Tuesday, July 2, 2013

NHC First Round Results, Better late then never.

Its a bit late for this, especially since the final round results have been announced, but I wanted to post the scoresheets, especially for the Rye Saison.

I was not planning on entering any beers into the National Homebrewers Competition this year but I figured with the conference being in my hometown I would try to represent. I entered 2 beers that I felt were quite good and I always enjoy the feedback that you can get from a BJCP score sheet, good or bad.

The two beers I entered were my Farmer In the Rye Saison (the 3711 French Saison version), and a 100% Brett C ESB (that I call ESBrett) that was bottled February of 2012 and is drinking very nice right now.

I entered the Saison in category Saison 16C naturally, but in hindsight I made a mistake entering the ESBrett into Category 23 when I really should have entered it into Belgian Specialty 16E. My thought process was that the base beer was an ESB with a twist being fermented with Brett, however at this point this beer comes across more as a Farmhouse Ale of sorts as it has no characteristics of an ESB like it did when it was young. You'll notice in the scoresheets the judges mentioned as much.

Category 23A: 100% Brett C ESB - Score: 29
I wont go into much detail on this beer but the base beer was Jamil's ESB recipe from Brewing Classic Styles but fermented with WLP645 Brett C. As you can see in the score sheets this beer is no longer an ESB, when it was young it had a nice malt backbone, a noble hop presence with a very mild brett nose. Now the Brett character dominates, there is little to no malt left, slight hop character remains and the soft carbonation of a year ago has given way to a spritzy saison like carbonation, which I actually enjoy.

Category 16C: Rye Saison - Score: 40 - Place 2nd
This one is the Farmer In the Rye Saison, you can read more about the beer in the previous post. This is becoming a staple in brewing schedule, its low (ish) abv, dry, peppery with some fruity notes and very refreshing. It is kind of interesting that both judges mentioned wheat although I know there is no wheat in the beer I am surprised that it was something they picked up on. I entered the beer as a Saison and did not specify it as a Rye Saison. When people hear rye they get a certain idea of what they are looking for in a rye beer and if they don't find it they will dismiss it as being a flaw. 

UPDATE: Unfortunately the Saison did not place in the final round of the NHC in Philly, but it was an honor to be nominated. Next year, and competitions in the future, I will enter my 100% Brett beers into Belgian specialty.


  1. Ed,

    It sucks the judges took the ESB characteristic so literally. Category 23 is where this beer should be. I entered a 100% Brett pale into the Belgian Specialty and it scored pretty low in a local HB contest. A BJCP judge friend of mine suggested that I enter it into category 23 instead, and it scored a first place in the first round at NHC three years ago. It was HM at the second round that year. That being said I was very descriptive in the special ingredients area, describing the brett strain and the hops used. I don't think that a beer like this would fit into Belgian Specialty since 100% brett beers are not really "Belgian" in style. This is just my experience and my 2 cents, plus out of category beers are really tough to move forward in contests like the NHC. Congrats on the saison!

  2. I bet we are about the only people to ever brew an ESBrett and for both of us to name it that is funny.

    Also it was a good reminder to remember to taste your beer before entering it into competition so that you enter it into the style it tastes like at that time versus what you intended. Either way in my opinion these types of beers are put to better use tasting with friends versus competition. Its a crap shot for winning, but I guess the tasting notes are helpful.

    1. Thats funny, and we brewed them around the same time it looks. Mine was brewed in Feb 2012.

      I tasted a bottle of it the week before I entered but still thought I should enter cat 23 with a nod to the base beer even though its an entirely different beer now. I completely agree though, I think these types of beers are best left for sharing with friends.

      Do you have any of your ESB left? How is it drinking now?

    2. I actually do have some left and tried one recently. It was a Brett bomb (phenolic and barnyard) and all the hops had faded. It was a bit over the top for my tastes, but if I stored better it might have had a chance.