Hazelwoods Beer Improvement Project

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On another thread I listed improving my beer as a New Years resolution. Sounds easy.

I’ve been thinking about how I’m going to tackle this and decided if I’m going to take this seriously it needs a more formalised approach than most of my not-so-serious experiments so here goes…
 
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The plan so far

To improve my beers I need to first establish some kind of baseline for my current beer - this I intend to do on a beer-by-beer basis because I can’t think of a better way.

I somehow need to decide what needs changing in order to improve that beer, perhaps in order to better meet published standards for that style and to remove any faults in the beer.

Once I’ve figured out what needs to change I’ll need to understand how to effect those changes.

Having brewed the improved beer I’ll need to review the beer to confirm the improvements have been made and that no new faults have been introduced.

Because I like the idea of independent assurance I also want my findings verified by an external authoritative source.

This process will of course be cyclic so how will I know when to stop? I guess this could be when they’re good enough for me but I’m going to say by benchmarking my beers against others and when my beers are scoring at least 40 points in BJCP competitions.
 
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Baselining my beer

In order to establish a baseline I need to be able to record various qualities about my beer but which qualities? What should “good” look like for those qualities and how do I measure them? Are there methods and standards for how I do this?

Perhaps a good starting point is the BJCP competition score sheet (which qualities) and BJCP Style Guide (what should “good” look like). How to measure them is a combination of simple measurements (eg OG and FG), things I can easily calculate (such as ABV), and things that will need more investigation including the identification of off-flavours, flavour compounds, and more general sensory skills (I can’t very easily baseline a flavour I can’t identify).

I recognise some of this will need to be a journey running in parallel with my beer improvement journey. I have to accept for example that my rudimentary sensory skills will limit my progress in the early stages but I will work to develop these skills over time. I already have several action points listed for myself in this regard and some we might even be able to do together if you’re interested.

BJCP Scoresheet https://legacy.bjcp.org/docs/SCP_BeerScoreSheet.pdf

BJCP Style Guide https://www.bjcp.org/download/2021_Guidelines_Beer.pdf
 
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Sensory training

I’ve been looking into sensory training and tools over the last few days and started to make some early decisions about where to start.

In essence there are flavour compounds that come from malt, from hops, and from yeast. There are brewing processes that influence the production (or not) of flavour compounds. There are human factors that influence our ability to detect and identify flavour compounds, and our perception of those flavour compounds. Water and it’s composition can influence each of the above factors. There are other factors that come into play such as contamination by wild yeast - which may or may not be desirable and/or deliberate. There are of course a whole bunch of other ways we influence flavour through adjuncts, fruit, spices, etc. I’m not going to concern myself with this last group for now, I have plenty to consider already.

So starting with flavour compounds the two sensory development tools I’ve already decided on are one concerned with malt focusing on the aroma and flavour of various malts, and one concerned with the identification of “off-flavours”.
 
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Malt Aroma and Flavour

Lindsay Barr is co-founder of DraughtLab, a company focusing on sensory analysis solutions, and is herself a sensory and consumer research specialist.

Cassie Poirier is a sensory specialist at Briess Malt & Ingredients.

The two authored a method for extracting aroma and flavour from malt called the Hot Steep Method. The method has been validated by the American Society of Brewing Chemists (ASBC) and adopted by the ASBC in their approved and published methods.

The BJCP have adopted a slightly modified form of this method for the sensory analysis of malt in conjunction with a BJCP malt flavour wheel.

This video from the BJCP will give a good overview.


This is a link to the BJCP flavour wheel
https://dev.bjcp.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/BJCP-Malt-Sensory-Training-Wheel.pdf

This link on the hot steep method shows the method
The Hot Steep Method: Step-by-Step Instructions - Brewing With Briess


I also found this video “Sensory Techniques EVERY Brewer Can Use” from Lindsay Barr interesting.
 
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Using the hot steep method and BJCP malt flavour wheel I should be able to come up with a profile for each of my malts. If other people do the same we can compare and discuss our findings and through this start to educate my/our palates.

I might well have a discussion about this with the homebrew club but it could be something any number of people can do virtually as long as you’re all using the same malt.


That will do for the moment, more to come…
 
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Sadfield

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If you can spare the time to do the competitions, becoming a UK BJCP judge is probably a good route, they'll train you including doing a sensory training session and you'll get to drink plenty of other homebrewers beers to find a benchmark.
 
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If you can spare the time to do the competitions, becoming a UK BJCP judge is probably a good route, they'll train you including doing a sensory training session and you'll get to drink plenty of other homebrewers beers to find a benchmark.
Cheers @Sadfield I have been thinking that might fit in my plans somewhere so I’ve been reading the BJCP Study Guide and watching a few videos on the subject. I was thinking about maybe doing the entrance exam this year and judging exam next year.
 

