Choosing Our Best Beers…

I signed up to try and get slots to enter beer in the National Homebrew Competition (NHC). My good news is that I was able to get two slots. The bad news is that I must now pick my two favorite children out of seven beers that we entered into the the Bluebonnet Brew-off. It would be awesome if the entry deadline for the NHC was after score sheets were done from Bluebonnet, but it didn’t work out that way.

Since we won’t have feedback on our freshest batches, Silvia and I have opted to go with the pair of recipes that received the highest scores last year in the Cap & Hare Master Brewer competition. Those would be our Scottish Export – Thistle Dew and our American Stout.

Both recipes were reformulated for Bluebonnet this year. Previously Thistle Dew had a pound of dark malt liquid extract – heavy on the munich and we replaced that with grains. The beer was also a bit too strong for the styles so we dialed the base malt back a touch to bring the %ABV calculations in line with the BJCP style. The results have been quite good so far, but the beer is still young.

The only detracting remarks about the American Stout had to do with astringency. I read in Gordon Strong’s Modern Homebrew Recipes: Exploring Styles and Contemporary Techniques that he adds his darker and roasted grains into the mash at vorlauf time to reduce astringent flavors and get smoother roasted flavors. Taking that advice to heart, I put all of the dark grains into the mash at vorlauf time for the most recent batch. After three weeks the hops are just starting to mellow and the roastiness is coming to the fore. We also incorporated cluster hops for the bittering dose – they were free to use for a Bluebonnet entry in the “Showcase Hops” category, so why not?

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