How Should I Submit This Beer Under BJCP Style Guidelines?

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

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

This site may earn a commission from merchant affiliate links, including eBay, Amazon, and others.

Broothru

Supporting Member
HBT Supporter
Joined
Feb 16, 2012
Messages
3,433
Reaction score
4,477
Location
At home, in the brewery in Maryland.
I've been brewing quite a bit in the last month. Five different times to be exact. Two of the brews had very similar grain bills (a British Golden Ale and a Best Bitter). Long story short, I ended up with a little over three gallons of combined second runnings wort after sparging. Each was exactly 1.019 SG/4.8P, nearly equal volumes. I've been wanting to do a pilot brew of a low-alcohol beer for sometime, so I combined the two 'left-overs', came up with a hopping schedule for an appropriate BU:GU ratio for a low-alcohol beer using American hops, and let that bad boy boil.

The grist from the Golden Ale and the Bitters worked out to equal amounts of Maris Otter and Chevalier with a smattering of torrified wheat, Crisp 77L, and a pinch of chocolate, carafoam and acidulated malts, with each mash being nearly identical. I had more American hops on hand and had such a hard time sourcing good British Northdown, Challenger and Target hops that I decided to use the Holy Trinity of Hops, aka: Simcoe, Citra and Mosaic. What I ended up with was a mixture of all British malts incorporating only American hops, bittered to American IPA levels and fermented with British ale yeast (Imperial A09 "Pub").

OG was 1.021with just under 2.5 gallons into the fermenter. That day I had previously taken a sample of the fermenting Best Bitter which ended up being nearly two cups of Pub yeast at high krausen after pouring off ~30 ml of beer for a gravity reading on the Bitters, so I just chucked it into the mix. The pilot brew took off like a rocket. Within less than a day and a half it had reached 1.006 SG/1.5P, which proved to be terminal gravity, so right at ~2.0% ABV, which is below anything even being considered as "sessionable." Anyway, I call this mongrel "Hands Across the Sea" due to its Anglo-American nexus.

And it tastes GREAT!

So here's my 'first world' problem: What category do I enter this beer using BJCP Guidelines (2015)? It's not an American IPA with the British grist, yeast, and esters. It's not a British IPA with all those American hops and IBU hopping rates. The ABV % is below the range for both styles. Plus, spoiler alert, I'm already entering an American IPA, with only one entry per style allowed. It's a very low alcohol beer brewed with British malts fermented with British yeast, hopped to American IPA bittering levels. Clearly it does not meet the guidelines criteria for any of the 300~400 different IPA "styles".

I'm inclined to use Category 34, but is it Mixed-Style Beer (34B) or Experimental Beer (34C)? At first 34B seems right since it is two different IPA 'styles', but are they really just two different examples of the same basic beer? Or is 34C more correct since 2.0% ABV is more like a no-alcohol beer (< 0.5%) rather than "sessionable" which is ill-defined but generally accepted as >3.0% but <4.5%?

It may seem like picking nit, but that's sometimes what judges do, and the last thing I want to do is get sideways with the judges. For anyone with any judging experience in these things, I'd like an educated opinion. I really want to get this beer evaluated by people who have the insight and knowledge, but I don't want it dismissed as being in the wrong category. It has such good body, flavor and aroma for a low ABV beer that I want to get an impartial assessment by somebody who doesn't have a vested interest or pride of ownership issues. If I can replicate the recipe and improve upon it, it'll become a part of the rotation: a hoppy IPA-style low-alcohol beer. Trending up.
 
Tough question since the decision ultimately lies with the panel judging the beer. The guidelines also state that 34C should rarely be used, but I don't know where else it would belong. Coming from a Certified judge, I'd go with 34C with the explanation that it's a mix of 2 styles, but with a low ABV which doesn't quite fit neatly in 34B. Good luck with the competition!
 
I definitely don't know the answer to the question, but I brewed a couple low ABV styles recently, and they were so good! And it's awesome to be able to go back for more pints. Good luck in the competition!
 
Ok so you are aware of the specifications of the beer, the judges will know nothing other than the style. So don't let all the details scare you.

How does it taste? Can you tell it's low abv? Or does it drink like an American Pale Ale?

Don't let the details interfere with what is actually perceptible (that's hard I know). To me it seems like an APA (with low abv) but if you can't tell it's low abv then it doesn't matter. Bjcp judges don't write in what they think the abv is....

Many beers have been brewed following certain guidelines but then submitted under different styles and have won. Try to place your beer based on what you taste only.
 
Don't enter it into competition. 2% ABV is not high enough to ensure food safety.

When I make low-alcohol beers I keg immediately after fermenting, keep the beer cold at all times, consume it relatively quickly, and dispense using a picnic tap.

For a competition, you'd have to bottle, and the beer will spend at least some time (shipping, maybe storage) warm. And you're giving it to judges who don't know and haven't accepted possible risk involved.
 
When you drink it, what does it taste like? Is it a hoppy British mild-ish beer? A low alcohol American pale ale?

If it's obviously low alcohol with British features but noticeable American hops, I'd go with 34C. If it's a British session version of an ESB, as an example, I'd go with 34B.
 
I definitely don't know the answer to the question, but I brewed a couple low ABV styles recently, and they were so good! And it's awesome to be able to go back for more pints. Good luck in the competition!
I agree. Maybe it's just a 'maturing' palate, but I'm gaining a lot of appreciation for low ABV beers lately. Even Lagunitas' new NIPA (no alcohol IPA) isn't something that automatically turns me off. In fact I'd almost call it "pleasant."

