For the past year, the Falcons have resurrected an old tradition in the club that predates my involvement. It used to be that prior to the meeting, any brewer who had a beer they had questions about could ask a panel of experienced brewers and judges to taste and give them feedback. All of this away from the harsh spotlight of the full membership meeting. These days with attendance at the meetings pushing 80 or more, the intimidation is worse.
The newly reincarnated Troubleshooter's instead takes place after the regular business of the meeting concludes. As the beer list is pondered, the troubleshooter's are pointed to the Shop for a little talk and tasting time. It provides a safe zone of honest, critical feedback with brewing questions galore. The hope is to give people the support they need to become better brewers in a way that's not feasible during a meeting featuring 20 homebrews and a crazy attendance.
Now that the effort has been going on for the year, we hope to present some simple notes on what was experienced during troubleshooter's so that everyone can learn. No names unless the brewers want them there to keep the air of safety, just simple lessons for everyone.
N.B. - what follows are the abbreviated notes of what I remember without taking the notes I will in the future. Since much of the nuance will be lost in this format, I do want to stress that for the most of the things tasted were good and just need a nudge to land on "great'!
A Hoppy Saison
- great aroma, great flavor
- one big flaw - it's current gravity was in 1.027 range.
- Advice: Repitch - possibly with the leftover slurry or even some US-05 or a blend and let it ride until the gravity gets down a lot further.
- A series of lagers and ales from a brewing team that was trying to diagnose a house flavor in their beers.
- The ales presented had flaws consistent with yeast stress. The pitch method is two vials straight into the beer with the beer being warmer and then chilled to fermentation temperature. The beer was then raised in temperature for conditioning.
- The lagers were really close, but with odd finishes. Discovered that the lagers were fermented cooled, raised for a diacetyl rest in the 60's and held there.
- Advice: On the ales, try chilling below pitching temperature first, don't raise the ale temps and see if that corrects the house character. Next step, contact a local brewer and get a slug of yeast to isolate yeast health issues. On the lagers: recommendation was to allow the diacetyl rest for only two days and then crash for cold storage
A Imperial Ginger Cider Warming Sensation
- Made from Kirkland apple juice and apple concentrate, this was a happy mistake of a cider that came in around 10-11% and didn't taste like it.
- In an attempt to correct the dryness, the brewer poured a bunch of samples and blended Splenda and a little cinnamon to find a combination that made him happy. None did and he just threw it all together in the keg.
- The result was a sweet, strongly sparkling cider. But... the cider was best ice cold and sparkling because the splenda flavor became more and more noticeable as it warmed and lost it's fizz.
- Advice: Suggestion was to keep it cold and enjoy it. The other suggestion - not made at the time, but thinking about it now - since the brewer has access to kegs - use potassium sorbate after the fermentation is complete and you can use regular sugar. The sorbate will keep you from naturally carbonating, but you've got kegs!
A fruity/dry stout
- This stout fermented a little warmer than ideal which came through in the strong cherry and berry aromas. The finish had that ashy black patent type of finish.
- Advice:In the future, push the temperature lower and make sure to keep your air temperature 5-7F lower during active fermentation. Be careful with the selection of dark malts, particularly the burnt malts. For this batch, a disguising flavor like a bottle of razzamatazz could structure the beer so the flaw isn't independently noticable.