Monday, February 28, 2011

BJCP Education

Early today, I downloaded and have been looking over the BJCP Beer Exam Study Guide. It's loaded full of great information including information about the BJCP exam, the BJCP point earning experience and schedule, the beer evaluation and judging process, etc. It even includes extreme detail on all the ingredients used in brewing as well as an outline of the entire brewing process.

Remember in my prevous post how I'd said I wanted my tasting notes to be more precise, consistent and accurate? Well, here is just a short list of some of the terms/tastes I'll be learning to eavluate as part of the BCJP program. This is an overview of the most important beer flavors and flavor flaws that BJCP judges will encounter when judging:

Has the taste/aroma of fresh cut green apples (also compared to grass, green leaves and even latex paint).

A spicy or vinous character in the aroma and taste - often accompanied by a warm or prickly mouthfeel.

Gives a mouth-puckering sensation, similar to chewing on grape skins or grape seeds.

'Excessive' bitterness (above desired) is usually perceived as a harsh, dry taste, and is uaually due to over-hopping a beer.

The 'fullness' or viscosity of the beer on the tongue/palate. Can range from watery to satiating or even thick. Body is a component of 'mouthfeel'.

Responsible for an artificial butter, butterscotch or toffee-like aroma and taste. Can also produce a 'slick' feel on the palate. Dicetyl is extremely difficult to percieve as a taster - and a significant number of tasters simply cannot taste dicetyl.

DMS (Dimethyl-sulfide):
Gives the aroma and taste of cooked vegetables (especially corn, celery, cabbage or parsnips). May be reminiscent of shellfish or water shrimp has been boiled in at extreme levels.

Remeniscent of banannas, strawberries, pears, apples, plums, papaya and/or other fruits.

With a flavor and aroma a freshly cut grass or green leaves.

Head Retention:
Head rentention is the measure of how well a beer holds it's head after being poured. It is measured in terms of the time it takes for the head to collapse to half of it's initial height (should be at least a minute in well-brewed beers).

With an aroma and/or taste of the flavor of spent grains.

The 'skunky' scent is due to the presence of the very same mercaptans that are found in the scent glands of skunks. You may have heard that light is the natual enemy of beer(?) Believe it. Light is what causes skunky beer.

Musty flavors or generally not desirable, but may be found in some cellared beer styles like Biere de Garde.

A papery/cardboard like flavor or aroma are never appropriate - can be a common flaw in many old commercial beers.

Has an aroma/taste often compared to Band-Aids (tm), medicine chst of disinfectant. Generally never desirable except for a clove-like, vanilla-like or smoky flavors in Bavarian wheat beers and some Belgian ales.

Like the aroma/taste of dry sherry, often accompanied by hazlenut or almond notes. One of the very few positive flavors attributed to oxidation.

An aroma/taste similar to turpentine or acetone - often accompanied by a burning sensation in the back of the mouth.

High levels of sour or acidic flavors can indicate an sanitation problem, but they are an important part of styles like lambics, Berliner Weiss styles and some Belgian White beers.

Not to be confused with DMS (See above), with the aroma and taste of rotten eggs, shrimp or rubber.

The appropriate level of sweetness in any beer is dependent on the style. Refer to BJCP Style Guidelines.

Having read over the basics of all of these flavors/flavor flaws, I see several I could have applied to the tastes I experienced at the Barleywine Bacchanal.
In fact, I'm heading back there tonight with my wife to try out a few more and enjoy a few vertical tastings they'll have on tonight (A 'Vertical tasting' is when a single beer is sampled over several, often consecutive, years of production). So if I'm feeling bold, I might try my hand at using a few of these terms to describe the barleywines I'll be trying out tonight.

Drink responsibly and stay safe out there!

Gearing Up To Go For My BJCP Certification

I recently attended the Barleywine Bacchanal at Beveridge Place Pub in West Seattle. In my post discussing this event, I provided some basic tasting notes for the various barleywines I tried at the festival. As I was composing that post and reading over my tasting notes, I realized that my observations about each barleywine were only superficial. Basic smells, malty or hoppy, clean finish or aftertaste, etc.

