First style out of the gate for the Dallas Homebrew Collective was 20A – American Porter. Last year Silvia, Adam, and I had brewed a partigyle with runnings from a Russian Imperial Stout. We all agreed tasted rather porter-ish and I decided to put it in the club’s style competition.
With an eye on the upcoming competitions styles, Silvia and I brewed a Robust Vanilla Porter in early December with a recipe straight out of Brewing Classic Styles. The vanilla notes aren’t as strong as I’d hoped. Seeking some input from the group on just how much more vanilla we should add to the brew, I bottled some up and took it to the January meeting and entered it in the style competition as well.
Our two entries pretty well stacked the deck in a field of four. We ended the night with second and third place for our efforts. The interesting things are in comparing the volunteer judges tasting notes against the BJCP Style Guide and the relative numbers for the brews. The feedback from the judges was both interesting and confusing.
For the vanilla laced porter, both agreed that it was too sweet, “not very attenuated” and too light a mouth feel for the style. The numbers don’t bear that out. According to the 2015 guidelines the final gravity range is 1.012 – 1.018 and our beer clocked in at 1.014, solidly within range. One would imagine the a final gravity dead within the range would qualify as “…dry to medium-sweet” so I’m unsure as to what the disconnect with the judges and the style guide were on that evening.
The partigyle porter feedback was equally confusing. One said the mouthfeel was light, but ok for the style. The second judge said the mouthfeel was right on. Neither of them said anything about sweetness or under-attenuation even though the final gravity for this ale was actually higher than the vanilla laced version. This version was also much more roasty, which I expected to get dinged for, but it wasn’t mentioned as a detraction.
I’m fairly certain that the judges getting the roasty porter before the vanilla porter didn’t help their taste buds out as they tried to evaluate each sample. I give them credit for taking the time and making the effort. Perhaps they should have numbers available to temper their feedback with regards to attenuation/sweetness.
The partigyle porter likely will never be brewed again, it was a one off from a large batch and we probably won’t be able to replicate it anyway. The vanilla porter may be tried again, but with a fresh vanilla bean and some properly temperature corrected gravity measurements.