the infected entry. When you add all this up you get a score of 20...seems fair to me.
That's a good point and something I didn't consider when entering. It's definitely a unique stout. Much to learn yet...
 
OP
I

inkman15

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jan 12, 2011
Messages
390
Reaction score
28
Location
West Orange
I guess the one thing I'm still hung up on is the "metallic" flavor. I use stainless steel brew kettles and spring water. The MoreBeer guide says that metallic flavors come from using iron/aluminum or bad water. Shouldn't be the case here. Do I attribute this to the infection too?
 

datamike

Well-Known Member
Joined
Apr 13, 2007
Messages
105
Reaction score
3
Impossible to say at this point. Metallic flavors can be caused by a variety of things - water, yeast, contamination, hops, exposure to metals, or even a combination of things.

Yeast, in particular, can throw off a number of odd/off flavors in reaction to stress.

Also note that the term "spring water" is meaningless unless you know the mineral concentrations, alkalinity, etc. Maybe the water has a high iron content. If the water is low in alkalinity, a stout using a lot of dark malts can result in a ph that's too low. Did you check your mash PH?

In short, you need to first worry about consistently brewing a clean beer. Then you can concentrate on tweaking flavors, style points, etc.

Brewing beer is a process of many variables. The quality of the beer is determined by how many of those variables the brewer can control, and how closely he can control them.

Michael
BJCP National

I guess the one thing I'm still hung up on is the "metallic" flavor. I use stainless steel brew kettles and spring water. The MoreBeer guide says that metallic flavors come from using iron/aluminum or bad water. Shouldn't be the case here. Do I attribute this to the infection too?
 

bottlebomber

Well-Known Member
Joined
Apr 15, 2011
Messages
14,300
Reaction score
2,747
Location
Ukiah
datamike said:
In short, you need to first worry about consistently brewing a clean beer. Then you can concentrate on tweaking flavors, style points, etc.
This. Also, new brewers have a tendency to want to brew a lot of different styles. I think its important to have at least a couple beers that you make again and again. That way you can actually see what is changing from beer to beer, and dial in your skills.
 

datamike

Well-Known Member
Joined
Apr 13, 2007
Messages
105
Reaction score
3
Completely agree.

Stop brewing "blackberry chai stouts, and apricot, ramen hefeweizens" and other bull**** flavored beers. This is a very common beginner mistake.

Pick a few classic styles that you like and work on *PROCESS*. Very important.

Even better if you can do it - brew the same recipe 4-5 times in a row. Change *ONE* thing each time based on how the previous batch turned out. You'll learn more doing this than making 20 different beers.

Michael
BJCP National



This. Also, new brewers have a tendency to want to brew a lot of different styles. I think its important to have at least a couple beers that you make again and again. That way you can actually see what is changing from beer to beer, and dial in your skills.
 

Bmorebrew

Well-Known Member
Joined
Mar 30, 2010
Messages
473
Reaction score
14
Location
Baltimore
Pick a few classic styles that you like and work on *PROCESS*. Very important.

Even better if you can do it - brew the same recipe 4-5 times in a row. Change *ONE* thing each time based on how the previous batch turned out. You'll learn more doing this than making 20 different beers.
This is very important - what it really allows you to do is help remove inconsistencies from the process. It's been said here a bunch, but process is exceedingly important in making a clean beer. You need to make a clean beer before you can make a good beer. By making the same thing over and over, you really nail down certain things: you know exactly what temperature your strike water needs to be; you know exactly how much strike water to use; you know exactly what your expected BG and OG will be - and by extension your efficiency; you know exactly how many grams of hops to use to not have varying IBUs based on different efficiencies; you know how much yeast to use and what temps to ferment at; how long to wait; etc.
 

atom

Well-Known Member
Joined
Oct 7, 2011
Messages
1,156
Reaction score
320
Location
York
Stop brewing "blackberry chai stouts, and apricot, ramen hefeweizens" and other bull**** flavored beers. This is a very common beginner mistake.
...but i love bull**** flavored beer... :mad:
 

CreamyGoodness

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jul 19, 2011
Messages
7,419
Reaction score
2,121
Location
Ossining
Never been to a competition, but are attributes like "baby diaper" common? Seems a little... well... rude... considering the judges didnt pay to drink it?

Sorry not stirring the pot, definitely talking out of school about something I know little about... but wouldnt "barnyard" or even "rubber and wet cotton" be descriptive without being jerkwad?
 

datamike

Well-Known Member
Joined
Apr 13, 2007
Messages
105
Reaction score
3
Not that common anymore, but in years past was quite common. It's not meant to be rude; it's just a perfect description of the aroma of a Enteric infected beer.

If you aren't comfortable hearing/reading objective criticism of your beer, don't enter competitions.

"Barnyard, rubber, wet cotton" are completely different. Enteric bacteria gives off a sulfury, mercaptan aroma very similar to a dirty diaper. "Barnyard" is a common descriptor for beers containing Brettanomyces bacteria. It can be a good or a bad thing.

The "considering the judges didn't pay to drink it" line is.... misinformed to put it politely. Judges go out of their way to provide meaningful feedback and criticism of the beers. Judging isn't a way to get free beer. The entrants pay for this valuable feedback, and it's well worth it if you're serious about brewing great beer.

Consider volunteering to steward at a local comp. Then you'll be able to observe the process first-hand. I think you'll come away with a much different opinion that the one you now possess.

Michael
BJCP National

Never been to a competition, but are attributes like "baby diaper" common? Seems a little... well... rude... considering the judges didnt pay to drink it?

Sorry not stirring the pot, definitely talking out of school about something I know little about... but wouldnt "barnyard" or even "rubber and wet cotton" be descriptive without being jerkwad?
 

CreamyGoodness

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jul 19, 2011
Messages
7,419
Reaction score
2,121
Location
Ossining
Perhaps it all stems from the fact that Ive never smelled a beer that smelled like baby diaper (and as a childless dude I have smelled few baby diapers... queue pedo-bear jokes here). If its the most meaningful constructive crit then so be it. It just sounded, to this uninformed reader, like something Jeffery Steingarten would say on Iron Chef.
 

JonM

Well-Known Member
Joined
Aug 10, 2010
Messages
9,321
Reaction score
4,150
Location
Milwaukee
Experimenting with little variations can be fun too - it doesn't have to be hard work. I do my experimenting with half batches so I don't get overwhelmed with too much beer.

Last summer I did a bunch of SMASHes, changing one little thing (mash temp, grain type, etc) each time. I have another little experiment going now where I've made 3 batches of an IPA with the same grain bill and hop schedule, bur a different variety each time. Next time I'll do a 5-gal batch, split it across two 3-gal fermenters and use different yeast in each.

The point is, each time i do one of these little experiments, I get a good beer and a little smarter.
 
Top