While those were worthwhile notes, I've been longing for a way to make my tasting descriptions more precise, more consistent, and more accurate. Both for my own benefit and for the benefit of you, my readers - so that you'll have a better idea of what types of beers you read about here that you might enjoy for yourself.

I've known about the Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP) for quite a while now but, for some reason, I've never pursued getting my certification. Well, I've decided it's time to do just that. Becoming certified is a long road and does not end with your initial certification. There are various levels of judging excellence (rankings) you can achieve.

Your rank is determined by your exam score(s) combined with your experience points:

-At least a 'passing' score on the exam and at least 5 experience points nets you the rank: "Recognized".

-A score of at least 70 on the exam and at least 5 experience points nets you the rank: "Certified".

-A score of at least 80 on the exam and at least 20 experience points nets you the rank: "National".

BJCP Judges can achieve "Master" status with a score of at least 90 on the exam and at least 40 experience points.

I'll go it on my own, but I'd prefer to find a few friends to take the journey with me. The BJCP flavor kits - which can help you learn the various desired and 'off' flavors in beers is not very expensive, but they do provide enough flavors for 20-30 beer drinkers! Wow.

(If any of my readers are interested in pursuing the BJCP Certification with me and you live in the Seattle/South Sound area, please contact me at

Once certified, BJCP Certified judges can sign up/apply to be a judge at a wide variety of beer competitions. Some big advantages of this include being among the first to taste many new beers (as the judges usually get first shot at most judged competitions and festivals), as well as the ability to provide other beer afficianados with precise scores and descriptions, to assist them in making their choices from the large number of beers usually available at most competitions and festivals.

The first step in my journey will begin with renewing my membership in the American Homebrewer's Association. I was a member for several years, but I've allowed my membership to lapse and it's time to get active again. Wish me luck!

Drink responsibly and stay safe out there!

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Beveridge Place Pub's 9th Annual Barleywine Bacchanal

This past Friday and Saturday, I attended the 9th annual 'Barleywine Bacchanal' at Beveridge Place Pub in West Seattle. For those who aren't familiar with barleywines, they are basically strong ales. To help you understand what an American Barleywine is supposed to be, here are the BJCP 2011 Style Guidelines for American Barleywine.

This event features 50 different barleywines, with at least 24 of them on tap at a time throughout the five-day festival, which kicked off on February 25th and runs until March 5th.

Over the course of 2 days, pacing myself carefully, I was able to try 21 of the barleywines at the fest. Below is a roundup of the brief tasting notes I took for each (in Alphabetical order).

Boulder Killer Penguin '09 - Boulder Beer, Denver, CO:
-A bit wine'y/cider'y - this came through in the nose as well
-Not very hoppy. A no-no according to BJCP style guidelines.
-Even though an '09, it tasted like it needed to age more/longer.

Boundary Bay Old Bounder '10 - Boundary Bay Brewing Co., Bellingham, WA:
-Inviting nose with slight citrus notes.
-Very well balanced, but nicely hoppy.
-Good hop/citrus character.
-Clean finish.

Deschutes Mirror Mirror '10 - Deschutes Brewery, Bend, OR:
-Fairly well balanced, but a bit too much on the malty side (by BJCP guidelines).
-Decent/middle of the road, but no 'wow' factor (bland).

Deschutes Mirror Mirror '09 - Deschutes Brewery, Bend, OR:
-Extremely simiarl to the '10 Mirrir Mirror, but even maltier.
-Not hoppy enough.
-A bit 'bland'.

Diamond Knot Icebreaker '09 - Diamond Knot Brewing Co., Mukilteo, WA
-Light nose.
-Smooth and well balanced.
-Mildly hoppy - like drinking a strong 'Pale'.
-Clean finish.

Dick's Barleywine '10 - Dick's Brewing Co., Centralia, WA
-Nice hop nose.
-Smooth and well balanced, but hops still come through.

Elysian Cyclops '09 - Elysian Brewing Co., Seattle, WA
-Strong nose.
-Comes across as too malty on first sip, but balances out more on subsequent sips.
-Not hoppy enough.