That said, alcohol (ethanol) definitely has an impact on both flavor and mouthfeel. The total absence of alcohol in beer is a negative factor in enjoyment, not just a net gain in sobriety. Most of them are simply not desirable, and yet some of the newer low alcohol beers have become appealing in terms of flavor, aroma and body. This particular beer of mine has a 'bittering unit' to 'gravity unit' ratio of ~0.9 which puts it squarely in the highly hopped American IPA category, even though the IBUs are only around 35. The perception is that of a very hoppy beer, and illustrates why the ratio of bittering units to gravity units is much more meaningful the simply IBUs alone.

While most current beer drinkers still appreciate a higher ABV beer, it looks like the future is trending toward lower ABV beers in both ales and lagers. The trick is getting them to taste like the mainline beers we've grown accustomed to with regard to flavor, aroma and especially mouthfeel. It's all well and good to want fewer carbs and calories (through lower ABV), but no established beer drinker is going to forego their favorite cereal malt beverage for a Michelob Ultra or amylo-dosed Brut beer for very long. It's gotta' taste like a beer, rather than simply yellow fizzy water.
 
When you drink it, what does it taste like? Is it a hoppy British mild-ish beer? A low alcohol American pale ale?

If it's obviously low alcohol with British features but noticeable American hops, I'd go with 34C. If it's a British session version of an ESB, as an example, I'd go with 34B.
I'm inclined to agree that 34C makes the best fit since the caveat that "...No beer is ever out of style..." per the BJCP guidelines probably makes the most sense. Honestly it tastes like an American IPA with a nuance of esters from the British yeast and noticeable 'roundness' (no harsh edges) due to the Maris and heritage malts. It's only been conditioning less than a week, so perceptions may change. For the time being, if I hadn't measured it myself, I wouldn't have believed it was a 2.0% ABV beer. Maybe I should call it "Serendipity".
 
I'm inclined to agree that 34C makes the best fit since the caveat that "...No beer is ever out of style..." per the BJCP guidelines probably makes the most sense. Honestly it tastes like an American IPA with a nuance of esters from the British yeast and noticeable 'roundness' (no harsh edges) due to the Maris and heritage malts. It's only been conditioning less than a week, so perceptions may change. For the time being, if I hadn't measured it myself, I wouldn't have believed it was a 2.0% ABV beer. Maybe I should call it "Serendipity".

It sounds great! A session strength of a mixed style that works would be a great find. The mixed style is all about how it works, that is blends together harmoniously and it sounds like you nailed it!
 
Don't enter it into competition. 2% ABV is not high enough to ensure food safety.

When I make low-alcohol beers I keg immediately after fermenting, keep the beer cold at all times, consume it relatively quickly, and dispense using a picnic tap.

For a competition, you'd have to bottle, and the beer will spend at least some time (shipping, maybe storage) warm. And you're giving it to judges who don't know and haven't accepted possible risk involved.
Concerns valid, and noted. That said, after boiling and rapid chilling the wort gets transferred into a sanitized, sealed unitank. Yeast is pitched from a pressurized brink, as are dry hops. The fermenter is capped as the process reaches final gravity, and carbonated beer is close-transferred under CO2 pressure into sanitized and C02 purged kegs, I bottle for competitions into freshly sanitized bottles directly from the keg with a counter-pressure bottler and cap on the foam. The bottles are refrigerated until I pull them out for delivery directly to the judging venue. My process is not 'sterile' but certainly is 'sanitary' and about as aseptic as possible in a home brew setting. While 2% ethanol solution will not prevent in situ contamination, the likelihood of deadly organisms reaching harmful levels in the bottles over the short period of time before judging is small, though certainly within the realm of possibility. As with all things concerning home brewing as well as canning, minimizing risk and avoiding temperatures between 40F-140F needs to be avoided and reasonable precautions must be observed.

Thanks for the important reminder.
 
If the beer is as good as you believe, enter it in multiple categories. Is there anyone in local club who can help with actually tasting your beer? Several members of our club meet to help in situation exactly like this before competitions. Folks bring in their beer and we sit around and try to determine what category it best fits into. We have had great success. We also learn about various styles, including recipes, ingredients and brewing techniques, much as you have described above. Doesn't matter what you intended to brewed or ingredients used it what it tastes like.

Please, let us know the results in a couple months.

Never declare your beer until you taste it.
 
If the beer is as good as you believe, enter it in multiple categories. Is there anyone in local club who can help with actually tasting your beer? Several members of our club meet to help in situation exactly like this before competitions. Folks bring in their beer and we sit around and try to determine what category it best fits into. We have had great success. We also learn about various styles, including recipes, ingredients and brewing techniques, much as you have described above. Doesn't matter what you intended to brewed or ingredients used it what it tastes like.

Please, let us know the results in a couple months.

Never declare your beer until you taste it.
I really kinda' don't like 'big footing' multiple categories for a competition, though your point is well taken about getting multiple opinions from fellow club members. I'm setup next week to brew a collaboration at a local brewery, so I may take a sample to the brewmaster and see what he thinks. Trouble is, the beer is still pretty 'green' and not yet carbed up, but if anyone can critique a beer while its still "in the wild" it would be a pro brewer.
 
The beer was a “hit.”

Sadly, I was out of town for the ‘tapping of the keg’ at the brew pub. They FaceTime’d me in for the party, which was pretty well attended. The biggest disappointment was that the beer was all gone (3 barrel batch) by the time we got home from the family reunion 10 days later. Never got the opportunity to taste it.

Upside was that I entered six beers in this year’s comp. Five of them placed, with 4 Blue Ribbons and one 2nd Place. The 2nd Place entry scored 41 points in British Golden Ale category, just behind the 1st Place winner in category that advanced to win Best of Show!
 

Latest posts

Back
Top