A Beer Judge’s Diary: What Do We Mean by “Clean?”

By Ken Carman
By Ken Carman
 I’ve seen the word used so many times in judging. I thought I knew what it means and that includes what, to me, is only one contradiction. I had thought “clean” meant no fermentation by products that stand out and interfere with the malt, the hops and whatever else defines a style that has no yeast funk. The contradiction? Well, it’s the Germans who, as the cliché’ goes, must have everything precise, exact, just so. OK, I know that’s stereotyping but I’m only mentioning the perception, I have known plenty of Germans who are definitely not that way.
 To be clean and be German in this sense seems to be defined as no fruity, funky, significant DMS or buttery/diacetyl-like esters. Unfortunately that often doesn’t seem to be include a light sulfur-sense to some Germans, which I find their much treasured lager yeast sometimes provides. Not all the time, but a lot.
 OK, I admit: like some are sensitive to butter maybe I’m sensitive to sulfur? Possibly because a little butter bothers me not, but I REALLY dislike sulfur? Continue reading “A Beer Judge’s Diary: What Do We Mean by “Clean?””

Beer Profile: Vermillion Barleywine

Courtesy MyBeerCollectibles

Reviewed by Ken Carman

I love a good barleywine. Unfortunately this isn’t one.

The alcohol is harsh. I understand the abv can be quite high, but the first trick is always not harsh. The second is of minor concern: not too dark. This is probably “OK,” though perhaps a tad too. The carbonation is light: expected and not a problem. It finishes neither sweet nor dry. A firm bitter but that is minor in the balance.

The aroma is caramel, mostly. No hops. The mouthfeel is a tad slick; again not a big problem.

The head is quick and fades fast: mostly pillow. The color is light brown.

Overall I would say not that drinkable due to harshness, even somewhat hotness, of alcohol. This dominates even above obvious crystal-like caramel. It is also a tad one dimensional, but with less hotness this might be better. Fixing that would go a long way to making this a great barleywine. One expects high abv. But not harshness that dominates. Yes: barreled. But the barrel dominates so much it hurts the barleywine.

3.99 at BA.
3.9 at untapped.
94/81 at RB

Sorry. I disagree. I have to give it a 3.0, one of the lowest ratings I’ve ever given here at the Professor.

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Welcome to the PGA beer rating system: one beer “Don’t bother.” Two: Eh, if someone gives it to you, drink. Three: very good, go ahead and seek it out, but be aware there is at least one problem. Four: seek it out. Five: pretty much “perfecto.”

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_______________Beer HERE

Beer Profile: Wiseacre’s Migration of the Taco Raptor

Profiled by Ken Carman


I had to take a leap on this one. It is really enjoyable, HOWEVER there’s a strong pepper sense. I found nothing that indicated Jasmine Rice would give a pepper sense, or Hallertau Blanc hops. Now Hallertau hops are described as “spicy:” non specific. Also if you’re looking for a pilsner, lager, sense, forget it. This is more ale-like.

But it’s so damn good!

The pepper sense seems to fit perfectly, and quite intentional. This would make a great Belgian Pale or Saison in THAT sense, though the fruity hops would be inappropriate. Perhaps a Belgian IPA, though that kind of bitter is missing. Experimental?

Finishes somewhat dry. The balance is perfect: pepper, malt, fruit.

But I can’t know for sure it’s not intentional and part of the profile of Jasmine Rice, or Blanc, or…

Otherwise the aroma is very passion fruit, with orange/lemon undertones. Just a little caramel to a very firm malt base that seems more pale than pils.

The head holds long and is an off white foam. The color is a hazy gold that can barely be seen through. That may be chill haze, especially since it was quickly cooled down in a freezer.

The body is low side of medium and the fruit lingers. It’s a hint carbonic and well carbonated: medium range, but the carbonation does not hold well in solution. Drink quickly if you have to have a more firm carbonation sense.