Fish 10 Squared '10 - Fish Brewing Co., Olympia, WA
-Inviting/hoppy nose.
-Nicely hoppy.
-'Slaps' you a bit on first sip, but smooths out as you drink more.

Flying Dog Horndog '09 - Flying Dog Brewery, Frederick, MD
-A good 'middle of the road' barleywine. Not a 'standout' but decent.
-Good balance.
-Lightly hoppy nose.

Hale's Rudyard's Rare '10 - Hale's Brewery & Pub, Seattle, WA
-Average taste.
-No 'wow' factor.
-Something tastes 'off' in the aftertaste, but I can't quite place it.

Hopworks Urban Brewery Noggin Floggin '10 - Hopworks Urban Brewery, Portland, OR
-Very strong nose - almost like liquor.
-Strong alcohol flavor.
-Not very hoppy.
-Also tasted a bit 'off' in aftertaste.

Left Hand Oaked Widdershins '10 - Left Hand Brewing Co., Longmont, CO
-Decent balance, but a little too far on the malty side.
-VERY strong Oak flavor - it overpowered this barleywine & lingered in the aftertaste.

Lost Abbey Angel's Share '10 - The Lost Abbey Brewing Co., San Marcos, CA
-Very inviting nose with hop and cognac notes.
-VERY smooth.
-Decently balanced, but too light on hops (according to BJCP style guidelines).
-Nice cognac notes.

Naked City Cluster Cuss '10 - Naked City Brewery and Taphouse, Seattle, WA
-Very 'grainy' - tasted like the raw grain it was made from.
-Grainy nose - not very inviting.
-If nothing else, this one was clearly far too young. All I tasted was raw barley/grains.

Scuttlebutt Old No. 1 '10 - Scuttlebutt Brewing Co., Everett, WA
-Light nose and flavor.
-Good balance.
-Nice hop flavor
-Slightly sour on the aftertaste (not unpleasantly).

Seven Seas Wheelchair '10 - Seven Seas Brewing Co., Gig Harbor, WA
-'Spicy' and malty.
-Not very hoppy.

Sierra Nevada Bigfoot '09 - Sierra Nevada Brewing Co., Chico, CA
-Smooth flavor.
-Well balanced.
-What Bigfoot 'should' be. As expected.

Sierra Nevada Black Barleywine '10 - Sierra Nevada Brewing Co., Chico, CA
-Well balanced.
-Smooth - almost like drinking a black 'Pale' ale.
-My preference is still for Bigfoot over this one.

Silver City Old Scrooge '10 - Silver City Brewery, Silverdale, WA
-Smooth flavor.
-Well balanced, but a bit on the malty side.
-Not hoppy enough.

Speakeasy Old Godfather '09 - Speakeasy Ales & Lagers, San Francisco, CA
-Nice hop nose.
-Good hop flavor.
-Slight cognac notes - very pleasant.

Stone Old Guardian '10 - Stone Brewing Co., Escondido, CA
-Strong belgian flavors.
-Prounounced 'spearmint' type flavor (you read that right!)

While it didn't strictly adhere to the BJCP style guidelines for an American Barleywine, my favorite selection from the list above was Lost Abbey Angel's Share. It was a very inviting and easy to drink barleywine. The cognac notes in the nose and on the finish were very pleasant. I had to restrain myself from splurging on a $42 bottle of the '08 Angel's Share before leaving!

My other favorites from the above list were Boundary Bay's Old Bounder, Dick's Barleywine and Speakeasy's Old Godfather. Each had a unique character that may not have fully come through in my brief tasting notes above.

It's been a blast, but this is only the beginning! In just two weeks (March 12th), Brouwer's Cafe kicks off their annual Hard Liver Barleywine Fest. See you back here on March 13th, were I'll run-down the barleywines on tap there.

As always, drink responsibly and stay safe out there!

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Welcome to Beer Monger!

Hello and welcome to Beer Monger - the newest (and greatest?) beer blog around.

Our main focus here at Beer Monger is the sampling and appreciation of microbrewed beer. New styles, beer festivals and other events will be explored along with homebrewing.

So come along with me on a journey of beer discovery. Learn what types of beer(s) you most enjoy and perhaps expand your horizons a bit.