Clint

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If you can spare the time to do the competitions, becoming a UK BJCP judge is probably a good route, they'll train you including doing a sensory training session and you'll get to drink plenty of other homebrewers beers to find a benchmark.
I think H would enjoy that...but only a 12 hour shift.
Joking aside...it does seem like a minefield,especially how to get individuals all to agree on a taste or aroma...after all we're all different!
Also...I wonder how the "mass" produced stuff like Carling,Boddingtons etc fare in being judged against their style? Would they get placed?
Also,also...H,what do you think may be missing or need improving in your beers? Are you striving for,say,commercial standards,which I think sometimes aren't that good,to get professional acknowledgement, or just your own personal pleasure?
If you like your beers why not crack on. Plus I would add out of the beers of yours I've tried there's not been a bad one or remotely slightly nothing to like!
 
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I think H would enjoy that...but only a 12 hour shift.
Joking aside...it does seem like a minefield,especially how to get individuals all to agree on a taste or aroma...after all we're all different!
Also...I wonder how the "mass" produced stuff like Carling,Boddingtons etc fare in being judged against their style? Would they get placed?
Also,also...H,what do you think may be missing or need improving in your beers? Are you striving for,say,commercial standards,which I think sometimes aren't that good,to get professional acknowledgement, or just your own personal pleasure?
If you like your beers why not crack on. Plus I would add out of the beers of yours I've tried there's not been a bad one or remotely slightly nothing to like!
Thanks @Clint loads there!

You don’t have to get people to agree, we are all different but also have a lot in common so it might just be enough for people to say what they can smell/taste and others then consider whether they can smell/taste it having been prompted.

Some commercial beers are listed as being good examples of each style in the BJCP Style Guide but the guide gives guidelines and nothing is absolute. In a given competition a commercial beer (if allowed to be entered) may or may not get placed depending on the other entries. Not all commercial beer is listed because it’s not all good as we know.

I’m doing this in part to see if I can improve my beers (I’m assuming I can with more knowledge and experience) but also for the pleasure of personal development, I enjoy learning stuff. I think I’d also enjoy telling people what they can do to improve their beers - maybe as a BJCP judge.

Thank you for your nice feedback, you may only have brewed nice beers from my growing repertoire but like most people I suspect, I have brewed a few that just don’t inspire. I’d like to brew fewer of these! ;)
 

Alastair70

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Brilliant thread, thank you, I’ve book marked it to follow your progress. I’ll definitely be doing some hot steeps, as much for my own sensory training than benchmarking my malts. it’s such a simple idea and doesn’t need any special equipment.
 
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A few questions.

Surely hit steep your grains will introduce astringency and therefore effect the taste?

Will you be looking at improving your equipment to aid getting a better product, pressure ferment/transfers for example.

I am not sure how often BJCP comps come about, and with the limited entries allowed (plus your intense brewing schedule), will you be looking at other judging methods? Utilising your home brew club example
 
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A few questions.

Surely hit steep your grains will introduce astringency and therefore effect the taste?

Will you be looking at improving your equipment to aid getting a better product, pressure ferment/transfers for example.

I am not sure how often BJCP comps come about, and with the limited entries allowed (plus your intense brewing schedule), will you be looking at other judging methods? Utilising your home brew club example
Hi Leon, “Hot” in this context is actually 65C so should be representative of a normal mash.

I hadn’t expected to change equipment but if that’s what’s needed I’ll obviously need to think about it.

Every so often I discover another BJCP sanctioned comp but they are still few in number and usually limited to one or two entries so yes that is a limiting factor and any/all other avenues will be of interest. I have considered joining more clubs too, the London Amateur Brewers for example seem to have quite a few BJCP judges and organise several BJCP sanctioned comps.
 
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Hi Leon, “Hot” in this context is actually 65C so should be representative of a normal mash.

I hadn’t expected to change equipment but if that’s what’s needed I’ll obviously need to think about it.

Every so often I discover another BJCP sanctioned comp but they are still few in number and usually limited to one or two entries so yes that is a limiting factor and any/all other avenues will be of interest. I have considered joining more clubs too, the London Amateur Brewers for example seem to have quite a few BJCP judges and organise several BJCP sanctioned comps.

I guess some astringency is removed in a boil, and lost when blended with more water and hops etc. Just to be mindful that's all.like brewing a strong tea and then slowly adding milk, the flavour profile of the tea changes.

I think the best thing to do would be to do the judging qualification.
 

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Do all commercial breweries do closed system pressure transfer of their beers or is it quite a specialised thing?
Any brewery that does their upmost to produce the highest quality beers with the best shelf life through attaining the lowest TPO (total packaging oxygen) pickup through the packaging process.

One of the biggest single things that can massively improve your beer is reduction of oxygen exposure.
 

Hoddy

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As a guide this is the highest score I’ve ever got for a beer from a qualified bjcp judge and it is for a beer (sent out in the Santa swap) that I’ve been improving over the last 5 years.

do not under estimate how hard it is to score north of 40 points.
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