After mostly correctly answering 200 randomly questions on all aspects of brewing, beer styles, and running BJCP competitions, I’m now a Provisional BJCP Judge.
Now to study for the tasting exam.
This week we worked our way through Light Hybrid (6A. Cream Ale, 6B. Blonde Ale, 6C. Kölsch, 6D. American Wheat or Rye), Amber Hybrid (7A. Norther German Alt, 7B. California Common, 7C. Düsseldorf Alt) and German Wheat and Rye (15A. Weizen, 5B. Dunkelweizen, 5C. Weizenbock, 5D. Roggenbier).
The hybrid categories are that blurry line between lagers and ales. The subcategories are either ales fermented with lager yeast (California Common) or lagers fermented with ale yeast (Cream Ale) or some similar jostling. The German Wheat and Rye styles were included to conveniently compare the wheat presentation against that within the American Wheat or Rye and Blonde Ale styles.
This was the most difficult class so far. The vast majority of the beers had significant faults, from minor things (stale) to more significant things (nowhere near the declared style). Adding to judging difficulty, the ranges of these styles is significant. As was the selection: 21 beers across 11 substyles.
IBU: 8 – 50
SRM: 2 – 25 (straw to dark brown)
OG: 1.038 – 1.090
FG: 1.007 – 1.022
ABV: 3.8 – 8%
On the plus side, a distinctive hop presence in flavor and bitterness is starting to become much more prominent. On the downside, it’s still mostly inappropriate.
Tonight’s Ranking (using BJCP’s 0-50 scale)
- 49 – St. Blasius Weizenbock (Weizenbock, great example of the style and delicious: malty with deep plum and rum notes and pineapple sweetnees. You must find this beer.)
- 48 – Flensberg Weizen (Weizen)
- 47 – Ayinger Ur Weisse (Dunkelweiss)
- 47 – Flying Dog Amber Lager (California Common)
- 45 – Anchor Steam (California Common, considered the classic example of the style)
- 44 – Franiskaner Dunkelweisse (Dunkelweiss)
- 40 – Lake Superior Kayak (Kölsch)
- 36 – Genesee Cream Ale (Cream Ale, considered the classic example of the style)
- 34 – Bell’s Oberon (American Wheat or Rye)
- 32 – Weihenstephan Hefeweisbier (Weizen)
- 31 – Innstadt Weizenbock (Weizenbock)
- 28 – Uerig Sticke (Düsseldorf Alt)
- 28 – Pyramid Curve Ball (Blonde ale, to timid for the style)
- 28 – Widmer Bros Citra Blond (Blonde ale, way too big and hoppy for style)
- 28 – Alaskan Amber (Northern German Altbier)
- 24 – Schlägl Roggen Gold (Roggenbier, though it had nothing in common with the style)
- 20 – Schell Deer Brand (Cream Ale)
- 20 – Mankato Original (Kölsch)
- 20 – Anchor Summer (American Wheat or Rye)
- 18 – Pinkers Munster Alt Organic (Northern German Altbier)
- 18 – Mankato Stickem (Düsseldorf Alt)
This week we worked our way through European Amber Lagers (3A. Vienna Lager, 3B. Oktoberfest), Dark Lager (4A. Dark American Lager, 4B. Munich Dunkel, 4C. Schwarzbier) and Bock (5A. Maibock/Helles Bock, 5B. Traditional Bock, 5C. Doppelbock, 5D. Eisbock)
The overwhelming attribute of these 3 styles is a prominent toasty, sweet, and complex malt aroma – like the crust of freshly baked bread (melanoidin). Still little to no hop aroma or flavor. Again the hops only job is to cut the malt sweetness and provide a dry finish.
IBU: 8 – 35
SRM: 6 – 22 (gold to brown)
OG: 1.046 – 1.072
FG: 1.008 – 1.018
ABV: 4.2 – 7.4%
(notice all but OG & SRM are very close to last week's Light Lager & Pilsner styles)
While the Oktoberfests and Doppelbocks are still plentiful this time of year, the Maibocks are scarce, the Eisbocks are endangered. A visit to 5 of Twin Cities’ best beer stores (Four Firkins, Ale Jail, Merwins, SAV #1, and SAV #2) proved Traditional Bocks are extinct.
