Beer registrations now closed for first annual Berlin Homebrewing Competition 2015

 

Registration is now closed for the first annual Berlin Homebrewing Competition 2015.

A total of 66 beers have been registered by Berlin/Brandenburg homebrewers, in the following categories:

 Competition Category # Beers Registered
 Pilsner & Helles  8
 Weizenbier  4
 Pale Ale & India Pale Ale  31
 Brown Ale, Porter & Stout  23
————— ————
 TOTAL 66


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Beers entries must be hand-delivered in two weeks, on Saturday, 02.05.2015.

Beer judging will take place at the end of May. Judges will be selected through technical and sensory tests in the next weeks.

Full details about the competition are on the official website: LINK

Berlin gets its own annual Homebrewing Competition!

 

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Overview

Homebrewing is relatively unknown in Germany. Rough estimates put the number of homebrewers in the capital city at around 200. Although rumours persist, Berlin still doesn’t have a proper homebrew supply store.

Yet, homebrewers have been key drivers of the renewed interest in beer in most other countries. In the U.S., there are over 1.2 million active homebrewers. Over 1,200 regional clubs have fostered a community of brewers and have been a launchpad for new commercial brewers in the last four decades. Homebrewing competitions have been a key driver in the formal definition of styles and beer judging criteria.

It is time that Berlin had its own regular homebrewing competition and I am delighted to announce that the first Berlin Hombrewing Competition will take place in 2015, with brewers having until May to brew and submit their beers.

Organised by volunteers, beers will be judged blindly by apanel of experienced brewers and homebrewers.

Beer Categories

Four beer categories have been defined. These categories have been chosen carefully, as we wish to acknowledge Germany’s own strong brewing traditions (wheat beers and more recently helles and pils) while also giving brewers experimenting with British styles (brown ale, porter and stout) and modern craft beer favourites (pale ale and IPA) the opportunity to let their hair down.

The four categories are:

  • Pils and Helles
  • Wheat Beers
  • Pale Ale and IPA
  • Brown Ale, Porter and Stout

 

Key Dates

The key dates are:

  • Registration of beer judges: 31.03.2015
  • Registration of beers: 18.04.2015
  • Hand delivery of beer bottles: 02.05.2015

 

Further Details

Blind German Pils Tasting #2 – Even Blinder

Background

At the beginning of March this year, I co-organised a blind tasting of German Pils with Ludger Berges (owner of the specialist beer store, Hopfen & Malz), to determine if there was a difference in the quality of the pils being brewed by German ‘industrial’ brewers and smaller regional brewers. We were surprised by the outcome (see original report here).

Although there was a broad range in quality of the pils we sampled, with the smallest “craft brewed” pils in first place and two large industrial breweries scoring the lowest by far, we were particularly surprised by Oettinger pils coming in second position, beating three regional breweries. We decided then and there to try the tasting again, with a selection of different breweries and with tighter controls for the participants, in order to limit pre-conceptions and cross-contamination of opinions.

 

Blind(er) Tasting

On Saturday, 11. October, ten experienced beer enthusiasts volunteered their palates to this blind tasting. The participants included brewers, home-brewers and other beer professionals. As before, a total of eight German pilsners were tested, all poured from bottles out of view. Four were from large breweries and four from smaller regional breweries of different sizes. Only Ludger and I knew what breweries were involved at all. The remaining eight participants were tasting completely blind.

 

Comparative sizes of the breweries

  • Bitburger brews > 3 Mio hl p.a., all Pils
  • Oettinger Gotha brews an estimated 2 Mio. hl p.a.
  • Schultheiß brews is ca. 1 Mio hl p.a., but this includes Berliner Kindl and Berliner Pilsner
  • Weihenstephan brews 200.000 hl, but mainly Weizen
  • Waldhaus brews 50.000 hl p.a., about 80% pils
  • Keesmann is 20.000 hl p.a., about 50% pils
  • Huppendorfer is 15.000 hl p.a., < 10% pils
  • Hummel is 10.000 hl, mainly non-pils styles

 

8 x German Pils

8 x German Pils

Group Results

The following are the combined group results from all ten participants, using the German scoring system (1=very good, 6=very bad):

