Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Moratorium on new Recipes

Ahh... We are now finished with Homebrew Alley 3, the annual NYC Homebrew competition, and I can finally relax! Much of my recent time and mental energy was involved in organizing this competition and making sure it went off right.

Also, I entered about 8 beers, one of which took first in Dark Lagers & Bocks: JZ's Schwarzbier recipe (which I never posted here, sorry!) I thought I had some other really strong beers though, and I was sad to see that they got only middling scores. I have not seen the scoresheets yet, but I know the Dubbel, based off Jamil's recipe, scored only a 27 and I know this was a really nice beer. Also, the smoked helles, which I am drinking like water off the tap and loving every sip, scored a 30.

Well, this is the way competitions go and as long as the judges provided detailed feedback, it's their right to score them as they see fit. Above all, it's important not to base the strength of a beer off of the results from only one competition.

However, I also think that a lot of the beers I have been brewing are not quite up to my own personal standards. In that spirit, I am going to try to display more discipline and focus in on some of the recipes that I already have.

As boring as this may sound (or maybe it's exciting?) I am going to put into effect a moratorium on any new beer recipes, until I have gone back and really improved on the recipes that I am already brewing. For instance, Mr. T: This beer, which I entered as a Tripel, received 1st place in Belgian Strong Ales in one competition, and at Homebrew Alley it scored a 22! I have no idea how that can be. There was no bottle inconsistency issue, so I can only guess that in one competition, the judges liked it too much, and in the next, they were too eager to slam it. Now granted, I never thought Mr. T was good enough to deserve a 1st place ribbon, but I certainly think it was a 30 point beer at least. There is much room for improvement and I know where it is, even without seeing any scoresheets.

Maybe this can be some sort of meditation on style...I mean, the people who look down their noses at brewing to style never really give enough credit to the vast room to play that there is within a style. And here I am, 90% of the time being perfectly content brewing to style, yet knowing full well that there is so much room for interpretation and self expression within these parameters. You have to start by imagining the beer you want to brew, and in trying to actually make that happen you may come across some happy surprises, but ultimately you want end up with the beer you imagined. If you can't see it in your head before you brew it, maybe you shouldn't try?

At the same time, I think you have to be comfortable with your beers, if you know they are great, because beer judges are not always right, and quite frankly some are much better than others. Sometimes they just pick the wrong beer to advance. Sometimes your beer is good, but it was just a big flight and somebody's beer was better than yours.

Oh yeah, and with the organizer points from this year's competition, I should be a national judge by the next cycle! Cool...

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