Beers In Sacramento reached out to Mike Ungerbuhler to post about his journey to become a certified beer judge. Mike will post every Sunday for the next three months to share his experiences. Mike has his own blog, Insatiable Thirst, make sure to check it out. Here's Mike.
Fellow travelers, thank you for sharing this journey with me; its end is just over the horizon. The tasting exam and five experience points are all that separate me from my goal of becoming a BJCP certified judge. As is stands, I have passed the entrance exam and am now a provisional judge. This means that I can judge competitions and gain the experience points that I need to become certified. I am feeling pretty confident that I will do quite well on the tasting exam and will be celebrating with UnderGroundBrewSquad at Oak Park Brewing Company's Preview Weekend when the exam is finished. Over the last few months we have covered the characteristics of beer (aroma, appearance, flavor and mouth feel), what ingredients are needed to make beer and what it takes to judge beer. This week we will discuss how brewing techniques influence the beer.
Class was held, yet again, at BFD. I think that we owe Tim a case of beer by now. Thanks so much BFD! Tracy Bethune, whom you may recall taught the class on water, was back to share her knowledge with us. As I had mentioned before, Tracy is a prominent local beer judge and has been involved in brewing since she was a small child. She is a great teacher and is very knowledgeable about the craft of brewing beer. I would like to thank Tracy again for sharing her time and knowledge with the class.
Week 11: She's Crafty
Brewing beer is both a science and an art; I call it a craft. In very simple terms, it is cooking. I often say that if you can make boxed macaroni, you can make beer. Just follow the instructions; it really can be that simple. However, if you're anything like me you'll want to develop your own recipes, which is where the craft aspect comes in. There are a vast variety of malts, hops and yeast strains to choose from, and endless combinations to play with. Then there are the tweaks in the brewing process that can make subtle or major changes in the finished product. Let's look at my blonde ale as an example. It is a very simple recipe of Maris Otter malt, East Kent Goldings hops and British Ale yeast. I brewed it twice in a row and ended up with two different beers. The second time around I inadvertently raised the temperature of the mash (the process of getting the fermentable sugars from the grains) by a few degrees and ended up with a fuller bodied beer that was more of a pale ale than a blonde. This is but one of the many possible minor tweaks that can change a beer even though the ingredients haven't changed. Small adjustments of the temperature of the mash or of fermentation temperatures, can both make big differences in the beer. Making the same beer consistently can be quite challenging and is what makes it or breaks it for professional brewers.
Speaking of professional brewers, this week's commercial samples were examples of hybrid beers, ranging from a Kölsch to a Bière de Garde. This week's thirst quencher was one that I used to drink much more often, Alaskan Brewing Amber Ale, which I learned is actually an Altbier. It's moderately caramel, bready malt and low plum aromas are inviting. The brightly clear amber colored beer is topped with a creamy off white head that hung around long enough to leave its traces on the glass. The flavor followed the aroma with emphasis on the bready malt, which was balanced well with subtle spicy hop bitterness. Its medium body and carbonation make for a nearly creamy mouthfeel that is quite satiating. Altbeir is a prime example of switching things up in the brewing process. It is an ale that is fermented at nearly lager like temperatures. This is what makes the beers flavors and aromas so well balanced. Alaskan Amber would likely pair well with your Thanksgiving meal.