Archive for February, 2014

2014 Competition Entries


I’ll probably regret even thinking of doing a post like this – predicting my scores in the forthcoming NHC competition… But I figured it might prove a useful indicator on how my perceptions of my own beers compare with the supposedly trained palate of a BJCP judge. When I get the scores from the two separate judging dates, I’ll post them here.. just to add to my own acute embarrassment.. ūüėÄ

Yo-leven India Pale Ale – Masses of hop citrus fruit. Amazing hop aroma. Sweet, yet balanced. I think it will score very well. In my view, it should score 40/50. Unless the judge is very sensitive to caramel malts and prefers drier IPAs. In terms of quality, this is certainly in the top three of my competition entries this year.

Trixibelle Belgian IPA – A tasty beer for sure, but I don’t think it’s going to score well. The WLP550 Belgian yeast is an absolute beast and fermented this out to complete dryness, despite the fair percentage of crystal malt in it. However, it has simply been in the bottle too long and the hop flavours have fallen off a cliff at this stage. As tasty as it still is, I’d predict 32/50.

Vingt-Sept Belgian Ale – A strange but pleasing little number.. it is probably well situated in the “Belgian Specialty” category. I don’t think the rye malt that I specified in the description of the beer when entering it, is prominent enough to warrant such a mention. This is the kind of thing that sees beers marked down in competitions. It’s sparkling clear, dry and drinkable, and has lots and lots of citrus and spice character. As pleasing as it is to me, I don’t think it will score particularly well unfortunately. 32/50.

Pork Chop Porter – I had extremely high hopes for this, and as excellent as it is, it hasn’t turned out quite as expected. I had hoped the English yeast I used would tip it over the edge in terms of quality, but I think it’s left more residual sweetness than expected. And in such an intensely flavoured beer, the yeast character doesn’t really come through. I’d have been better off using the dry American ale yeast I used in my first attempt. There’s a smoky character here too which I didn’t notice on the last attempt. 38/50 hopefully, the same as I got with this beer in last years competition.

Buckshot Flag Irish Red Ale – Quite a success I think, but not quite as I expected. I think the amber malt is just slightly too pronounced. And I’m fairly sure it will get dinged for not being roasty enough for an Irish red. Though I’m hoping that the judges will appreciate subtlety. I’d predict 38/50 for this one.

Five Dollar Shake – I had entered this as a “Foreign Extra Stout” laced with the vanilla-infused bourbon. However, I think the bourbon pushes the alcohol character firmly into a different category. I’m not sure whether the judges will give me any leeway on this. But I still think it’s a quality beer – smooth, roasty, chocolatey and sweet. I’ll be very disappointed if this didn’t score 38/50.

Black Widow Extra Stout – This will be roughly a year old soon, and it’s not showing any signs of age. Fantastically balanced. Rich, caramelly, roasty. Very tight, creamy head. Extremely drinkable considering the high ABV. I’ve high hopes for this; I just hope the richness of beer won’t see it dinged for being in the wrong category. Even though it’s just under 8% ABV, it really is skirting the boundaries of “Foreign Extra Stout”. Perhaps “Russian Imperial Stout” might have been a more appropriate category to place it in. Time will tell. 40/50 hopefully.

Pie-O-My Amber Ale – I’m not sure how much importance the judges are going to put on good clarity, but if they do, then this beer will not score very well at all. It’s so heavily-hopped that it’s very murky. The flavour is good, though a little more dank than I wanted. Also, serving temperature is very important in this beer. If it’s too cold, it simply has no impact. You can’t taste the rich malt flavours andit just seems overly harsh and grassy. I’d anticipate a 34/50 for this one.

Diabolus in Lupulus Imperial Amber – I don’t think I’ve every done a beer with such impressive head retention as this. The hop character is very intense, and I hope it will stand out during the judging. I’m not happy with the grain bill in this. I think the “Big Dawg” had a much cleaner malt profile. If the judges are up for a big, hoppy beer, then I think it will score reasonably well, but it’s no medal winner. I’d say 36/50.

AG#8 – Galway Slapper Irish Pale Ale


Galway Hooker was probably the first “Irish” pale ale I tasted when I was just beginning to get into craft beer. I gave up on it for a couple of years as¬†more hoppy pale ales came onto the Irish market and I chased more aggressive hop bombs. But I’ve recently got back into “Hooker” in a big way. I’ve come to appreciate “balance” in beer a lot more since I first embarked on this journey, and and “balance” is one thing that Hooker has in spades. It boasts a fantastic interplay of caramel sweetness and restrained hop bitterness, with the eclectic combination of hops (English Goldings & First Gold, Czech Saaz and American Cascade) lending the beer a unique and intriguing hop flavour and aroma. The level of crystal malt is fantastically judged, giving a beer a hint of toastiness that complements the other flavours so well. It’s a wonderful beer and one that Irish craft aficionados should be very proud of.

I haven’t done a lot of clone recipes in the past, but I just had to try a clone of Galway Hooker after tasting an excellent home-brewed version by one of the lads from the National Homebrew Club. I’ll be using his recipe as a guide with some adjustments based on comments that I’ve read on various homebrew forums and information I’ve gleaned from the excellent (though slightly outdated at this stage) book “Beer & Cider in Ireland: The Complete Guide” by Iowerth Griffiths.

