A few nights ago I came home to find a large manila envelope from the OC Fair in my mail box. Inside the envelope were; a thank you letter, my score sheets, my second place placard and my second place ribbon (for Costa del Sol).
|The score sheets
This was the first year I’ve entered a fair competition and was by far my biggest competition to date. In total, this year the fair fielded 492 entries into the Homemade Beer Comp (which includes 13 mead entries, 7 cider entries and 16 label entries). The two biggest categories were 614 India Pale Ales with 70 entries and 610 American Ale with 64 entries.
I ending up entering three beers into the competition; Costa del Sol a Premium American Lager brewed with Mexican Lager Yeast and with Northwest hops, SNB is Furious a tribute to my favorite beer Surly Furious and Deathfire a pepper porter (which I thought was restrained) brewed with Habaneros and Anaheim peppers plus a touch of smoke.
Overall I was pretty pleased with my scores and the feedback provided on each sheet. The feedback overall was constitutive and positive, even for Deathfire which I can tell might have been a little hot for the judges.
Before I go into discussing the scores here is a quick breakdown on them and what they are worth. There are five judged sections; aroma (12), appearance (3), flavor (20), mouthfeel (5) and overall (10). The scoring guide is problematic (0-13), fair (14-20), good (21-29), very good (30-37), excellent (38-44) and outstanding (45-50) which is a world class example of the style.
|Costa del Sol
2nd Place at the OC Fair
Costa Del Sol was judged by three people one of which was a certified BJCP (Beer Judge Certification Program) judge and scored 32, 36 and 32. The aroma (ave 6.7) was described as low hops, green apple, grainy notes as it warms and semi sweet. Appearance (ave 2.7) was judged as having brilliant clarity, gold in color, white frothy head and with large clinging bubbles. The flavor (ave 13.7) was noted as medium hoppy bitterness, slight acidity in the finish, crisp and dry, hop flavor high for the style. Mouthfeel (ave 3) had a nice carb bite, carbonation both too much and too low for the style (I love it when judges do that), medium-light body. Overall (ave 7.3) it was a good (on judge said very) beer, to hoppy for the style (one judge said hops were his first impression) very clean and a refreshing beer just not to style. I did get a “congrats on the technique!” from a BJCP certified judge, which I thought was pretty cool.
|One of the better score sheets
SNB is Pleased
SNB is Furious was also judged by three people with one recognized and one apprentice BJCP judge. The aroma (ave 8) provided nice citrus and grapefruit with a nice balance of malts and hops, good for the style and was noted as one of the nicest they’ve had out of the 15 they’d judged (remember 70 entries). Appearance (ave 2) with the SRM calculated to around 14, which is pretty borderline for the style, was perceived as being out of style but had good clarity however the head faded fast. The flavor (ave 12.7) came across as nicely balance with a nice hop backbone, cleanly fermented with citrus and pine notes. On the mouthfeel (ave 3.3) I received descriptions of having a medium body but low carbonation, I wonder if they got a bad bottle though I might have forgotten to chill the bottles before BeerGunning. The overall (ave 7) impression was that it was a very nice IPA that could have used more CO2. One judge commented that he could have gone for a couple more pints. Most of the feedback is things I can work on for next year.
|The heat could barely be
constrained as it was!
Then there was Deathfire… fortunately it seems it’s dark reign was only inflected on 2 individuals with one of them being an apprentice BJCP judge. The aroma (ave 6) came across as smoky (very) with no malts or hops, I’m surprised that peppers weren’t mentioned. Its appearance (ave 2) was dark brown with an espresso head, slightly cloudy but clear? Not a really surprise on the flavor (10) as the pepper (and heat from them) dominated their palates, thought I did like the description that “roasty malts lead into smoky pepper”. Mouthfeel (2) had warmth from the peppers and was dry with limited sweetness. Overall (5) the beer was not well balanced and had too much peppers making it too hard to discern other ingredients. I laugh because I thought the pepper was nicely balanced going in to the competition.
What sticks out for me on the score sheets is how many times Costa Del Sol got called for being out of style (mostly driven by the hops). Don’t get me wrong they are it just clearly hurt my overall score and perhaps a blue ribbon. To me there are two paths in brewing; brewing what you love to drink and brewing to a style. Really there is not right path and each has its own rewards and challenges. Overall the reviews were mostly positive and encouraging.
Watch out, because next year I’m going to brew for this competition rather than just throwing in whatever beers I had available.