Saturday, May 4, 2013

NHC 2013 First Round Results

The more that I brew, the more specific feedback I need to get better.  A decade ago, when I made my first few beers, I just wanted to make something palatable.  If it tasted good enough and the ABV was at a healthy level, I was pretty happy.  In the course of brewing the past 600+ gallons, my idea of a good beer has changed significantly.  After reading The Mad Fermentationist's recent post about The Four Stages of Homebrewing, I'd like to think I'm somewhere between Advanced and Expert (and probably more the former than the latter).  In addition to those close to me developing the experience, familiarity with terminology and palate sensitivity to provide higher quality notes and constructive criticisms, my recipe refinement has started to rely on the palates of others beyond myself and my circle of friends.  Most of the beers I make are good, but not all of them are great.  When I make changes to a recipe or process, it's generally a small tweak or a minor ingredient adjustment.  That's one reason why entering beers into competitions has been enlightening.  The feedback that I get is more technical and accurate and the bias (my own or that of friends) is removed, making for an honest assessment of the beer.

NHC 2013 First Round Scoresheets
I entered my third competition last month, submitting two beers to the First Round of the National Homebrew Competition.  NHC requires 5 bottles, and I usually keg, so I entered beers that I thought were good and that I had enough of.  I entered KTG into Category 13F - Imperial Stout and III into Category 17B - Flanders Red Ale.  I love both beers, and I got some great feedback from judges and a result I was happy with: KTG advanced to the Second Round of the Competition with a 3rd place score of 40.5 in the Stout Category.  Here's a sampling of the judge's perceptions in their own words:

BEER: KTG - Imperial Stout (13F)

AROMA: medium-low malt aromas; dark chocolate and coffee; fig, plum, dark cherry; some sherry

APPEARANCE: pitch black with black highlights; opaque in clarity; head has a creamy tan silk texture

FLAVOR: dark chocolate and roasted coffee; complex ester profile; no detectable hops; alcohol detectable; sherry-like quality, possibly age

MOUTHFEEL: medium-full bodied with moderate carbonation; no astringency

OVERALL IMPRESSION: complex and delicious; additional hops for more complexity

SCORE: 40.5/50                    PLACE: 3rd out of 45 entries
BEER: III - Flanders Red Ale (17B)

AROMA: moderately fruity; tart cherries, rd plums, cassis; woody, piney, no hops; funky aroma evident but not overwhelming

APPEARANCE: slight haze; medium tawny, no head

FLAVOR: good restrained level of tartness; dark fruit; could use more residual malt character

MOUTHFEEL: fuller body with low to no carbonation; somewhat syrupy

OVERALL IMPRESSION: good example; each taste reveals new levels; could use a more complex malt bill

SCORE: 33.5/50                    PLACE: none

3rd place finish
Unsurprisingly, my own biased opinion assigns a higher score to III, but I think most of the things that the judges shared were accurate.  When both judge sheets mentioned  greater malt complexity, I realized that I had been tasting its absence without really identifying it.  I have high hopes for KTG in the Second Round: new judges and fresh perceptions, but stiffer competition to be certain.  If it doesn't go any farther, I'd still be happy.  I want to rebrew both beers and make those small changes that turn a good beer into a great one.          


  1. Having tasted your KTG, its a great beer. So knowing that your KTG beat out my Cucuy makes me feel better about my beers lack of advancing onto nationals.

    Since I will be at the awards banquet, if KTG wins can I pretend I'm you and accept your award?

    1. You have a lot to do with my KTG recipe. I made it after drinking your clone and being inspired by it. In the (unlikely) event that it makes it farther than this, I would expect you to be on stage. I'd be offended if you weren't. ;)

  2. Advancing a stout is pretty amazing, so you should be super happy with that. Congrats.

    And we need to get together for some Flanders Red tasting. I think it will benefit us all to taste each others. Check your email shortly for an invite.

    1. Thanks for the props. If I had my druthers I'd rather have gotten some recognition in the sour beer category like you did. Congratulations on your first place finish! A Flanders Red Tasting is long overdue...


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