Saturday, April 11, 2009

4/11 Brew Day

It's a gorgeous day, and I'm going to spend it brewing beer. 10 gallons of robust porter, then 10 gallons of dark american lager. If you want to come by and participate, call me at 816-225-4570. I'll be working on it most of the day.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

8 Porters in 1 Night

Thursday night, in an effort to expand my own knowledge and that of a few friends, I hosted a beer tasting of porters. Since there are 3 different subcategories of Porter recognized in the Beer Judge Certification Program Style Guidelines, I wanted us to try a spectrum of beers, covering each of the subcategories. I also wanted to try as many of the "Commercial Examples" recognized by the BJCP as possible.

We started off with Brown Porter, and the example we used was Samuel Smith's Taddy Porter. It's a good beer, dark and roasty, but, for me, a little unsatisfying. Compared to the Robust Porters we get more frequently in America, it seemed a little thin and minerally. Good beer, but not as deep and wonderful as I tend to like my porters.

The second beer we tasted was Michelob Porter. I'll confess to a beer snob's cynicism that a mass market porter was going to impress me, but this beer certainly lived down to my expectations. Thin, sweet, and flavorless, I fear that lots of adventurous Bud Light drinkers will pick up a sampler pack with this in it and decide that they don't like porters. One of my fellow tasters said it was like a lager with coloring added to it, and she wasn't far off with that. Easily the worst beer of the night.

After that, we moved into the Robust Porters. Yum. Our first example was St. Bridget's Robust Porter, which I have already written about here. This is wonderful stuff, and we decided that the legend recounted on the bottle that St. Bridget turned her bathwater into beer for thirsty clerics was sound theology.

Next up was Odell's Cutthroat Porter. In a style that balances malt sweetness with bitterness from hops and roasted barleys, this one tips toward the malt sweetness side of the equation. A great "gateway" beer for neophytes, this is a sweet and wonderfully malt bomb.

To get us back on the balance beam, we went with Boulevard's Bully! Porter next. In contrast to the Cutthroat, this brought the hops along for the ride, with a citrusy hop aroma and flavor that approached lemony. I've never been a huge fan of this beer, but it really tasted great last night - I'll be revisiting Bully more often in the future.

Rogue Mocha Porter
came up next. By this time, I was suffering from serious palate fatigue, but this was my favorite porter of the evening. It had everything - the chocolate and coffee malt flavors, with a nice dose of hop and roasted malt bitterness. Everything balanced off each other, and made for the most complete porter tasting experience of the evening.

The final Robust Porter was Sierra Nevada Porter. Given the hoppy goodness of Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, I was surprised that this one wound up on the sweet side of the balance between bitterness and sweet. It was exceptionally "clean", though. Our librarian friend, who had picked up on a "dirty" flavor in some of the early beers, didn't get that flavor from this one. While it was a fine beer, I thought it lacked some of the wonderful complexity that made some of the others spectacular.

Finally, we closed with Baltika Porter, an amazing beer from Russia. The Baltic subcategory is noted for richer, stronger beers with tastes of dark fruits and warming alcohol. This one had it all, and capped off a wide range of beers that all carry the name porter, but differ widely.

For those readers concerned about drinking 8 beers in one evening, I should point out that we had six of us splitting the beers, and we didn't finish all the samples. It was a great way to experience the breadth of a relatively simple category of beers, and see how differently great brewers can interpret the porter style.

From a beer tasting perspective, tasting all those beer together helped me get a better handle on what is meant by roasty bitterness. I'm accustomed to hop bitterness, but the bitterness added by roasted malt is something distinct, and kind of tricky. If you wanted to get the contrast in only two beers (though 8 is a hell of a lot more fun!), I would try Odell's Cutthroat and then Rogue Mocha Porter. Neither has much hops, and the bitter complexity you'll get in the Rogue is mostly due to the roasted malts.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Tasting Porters Tonight!

I'm having a few people over tonight to taste the different styles of porters. I've picked up examples of each of the three styles (brown, robust and baltic). this should be a great chance to taste commercial exemplars side by side.

If anybody wants to come by and taste a few beers, I live south of Brookside, and you're invited. Call me at 816-225-4570 if you're coming and want directions. We'll be starting around 7:30 - the group is mostly composed of my Rotary Club, so everyone is friendly and welcoming.

Sorry for the last-minute notice, but that's the way my schedule has been lately!

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Beer Wars Movie!

This movie looks like a must-see for those of us who care about the beer world. I hope it goes beyond simple bashing of the mega-breweries and gets to the heart and soul of what makes beer such a fascinating beverage.

There will be live screenings all around the city and nation at 7:00 PM Central time. I'm thinking the Cinemark on the Plaza will be the best place to catch the show, maybe followed by beer and discussion at the Waldo Pizzeria's Tap Room. Who's in?

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Brewing Sunday Morning

Classmates - If anyone wants to participate in an all-grain brew session aimed at creating a passable Munich Helles, email me at dan(AT) I'll probably start up around 9:00 on Sunday morning, and wrap up by 2. I live between Brookside and Waldo. Feel free to come by for as much or as little of the process as you like.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

More means of communication

Bob Frato, one of our fellow students, set up a Google Group to present yet another way of sharing information. If you're interested, click here and sign up.