  1. Hummel Pils (average score: 2,7)
  2. Waldhaus Diplom Pils (average score: 2,8)
  3. Keesmann Herren Pils (average score: 2,9)
  4. Schultheiss (average score: 3,0)
  5. Oettinger (average score: 3,1)
  6. Huppendorfer (average score: 3,3)
  7. Weihenstephan Pils (average score: 3,4)
  8. Bitburger Pils (average score: 3,6)

 

Pils Tasting Notes

Personal Results

My own results broadly aligned with the averages:

  1. Hummel Pils (my score: 1,5)
  2. Huppendorfer Pils (my score: 2,5)
  3. Schultheiss & Bitburger Pils (my score: 3,0)
  4. Waldhaus Diplom Pils & Keesmann Herren Pils & Weihenstephan Pils (my score: 3,5)
  5. Oettinger Pils (my score: 5,0)

 

Conclusions

Comments on the Group Results

Once again, I cannot emphasise enough is just how difficult it is to identify these beers or tell them apart when you don’t have the bottle in front of you. This time around, the group results were less consistent. The tighter controls on the tasting (including silence once the beers were served), meant that every participant was making their decision in isolation.

In the Group Results, there was a general preference for the Pils from three smaller breweries (Hummel Pils, Waldhaus Diplom Pils and Keesmann Herren Pils leading the pack). However, this lead was very narrow and each beer beat the next-placed-beer by only 0.1. The Huppendorfer Pils scored poorly across the group. I was the only participant who awarded this beer a score higher than 3 and even then noted the light watery body and mild metallic finish.

Comments on my Personal Results

From my own results, my favourite – by far – was the Hummel Pils. This was the only Pils I awarded a score greater than 2,5. For me, this was the Pils with the most pronounced hop aroma, a wonderful spicey nose, perfectly balanced with the delicious malty body. There was even a very mild but pleasant buttery note (diacetylphobes beware!) with an extremely well-balanced finish. Delicious!

My least favourite Pils – by far – was the Oettinger Pils, scoring a 5,0. This time around, this Pils had a vegetal DMS note in the nose, an extremely watery body and an unpleasant soapy after taste.

Further Investigation

Plans are already being made for the next Blind Pils tasting in 2015. Next time around, we will take the ‘Best Before’ date (Mindestenshaltbarkeitsdatum; MHD) into consideration as an additional factor. We have already set up the protocol, bottles are being aged and we intend to explore every angle of Germany’s favourite beer style in detail. Watch this space….

Many thanks to Ludger for hosting and to the participants for contributing their palates and good humour on a rainy Saturday afternoon.

 

……. and as before: please do try this at home!

Craft Beer Center Bar thanks you…. and promises to be back in 2015

craft beer center bar

 

 

Rory, Peter and Björn would like to thank everyone who supported the Craft Beer Center Bar over the weekend.

We enjoyed the experience and were delighted to premiere so many new beers in Germany. We’ll be back in 2015!

 

The full beer list again was:

  • Waldhaus Diplom Pils
  • Weihenstephaner Pale Ale
  • Ale*Mania India Pale Ale
  • Ale*Mania IPA Mania
  • Buddelship Mitschnagger Pils
  • Freigeist Phoebe Caulfield
  • The Monarchy Preußen Weiße
  • Nogne O/Ale-Browar Polish IPA
  • Birbant Black AIPA
  • Pinta Ce n’est pas IPA
  • AleBrowar Hopsasa Polish IPA
  • AleBrowar HBC 342
  • AleBrowar HBC 430
  • Brouwerij De Ranke Hop Harvest
  • Brouwerij De Ranke Guldenberg
  • Brouwerij De Ranke Noir de Dottignies
  • Brasserie Dupont Saison Dupont
  • Westmalle Dubbel
  • Brauerei Kraus Hirschen-Trunk
  • Greif-Bräu Helles
  • ape ales Black IPA
  • ape ales Gold
  • St. Bernardus 12˚ (untapped)
  • St. Bernardus Tripel (untapped)
  • The Monarchy/Kissmeyer Viking Gose (untapped)

The Cellaring Experiment: Westvleteren 12

Introduction

Q: What would the wine industry look like, if wine were a more perishable product?

