The Topic: Adventures in Braggotland, Part 2
Ken Carman is a BJCP judge; homebrewer since 1979, club member at Escambia Bay, Salt City and Music City Homebrewers, who has been interviewing professional brewers all over the east coast for over 10 years.
First the news: I won second in Chattanooga for my Bee Czar, and first in Savannah for my 3 Weizen Guys. Here’s the irony: they both scored poorly in the competitions they didn’t win in. If you simply compared the scores forms you would think I mixed up the bottles, except the judges made specific comments that proved to me I labelled them right. Both set of judges thought the brews that didn’t score well might be infected.
Here’s what I think happened. The Dunkelweizen Braggot, aka: 3 Weizen Guys, was not labelled for the judges as using a Dunkelweizen-base for the beer at the first competition, even though I specifically specified that when I entered it. Hence the phenolic sense one might expect in that style were perceived as a defect. And, to be honest, I doubt the judges had much experience judging braggots. That’s common. Meads alone are kind of the poor cousins in beer judge-dom. That kind of makes braggot the bastard child of the poor cousin many don’t want to know, much of which has to do with some judges who think mead shouldn’t even be in a beer competition.
Ironically braggot is as close to being beer as some we judge under Specialty or Fruit, closer than Mead or Cyser.
This is a battle I’ve fought and, apparently lost. Plus the fact that braggot with any ingredients other than mead and beer has to be judged as… open mead? To me that’s like insisting barleywine be judged as just wine.
The response was not favorable, let’s just leave it at that.
The second poor scoring was purely my fault. As I have mentioned in a previous Brew Biz, I have learned not to claim something is in an entry if even I can’t sense it, and others I offer it to don’t. The several competitions I have entered Bee Czar in no one sensed the cherry cider I used for the mead, or the chocolate, or the bananas. Just a few days ago I tried it again: my next to last bottle. They’re there now… but very, very, very subtle. So, technically, especially looking back now: I should have entered it in Open Mead, but since I didn’t taste it before… well.
Last weekend we went to a Clarksville Carboys meeting: a nearby homebrew club, and brought Bee Cazr, and 3 Weizen Guys. That’s where we tried them, and then tossed comments around the table. I find fellow homebrewers helpful, and I wasn’t disappointed.
Addendum: these were the third and fourth bottles of the last four I had. There’s a new batch in my secondary about ready to bottle. I tried to choose ones with as little sediment as possible, but I’m guessing the sediment didn’t help: and the sediment might explain why what no one could taste before was subtle, but now there. I have also found, over time, both are prone to becoming gushers: especially Bee Czar. It’s a fine line here: I am looking for “sweet,” and abv-wise I should have been way over the beer yeast borderline, and slightly over the Narbonne yeast’s ability to make more alcohol. Apparently not. Yeast are survivors for sure.
Since the Savannah competition is mead only, my entries were judged by at least one mead qualified judge. These judges did a superb job and they got the cherry, the chocolate and with the sediment; due to shipping, I’m sure, and time, it became somewhat of a gusher: well, score low for Ken.
Since not declared, these characteristics had to be defects, right?
Just a guess. I do sanitize, but it’s always possible a bottle or two may slip through. The next to last bottle of our first batch we opened at a Clarksville Carboy club meeting last weekend was exactly what I described on my forms… except the omitted cherry and such. Very background. Very. But I can see how mead judges with well tuned mead palates might believe “defect,” especially with the sediment.
To me all this proves one thing: we need more mead qualified judges.
Now, as promised, here’s my latest recipe. I mash and brew the beer, and ferment the mead, separately, then mix them at some point: most of the time once both have settled. I do let the beer yeast settle more than the yeast for the mead, hoping the rest of the time the wine yeast I use will add to the complexity. This way I can use a beer yeast to get all that goodness the yeast adds to an ale, and a wine-like sense in the mead.
Most folks brew in 5 gallon batches, I brew in 2 to 2.5. But my most recent Bee Czar was 5, so I offer up that one.
And you probably should enter this in Open Mead. Yeah, I know, “not fair.” Enter otherwise? Enter at your own risk.
9LBS Pale Malt
1lb Castle Biscuit
1lb Special B
1oz Black Patent
10oz Munton’s Chocolate
1lb Light DME
1oz Roasted Barley
1oz Fuggles pellets
1oz Kent Goldings pellets
1oz Cascade pellets
1oz Cascade leaf
10oz Nestles dark chocolate chips
¼ gallon cherry cider
16oz Cherry preserves
1 packet Nottingham yeast
3 gallons cherry cider
16oz Cherry preserves
2lbs Buckwheat honey
4lbs dark Wildflower honey
3lbs Orange Blossom honey
10oz Clover honey
1 packet Lalvin 71B-1122 Narbonne yeast
All honey, fruits and chocolate go into fermenter, except I usually throw less than a quarter of all but banana in towards the very end of the boil, and no more than a tenth of each type of honey to the boil. I recommend 158 for mash. I mash about an hour and a half, and at least an hour on the boil. I put the rest of the honey into the cherry cider and just let it sit, pitching the Narbonne yeast into the cider, the Nottingham into the wort once it’s cooled into the high 60s. Sometimes I even reuse the cider jugs, getting an old one and sanitizing it to leave room for fermentation in each: for the mead. (Cherry cider from Grandpa’s Cheesebarn in Ashland, Ohio. Try to stop by, shipping is pricey and risky.) For the beer I have used English yeast cultures and once Belgian Abbey. At some point I mix everything: often after both have slowed, to totally stopped, fermenting.
Post note: from what I have read there is no need to do a boil for the mead, but as of late I do a short one. Less waste of honey that just ends up on the bottom of the fermenter.
Brew Biz: Werts and All, is a column dedicated to reviewing, discussing and commenting on all things beer including, but not limited to: marketing, homebrewing and homebrew/beer related events, how society perceives all things beer. Also: reviews of beer related businesses, opinions about trends in the beer business, and all the various homebrew, judging and organizations related to beer. Essentially, all things “beer.”
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