What did you learn while judging beer?

I had a great time with the beer judging. I got to judge French and Belgian Ales on Friday evening, and Amber Lagers on Saturday. Both times, I was paired with helpful and patient BJCP judges, who helped me out a lot. The funny thing, though, was that on Friday we were missing a judge, so we invited a spectator to participate. She didn't claim to be a beer snob at all, didn't know the styles, and didn't know a thing about judging. In some ways, though, she was a better judge than either of us, since she came to the beers with no preconceptions, and simply responded to what she tasted. With a little guidance from our experienced judge, she was able help us identify flavors and aromas.

It was amazing how glaring some of the flaws were in the beers. Phenols in an Oktoberfest would have been noticeable even if we were only drinking one, but when judged side by side with other examples, you could really pick it up. I guess the lesson to draw from this is that we should all drink a whole lot more beer.

I'm eager to see the results come out . . .

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Kansas City Bier Meisters

The Kansas City Bier Meisters are having a club meeting this Friday. During the meeting we will be giving a demonstration and having exercises in how to judge and evaluate beer at next week's competition. For those of you who aren't already members, you should come by. The meetings are a great way to hone in your evaluating abilities as well as learn a about the brewing process. You'll get to taste and evaluate a sample of everyone's homebrew and there's plenty of commercial beers to try as well.

First time visitors just need to bring themselves, though you are encouraged to bring is a six-pack to share with everyone. If you have some homebrew, bring it along and we'll evaluate it for you, it's an excellent way to gain some feedback from knowledgable judges without waiting to enter a contest.

Every month we focus on a different style of beer, this month is Category 8: English Pale Ale. Homebrewers are encouraged to bring some if you have any, but all homebrew or commercial beer is welcome.

The meeting starts at 7:30 P.M. this Friday at:

Westwood Lutheran Church
5035 Rainbow Blvd.
Shawnee Mission, KS 66205

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Feel free to email me if you have any questions!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Beer Twitter

Twitter is a great place to talk with people about beer. For those of you unfamiliar with the service, it's a social networking site where anyone can post a 140-character message about what they are currently doing. There are over 5 million people currently on Twitter and the number is growing exponentially. Many of these people "tweet" daily about beer, whether it's beer reviews, homebrewing tips, or just an update from Charlie Papazian about his travels around the world.

To get set up, just go to, once you create a page, here are some great beer related links:

CharliePapazian - The Godfather of homebrew
BrewingNetwork - Brewing podcast
BasicBrewing - Another great brewing podcast
Bullevard73 - Local Kansas City beer blogger
Draftmag - Draft Magazine
MoreBeer_B3 - Beer, Beer, and More Beer: the homebrew shop
TheFullPint - Beer reviews
GatheringBrews - Homebrewers
RealBeer - Beer news

And me... though I don't specialize in beer-related information.

These are just the ones that I follow, are there any out there that you recommend?

Beer Flights

For those of you who want to try your hand at evaluating a variety of different beers without buying a whole pint at a time, The Flying Saucer in downtown KC's Power and Light District offers beer flights. They have a variety of flights to choose from (hoppy beers, Midwest beers, etc.) or you can create your own from anything they have on tap. It's a great and fairly inexpensive way to sample a lot of different beers in one location.

And while you're in the area you can head down the block to Gordon Biersch and order another sampler for further research.

Monday, February 9, 2009

BJCP Exam Study Guide

There's a ton of information available at the BJCP site.

The Exam Study Guide is excellent. It has all of the 90 T/F questions, with answers. It also has a bunch of sample essay questions. Here's an example of one of them that would leave me in deep trouble right now:
Identify three top-fermenting beer styles where the maximum original gravity does not exceed 1.040. Beer styles that are variations of each other based on color, strength or other subtle differences do not count as distinctly different for the purposes of this question. For each style provide a statement describing the style as well as the differences and similarities between the styles by addressing the following topics:
6 points
Describe the aroma, appearance, flavor, and mouthfeel of each sub-style as in the BJCP Style Guidelines.

2 points
Identify at least one aspect of the ingredients (malts, hops, water chemistry) or background information (history, fermentation techniques and conditions, or serving methods) that distinguishes each sub-style.

1 point
For each of the sub-styles name at least one classic commercial example as listed in the BJCP Style Guidelines.

1 point
Describe the similarities and differences between the three sub-styles.

Beer Podcasts?

I've been listening to the Brewing Network lately, and I find that their podcasts offer a great way to make my commute more interesting. I particularly recommend the Jamil Show and Brew Strong.

Are there any other great beer or brewing podcasts you listen to?

Resources for Beer Judging

This blog is created for the people studying for the July, 2009 Beer Judge Certification Program examination in Kansas City. Through this blog, I hope we can share resources and information while preparing for the exam. If you want to be able to post things on the front page, send me your email address and I'll get you started. If you're content to simply comment, then you don't need to get signed up.