Although primary fermentation of beer and wine takes a comparable amount of time to complete, secondary fermentation of wine usually takes much longer. Once wine has been bottled, it is usually given months or years to mature, due to chemical maturation, rather than any refermentation in the bottle. This allows wines to be cellared, collected and traded. The status accorded to some vintners (and price-tags of some rare/vintage bottles) would be unthinkable if wine had a shorter shelf-life.

Beer, in the other hand, is best consumed fresh >99% of the time. Some higher gravity beers that are bottled with yeast will continue to develop (“bottle conditioning”), achieving complex flavours that are difficult to achieve in a typical brewing cycle. Sometimes, the brewer retains the bottles until ready. Bottles of Duvel are matured in the brewery for over two months: kept at 24˚C for two weeks/carbonation, before being cold conditioned for six weeks. Other times, the consumer needs to decide. There can be no doubt that some strong Belgian ales and imperial stouts reach their peak several months after they have left the brewery.

However, as with wine, only a small minority of beers actually benefit from cellaring – and if so, then it is a case of months, rather than years. The drive to produce rarity and exclusivity has encouraged many beer-lovers to cellar already rare beers. The aim of this experiment was to take the classic Westvleteren 12 from St. Sixtus Abbey and compare a young bottle (2014) and an old bottle (2012) side by side.

2 bottles of Westvleteren 12: young and old

As bottles from St. Sixtus Abbey have no labels, all the information is on the caps. Here you can see the recommended ‘Best Before’ dates: January 2017 and January 2015

 

 

 

The Experiment

Two bottles of Westvleteren 12 (10.2% ABV), one cellared for 28 months (“old”) and one cellared for four months (“young”) were compared side-by-side in order to evaluate the effect of cellaring on appearance, carbonation, aroma and flavour. (The beers were refrigerated at 6˚C for a further 3 months prior to the experiment).

This beer was selected because:

  1. Both bottles were purchased directly at the brewery (two years apart) and were cellared since purchase. No distributor was involved.
  2. Westveleteren 12, due to its unfortunate status, is often cellared for extended periods of time in the belief that it will improve.
  3. The beer itself is a rich, dark, complex, high-gravity style that is bottle conditioned – ideal for contrasting a young and old bottle

The beer was served cool (10˚C) and allowed to warm (to 15˚C), with notes being taken of both beers side-by-side.

 

Westvleteren 12 - young and old

Westvleteren 12 – young (2014) and old (2012)

 

Results

2014 – four month cellared bottle (“Young”) 2012 – 28 month cellared bottle (“Old”)
Appearance: Chestnut brown in colour, with a big fluffy, foamy head. Appearance: Chestnut brown in colour, just a little darker than the younger bottle. Much less foam and poor head retention.
Aroma: Dates, prunes, black currants, with hints of coriander, dark molasses and dark bread. Aroma: Dates, marmalade, prunes, stewed apple, definite sweet vanilla (absent in the young bottle). Of the two bottles, this wins on the aroma alone.
Taste: Big body, gloops onto tongue. Plums, caramel. Hints of nutmeg. Warming alcohol presence. As it warms, the malty flavours develop and become more pronounced. This is a tremendously complex beer, but wonderfully balanced. Taste: Slightly lighter body, perhaps due to higher attenuation and/or less carbonation. Plums and sour cherries dominate. Less malty/bready. Hints of balsamic vinegar with a tart, acidic finish. As it warms, the aroma turns very sherry like, indicating the degree of oxidation. The acidic finish becomes more and more unpleasant.

 

Conclusion

Although the aroma of the older bottle was promising at first, the harsh acidic tones and hints of balsamic vinegar in the flavour, particularly as the beer warmed, meant that this beer was past its prime. The strength and complexity of this beer demands that it be allowed to warm and while the young bottle developed as it warmed, the aged bottle became undrinkable.

Those fortunate enough to get their hands on a bottle of Westvleteren 12 are encouraged to enjoy it (share it!) within the few months after purchase. Cellaring this beer for years will risk spoiling the beer through oxidation.