Grading Your Home Brew

Once your beer is bottled and carbonated, you’ll probably be very anxious to sample it. Resist the impulse to open a bottle too soon: the beer needs a full 2 weeks to develop the proper level of carbonation. If you’ve brewed a “clone,” like Bass, be sure to have a bottle of Bass on hand for comparison. Here are some tips on how judges evaluate beer. A good and honest evaluation will go a long way toward helping you improve your next batch of beer.

You might find it helpful to write down your comments and save them for future reference. A sample of the scoresheet used by beer judges can be found at:

http://www.bjcp.org/SCP_BeerScoreSheet.pdf.

The scoresheet also contains a lot of good information about any flaws that you might notice in your beer. If it seems a little technical, don’t worry. Just fill in your comments under the main headings like “Aroma.” Each heading shows the maximum number of points a judge can award for that heading. Aroma, for example, can be given up to 12 points on a 50-point scale. Be sure to refer to the beer style guidelines during the sampling process. Bass ale is category 8C. Find the guidelines at:

http://www.bjcp.org/stylecenter.html

First, don’t sample your beer right out of the refrigerator. Take the bottle out and let it sit at room temperature for 20 minutes to take the edge off the chill. Use a small, clear glass with an 8 to 10 oz. capacity. Uncap the beer and listen for the “whoosh” that indicates the beer is carbonated. Pour about 1 inch of beer into the glass. Pour straight into the glass without tilting it.

Now, smell the beer. A beer like Bass should have a distinct aroma that is a blend of malt and hops. Malt has a sweet and sometimes grainy aroma. It can also smell “roasty.” You may notice caramel notes from the malt in the aroma. Darker malts have a sharp, but not unpleasant aroma. Hops have a variety of aromas from grassy to citrusy to flowery. Alcohol may also be noticeable in the aroma. The key to a good aroma is a balance of malt and hops.

Next, take a good look at the beer, holding it up to a light if necessary. For dark beers, you can shine a pen-type flashlight beam through it. A beer like Bass should have a golden color with coppery highlights. Also, observe the clarity. Bass or a Bass clone should be very clear with very little haziness. Notice the presence or absence of a head and the color and density of the head, if present.

Then, sample the beer. What you’re looking for here is malt flavor and hop flavor in a complimentary balance. The sweetness of the malt should be tempered by the bitterness of the hops. A beer like Bass is decidedly bitter, but the bitterness is not overpowering. You may also notice caramel-like malt flavors along with a dryness in the finish. Also, consider the beer’s mouthfeel. Mouthfeel has a body component and a carbonation component. Bass has medium body and medium carbonation level.

Finally, decide what your overall impression of the beer is. Add up the points you’ve assigned to each category. Refer to the “Scoring Guide” on the scoresheet to see how your beer measures up. Also, rate your beer on stylistic accuracy, technical merit and intangibles by checking the appropriate box. Date the scoresheet and make a few notes on how you would improve the beer if you brewed it again. Getting into the habit of objectively evaluating your beer is one of the best ways to make significant improvements in your beer.

So, does your beer conform to the style? If it doesn’t, where is it deficient and what can you do to make it better? If it does, congratulations! You’ve successfully brewed a quality, good-tasting beer.

The Rest of the Beer Brewing Guide

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