June Brettanomyces competition meeting recap

Evaluating beers

Our heads are still spinning from all the impressions from this year’s Carnivale Brettanomyces. This annual festival is a grass roots celebration of avant garde beer. If you happened to have missed this year’s festivities we highly recommend visiting a future edition.

Not completely canon, but nicely tucked into the festivities was our fourth homebrew competition. Foebar organises homebrew competitions every 3 months, and we try to alternate between a strictly defined brewing task and a creative task with artistic freedom. For this month we had full freedom and only one guideline: brew a beer using brettanomyces.

Because of the festival the dynamics around the competition were quite interesting. There were a number of Carnivale Brettanomyces visitors that joined us for the competition and two of them contributed a beer. We really appreciated the outside-in perspective on the beers and on how to evaluate a beer. Some of the people judging the homebrew beers were also racking up Bokkeryder bottles while sampling the homebrew beers – so the entrants had quite a standard to live up to. Thank you all that joined us!

Picture of attendees sampling the competing beers. Picture by Justin

In total we had 7 beer entrees to the competition. I’ll run through them one by one and will shortly describe them.

Rodrigo and Jorge entered with a bretted pale ale. The base was a blonde pale ale which was spiked with brett after fermentation about 6 months ago (when we first announced the competition). The beer was already plenty funky, but I really would love to sample it in 6 months to a year from now.

The second entry was Erwin’s. It was a beer inspired on a Berliner Weisse once sampled. It started with a similar malt base (33 percent wheat, 67 percent pale) and swapped out some of the wheat for chocolate wheat and some of the pale for pale chocolate malt. A combination of saison, brett, and lacto strains were pitched. The beer was bittered with East Kent Goldings to about 8 IBU. After fermenting for about 7 weeks it was transferred onto 1.3 kilo of raspberries where it sat for another two weeks. Even though a bit young the beer was already showing complexity.

The third entry was Tom and Chris’ beer. It was a bit of a blast from the past as they pitched Alvinne yeast (their Morpheus strain) to their Mannenliefde beer entered in the last competition. This gave the beer a really nice and bright acidity and character while still retaining the lemon grass character from the base beer. The beer itself was also gorgeous as it dropped clear from a longer stand. Another really impressive entry.

Entry number 4 was Karl’s. It was an amber beer he had brewed a long time ago and at one point got infected. He told us that he initially poured a lot of it away but kept some bottles to see how it would evolve. It turned out that this paid off as it was a really enjoyable and odd beer. The beer had loads of caramel and tasted of honey. Maybe not what he was aiming at but definitely enjoyable. This shows that you should never throw away beer 😉

The fifth entry was Pete’s. He could not make it to the competition so he sent us a nice description of the brew: The beer is a hoppy/funky combination. A Brett IPA of sorts. Inspired by a beer I read about on the Mad Fermentationist blog.  The beer is 75% pilsner malt, 10% wheat, 10% rye and 5% oats. Hops are Nelson Sauvin, Citra and Amarillo. Besides a small bittering addition, the hops were added at whirlpool for a 10 minute steep.  The beer was fermented with 100% Brett Brux (Suburban Brett from Imperial) at around 25 – 27oC for around 2 weeks before continuing to age. It was brewed back in early March, bottled at the end of May, and dry hopped 5 days prior to bottling with the same hops as the whirlpool. The beer was indeed a good combination of hop and funk (we got a lot of over-ripe pineapple). The beer was a bit too lively, maybe from Erwin transporting it or the brett chewing through some more sugars.

The sixth entry was one of the newcomers’ entry visiting from the States; Peter. It was a porter with a big grain bill, wood chips soaked in white wine and whiskey, and some brett pitched as dregs. It had a really nice nose and a great long lasting head of foam. The presentation was also nice with a self made label. The beer was really complex with a lot going on, if I had to be critical perhaps a bit too much. The wood was a bit present and the brett character not much developed. In a year’s time this beer will be amazing. We also really appreciate dragging the bottle with you all the way to Amsterdam!

The last entry was another newcomer’s entry. Margaux from Belgium took a beer with an almost professional presentation  – a really awesome label design. It was a relatively light 5% pale ale which was already 1.5 years old. It was a great easy-drinking and refreshing pale ale with just the right amount of funk and acidity. You could tell this was the longest aged beer because it was perhaps the funkiest of all entries. A really impressive entry.

After some counting and math (people were moving in and out of judging) we came to the following top 3:

– 3: Tom & Chris 
– 2: Margaux 
– 1: Erwin

The average scores were all between 30. something and 38. something so the playing field was pretty even. We’ve handed all the forms back to the participants so they can read the feedback and scores. Congratulations Erwin on this victory!

Picture of the winning beer. Again credits to Justin for taking it.

It was a great afternoon followed by some extremely nice bottles of Bokkeryder and 3fontijnen. We had a great time and were really pleased with the entries and participation of all. I hope our participants will keep back some beer to take it with them from time to time to see how it evolves.

Our next homebrew competition will take place in October and is a Porter! You can find more information here. This time we’ll stick to guidelines which should make judging a bit easier. We hope to see a lot of entrees for this style.

Our next regular meeting is 9 July. As always we are open to all. A lot of people that show interest in our events on Facebook never make it to our meetings. Even if you don’t brew beer, or are not very knowledgeable about beer you are very much welcome to join us.

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