Last Thursday, the results of this year’s Berlin homebrewing competition were announced. You can find the winners on the competition website. Congratulations to all the category winners, and especially so to the overall winner, Jörg Schloemer, whose beer “Vienna Calling” will be brewed by Heidenpeters later this year!
Many thanks also go out to Rory, who organized the whole competition to make homebrewing more visible and promote it in Berlin.
I did not win, but of my three submissions, one was particularly well-received by the judges, one showed flaws in the fermentation process of that particular batch, and one… well, judging from the comments, I think half of the judges didn’t fully grasp the beer style. I hold no grudges, though, as this was nevertheless some very valuable feedback.
The beer that got a relatively good score was my English Brown Ale. What I nevertheless found interesting was how differently it was perceived. One judge commented about it as “fizzy”, another one “could be more carbonated”, the third one “CO2 is right”. The average score was 80 of 100 points (note to American readers: this competition was not judged to BJCP standards), and this also reflects in the drinkability score, where it reached a consistent 24 of 30 points by all judges. One judge noticed a very light cardboard flavour, hinting at some minor oxidation issue. This is definitely something where I need to take a closer look at how I bottle my beer.
My second best beer was my Bohemian Pilsner. The scores for that by the four judges were all over the board, with two judges giving it 74 resp. 80 points, while one only gave it 34 points, and one 54 points. One major criticism was lack of head retention and lack of carbonation, which I pretty much expected upfront. We had kegged the beer, and when we bottled the beer, we noticed that we actually didn’t have quite enough beer to fill 4 500ml bottles to submit the beer! So we had to improvise, and I got 4 330ml bottles from the corner shop, poured out the beer, and filled in our beer instead. And even to fill these bottles, we had to underfill them a bit. So of course, if you’re dealing with pouring beer around and through funnels and what not, it will lose quite a bit of fizz.
Diacetyl, a very common (but not absolutely necessary) element of Bohemian Pilsners, was the most controversial part in the judging of this beer: one judge commended on the “nice diacetyl note”, one noted “light diacetyl”, and one noticed diacetyl as an off-flavour. I disagree with the last one, because, as I mentioned, it’s a common element of Bohemian Pilsners. The prototypical Pilsner, Pilsner Urquell, is a shining example for exactly that, especially so when served in a tank bar, or unfiltered and unpasteurized from cask. Besides that, one judge thought they’d get a flavour of cinnamon, which I absolutely don’t get, and also “far too slick mouthfeel”. Maybe from the diacetyl? Nevermind.
Finally, my American Pale Ale. This was really more of an afterthought, I put together the recipe on a relatively short notice, and also used that as an opportunity to use up hop scraps from previous brews. One theme that shows through most of the five judgings was that (1) the beer was too bitter, and a harsh bitterness, even, and (2) chlorophenolic notes. This was later explained to me by one of judges as most likely coming from the Berlin water being treated with chloramine and a fermentation that was slightly too hot. It’s definitely worth noting, and makes me think that I should probably do a better temperature control even with top-fermented beers. It’s also kind of sad that the Berlin water has to be treated like that, but we need to work with what we’re given. I definitely won’t start buying distilled water and then create water profiles by adding different salts.
All in all, it was a fun event, I enjoyed developing recipes for it and then brewing them, and we got some very valuable feedback. I’ll post the recipe of my English Brown Ale soon, and explain more about it.