I have no choice. Yes, the pepper would normally knock it off more points than I am giving, but the quality, the tastiness, simply can’t be ignored. But I can’t go above 4 which I would have if I knew for sure it was appropriate.

Where the name comes from, who knows. Taco???

BA 3.8/RB Untappd total 187, Uniques 171, Monthly 27

4.0

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Welcome to the PGA beer rating system: one beer “Don’t bother.” Two: Eh, if someone gives it to you, drink. Three: very good, go ahead and seek it out, but be aware there is at least one problem. Four: seek it out. Five: pretty much “perfecto.”

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Beer Profile: Saranac’s Blueberry Blonde

Profiled by Ken Carman

Very white head with frothy foam and small bubbles. Holds a long time. Slight haze in a very yellow quaff. Slight bubble rise in the quaff.

The aroma is the light sense of walking past a field of blueberries. Way behind that pale malt. No off fermentation sensed. No hops sensed. Smells slightly sweet, fruit sweetness not sugar or anything else.

The balance is slightly towards the malt. Finishes slightly dry. The malt has a hint of cracker to it, no caramel. The blueberry is almost an afterthought, and I sense some skin: pectin-like. Not enough to be problematic, just enough to set it aside from other Blondes.

Courtesy beersudsforum.com

Carbonation is tad low and has a carbonic tang to it. It makes the body: high side of light, seem low side moderate. No astringency.

Let me be honest here. I’ve had some of the classics of the style according to BJCP 2015, like Kona Big Wave, and I am not a fan. There’s not a hell of a lot to it. However that doesn’t matter. This is well made and has enough of a distinct difference to make it a worthy quaff for those who do care for the style. I would order a pint and move on, but for those who like the style this is immensely quaffable. It’s also lawnmower-ish, though I never recommend mowing laws and drinking.

If you like the style you’ll love this.

3.4BA… most reviews first page positive, rest no explanation. RB 21/39 style… what happened there? “Faint vomit?” Someone got a bad bottle. Also got sense many didn’t know the style.

4.4

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Welcome to the PGA beer rating system: one beer “Don’t bother.” Two: Eh, if someone gives it to you, drink. Three: very good, go ahead and seek it out, but be aware there is at least one problem. Four: seek it out. Five: pretty much “perfecto.”

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_________________________________Beer HERE

Beer Profile: Westbrook’s Mexican Cake Imperial Stout

Profiled by Ken Carman

I love it when a beer’s name evokes memories that stimulate the palate. This one does but…
Where’s the cake?

Aroma: Sweet chocolate, hint molasses, aroma. No hops. Great complex malt bill with some focus on a dark chocolate sense.

Appearance: black as all hell. Head big but fades into nothing. What there was pure foam. Head that fadedc fast is damn near as dark as the quaff. More brown than black.

Flavor: dark chocolate, very sweet, finishes tad dry to medium. The balance is towards the malt: deep, dark, delicious. Slightest bitter, no hop flavor.

Mouthfeel: light side of heavy, malt with some bitter lingers on the roof of the palate. Dark chocolate hangs the heaviest on the palate.

Overall: Where’s the cake? This mostly tastes like a great RIS with maybe a hint of cake like sweetness, at best. The balance is malt specific and the bitter does balance it well, but it should at least softly say, “Mexican cake!” I do think there’s just a hint astringency lingering in the background as if I’m eating baker’s chocolate in otherwise an excellent RIS.

I admit it is incredibly enticing, quite good. But the Mexican cake I have had is actually fairly delicate. RIS and delicate are not synonyms. Felt like I was chewing on baker’s chocolate is the worst aspect.

4.4 BA.
100% RB.

3.9

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Welcome to the PGA beer rating system: one beer “Don’t bother.” Two: Eh, if someone gives it to you, drink. Three: very good, go ahead and seek it out, but be aware there is at least one problem. Four: seek it out. Five: pretty much “perfecto.”

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_______________Beer HERE

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