Even though my time in Germany introduced me to many of the beers from tonight’s selection, some pleasant surprises came up in the rankings. The Hofbrauhaus Maibock was an amazingly delicious and accurate example of a Maibock; pale, dry, malty, sweet, balanced, clean. Similarly, the Köstritzer Schwarzbier was an outstanding surprise; dark, clean, smooth, and roasty (just this side of burnt). Again, highly recommended. The biggest surprise came from Baltika #4 – this Russian interpretation of a Dark American Lager was clean, with a toasty rich malty aroma followed by a malty dark sugar taste and slightly sweet finish. Very enjoyable.
Tonight’s Ranking (using BJCP’s 0-50 scale)
- 49 – Hofbrauhaus Maibock (Maibock/Helles Bock)
- 46 – Paulanar Salvator (Doppelbock)
- 45 – Köstritzer Schwarzbier (Schwartzbier)
- 43 – Haacker-Pschor Oktoberfest (Oktoberfest)
- 41 – Ayinger Altbairisch Dunkel (Munich Dunkel)
- 39 – Spaten Optimator (Doppelbock)
- 39 – Spaten Dunkel (Munich Dunkel)
- 39 – Paulanar Oktoberfest (Doppelbock)
- 37 – Baltika #4 (American Dark Lager)
- 36 – Hofstetten GranitBock (Doppelbock)
- 35 – Capital Amber (European Amber Lager)
- 34 – Shiner Bock (American Dark Lager)
- 34 – Capital Eisphyre (Eisbock)
- 32 – Sam Adams Black Lager (Schwartzbier)
- 20 – Hofstetten HellenBock (Maibock/Helles Bock)
And oh how the quickly the memories returned; the smell of DMS and hormonal college kids in a cramped basement, the epiphany that is the first sip of a Spaten Pils, constantly asking yourself ‘where did I go wrong?’ with each sip of Grain Belt Premium.
Even though there are 8 substyles across these 2 styles, the range of characteristics is quite narrow. Cumulatively:
IBU: 8-45 (human taste range is 8-100 IBU in beer)
SRM: 2-6 (straw - gold)
OG: 1.028-1.060 (water is 1.0)
FG: 0.998-1.017 (again, water is 1.0)
In other words, these 8 substyles range from highly carbonated water to highly carbonated, slightly sweet, crisp water. The only function of the hops is to balance out any malt sweetness. The lack of any flavor characteristics means flaws and defects are not only more noticeable, but both more likely and more common. The DMS from the corn or pils malt can quickly dominate. The same for issues caused by poor handling (skunky, light struck, old). These are very fragile styles. It is only in the high ends of these styles that any positive characteristics other than high carbonation levels become noticeable. It’s only in the German and Bohemian Pilsners that a hint of hop flavor and alcohol are both noticeable and appropriate.
Yes, despite the narrow characteristic range and propensity for defects – there was a surprising breadth across the tastings. If you concentrate – it is possible to notice a definite difference in carbonation, mouthfeel, and flavor between Miller High Life, Miller Lite, and Miller Genuine Draft.
Across the board, there’s a refreshing crispness that is both a significant characteristic of the all the styles and most often absent from the tastings. Instead, there’s frequently a dull flatness or wet cardboardy-ness. Not ideal.
- Spaten Pils (German Pilsner)
- Staropramen (Bohemian Pilsner)
- Left Hand Polestar Pilsner (German Pilsner)
- Coors Light (Light American Lager)
- Miller High Life (Standard American Lager)
- Miller Genuine Draft (Premium American Lager)
- Amstel Lite (Light American Lager)
- Miller Lite (Light American Lager)
- Dortmunder Gold (Dortmunder Export)
- Avery Joe (Classic American Pilsner)
- Grain Belt Premium (Standard American Lager)
I wasn’t looking forward to these styles. I fully expected to be holding my nose and choking down bad beer (just like in college). In the end, it was quite enjoyable (just like in college).
A year and a half ago when I started formulating my own beer recipes – my friend Chris asked me if I had looked into hopville.com. Since then, Hopville has helped me understand and target the bounds of beer styles. By the numbers. But not by the ingredients. Even in the latest iteration Hopville warns of that discrepancy.
To get a better understanding of style-appropriate ingredients and tasting profiles – I declared one of my 2013 goals is to be BJCP certified.
This week, I start the process – an 11 week course leading to the BJCP exam.