I don’t normally have any use for First Gold hops, so I’ve done some creative substitution with a fresh bag of Fuggles. I’ve got a fresh bag of Saaz for the 5-minute addition and lots of Cascade hanging around in my fridge for that final flameout addition which contributes so much to the flavour of Galway Hooker. The grain bill includes a fair percentage of wheat malt and judicious use of Crystal 60, which gives the beer that characteristic colour and caramel flavour. I’m really going for it by using Pearl as my base malt, the same base malt used in Galway Hooker. Though, I only have 3kg of it, so I’ll be supplementing the grist with Maris Otter.


Boil Size: 25.38 l
Post Boil Volume: 22.88 l
Batch Size (fermenter): 19.00 l
Bottling Volume: 17.00 l
Estimated OG: 1.045 SG
Estimated Color: 12.5 EBC
Estimated IBU: 40.9 IBUs
Brewhouse Efficiency: 60.00 %
Est Mash Efficiency: 69.5 %
Boil Time: 60 Minutes


3.000 kg Pale Malt, Pearl  (5.0 EBC), 64.2 %
1.200 kg Pale Malt, Maris Otter (4.8 EBC), 25.7 %
0.300 kg Wheat Malt, Bel (3.9 EBC), 6.4 %
0.175 kg Caramel/Crystal Malt – 60L (118.2 EBC), 3.7 %
24 g Fuggles [4.30 %] – Boil 60.0 min, 15.4 IBUs
24 g Goldings, East Kent [6.90 %] – Boil 60.0 Hop, 22.5 IBUs
0.50 Items Whirlfloc Tablet (Boil 10.0 mins)
25 g Saaz [4.80 %] – Boil 5.0 min, 3.0 IBUs
35 g Cascade [5.50 %] – Boil 0.0 min, 0.0 IBUs
1.0 pkg Safale American  (DCL/Fermentis #US-05)

Mash Schedule: Bubbles’ Single Infusion, Full Body, Batch Sparge
Total Grain Weight: 4.675 kg
Mash In           Add 13.09 l of water at 74.6 C          68.0 C        60 min

Sparge: Batch sparge with 2 steps (Drain mash tun, , 17.47l) of 77.0 C water

06/02/2014 – Mashed at 66.4C, a good bit lower than my target temperature of 68C. Mash started to stick and I ended up re-stirring and recirculating the last few litres out of the mash tun. Not sure what caused this – I was using 100% pre-crushed malt, so the grind won’t have been the problem. I was also using some aluminium foil tp prevent the grain bed from being disturbed when I recirculated the first mash runnings. I got only 24 litres at a pre-boil gravity of 1.040, so rather than accepting a lower volume, I topped up the pre-boil to the target 25 litres and aded 150g of light spraymalt. Completely unscientific, but hopefully I will hit my target OG.

Update: I wasn’t expecting problems running the wort from the boiler, but the trub and hops clogged up the bazooka screen again! I also got an actual OG of 1.050!! I shouldn’t have added so much spraymalt after all. So it’s going to be a bit of a turbo-charged Galway Hooker clone.

22/02/2014 – Bottled with 125g of glucose and got 33 bottles from the batch. Aroma from the beer is very good and distinctly hooker-like.

17/03/2014 – First taste. not bad, tastes a little young. I was expecting it to be in perfect condition after nearly 4 weeks in the bottle though. The colour is a little light, and it doesn’t have that toasty aroma that’s so prevalent in Galway Hooker. It seems that there’s more crystal malt needed? I was concerned that I had too much flavour & aroma hops in the beer but they actually don’t seem that prominent. Though admittedly, it’s hard to judge a beer when it’s immature. Head retention is not bad, carbonation level good. Promising, but no dice yet. At least another 2 weeks conditioning needed here. [Update: getting closer to the end of the glass – that toastiness is there in both the aroma and flavour; it’s just masked by those immature flavours at the moment, I think.

02/03/2014 – Very disappointed with this. I can’t for the life of me figure out why this still tastes so immature after 5 weeks in the bottle. It still tastes yeasty. It had plenty of time to cold-condition in the shed, given the temperatures out there at the moment. This being a clone beer, I’ll be very interested in doing a side-by-side tasting with the real thing. Though I have to give the homebrew at least another couple of weeks to make sure it’s full conditioned. So ,the faults… there’s not enough of that toasty flavour in the beer.¬† I suspect it’s not quite dark enough. The American hop character is not shining. This all points to more crystal malt and Cascade hops. Some more patience required, perhaps.

12/04/2014 – This is pretty pants, I have to say. Doing a side-by-side tasting with the real thing, and it doesn’t stack up very well. It’s inexplicably yeasty still. And it’s hard to get any aroma off it. the colour seems spot-on, though the Galway Hooker is filtered, and so it sparklingly clear. I’ve almost given up on this becoming good. Though I think a re-brew is in order. Not sure what I’d change about the recipe. The Hooker seems toastier, but I don’t want to use any more C60 as there’s already plenty of colour and residual sweetness in the beer. Maybe using 100% Maris Otter might be the key. I definitely won’t be using a fresh sachet of US-05.

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