What Separates The Best Homebrew From The Rest? (I: Intro)


The flight of hoppy beers I judged at the 2014 Austin ZEALOTS Inquisition.

On Saturday, I judged at the 2014 Austin ZEALOTS Homebrew Inquisition. This is the annual homebrew contest of the Austin ZEALOTS, the homebrew club in Austin, Texas. Our contest is a little different from most. Instead of following the Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP) guidelines, we divide beers into 10 broad categories — malty beers, hoppy beers, dark beers, etc. We also have a special category that changes every year. As this was our 11th annual contest, we went with a Spinal Tap theme for the special category (Category 11) — Smell the Glove. For this category, 80 points were awarded for aroma and 20 for flavor. (Our other idea for the category was None More Black, and we would have done serial dilutions to see which beer was actually the darkest. I think we made the right choice going with Smell the Glove.)

One thing I have been noticing in my recent years of beer judging is that, for the most part, terrible beers don’t get entered into homebrew contests anymore. In the “good old days,” there used to be a healthy amount of contaminated or otherwise flawed beers at most contests — a gusher or two, some (unintentionally) sour entries, beers with phenolic off flavors and aromas, diacetyl bombs, overly estery ales or beers with “hot” fusel oils, etc. Ten or 15 years ago, most flights at most homebrew contests contained at least one problematic beer. These days, it seems as if the bottom has come up. I didn’t taste one undrinakable beer this year, and none of the other judges reported encountering one either. (I did encounter a couple with oxidized hops, and I think that there was a slight uptick in the amount of astringency this year, but that could have been a fluke. On the other hand, as I’ll explain, there might be a reason.)

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Lose Weight Without Giving Up Beer (I: Intro)

Beer and Wine Journal focuses mainly on brewing beer, and secondarily with making mead, wine, and other fermented beverages. Occasionally, however, we will also cover some related topics that may interest some homebrewers. For example, we have run several cooking with beer articles. In this article, I tackle a health-related issue that I think many of us can relate to — trying to lose weight without giving up beer.


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“Help me, I’m melting!” My weight since mid February 2014.

Beer is great. The only thing that’s not so great about it is that it contains quite a few Calories. [Note: The type of calories used as a measure of food energy are 1,000 times larger than (lowercase “c”) calories — the unit of energy required to raise 1 g of water by one degree Celsius — so I’ll be capitalizing “Calories” in this article to indicate that.] Recently, for health reasons, I decided that I needed to lose weight, and so far I have been successful at it. I have lost over 25 pounds in 22 weeks. During this time, I have still enjoyed beer. Here’s how I did it.

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Beer News (June 16–July 15)

BWJlogoOK, news has been slow recently and I haven’t compiled a Beer News post in awhile. So, let’s start off with a listicle of summer seasonal beers, from Thrillist. And here’s Uproxx’s opinion on the five best beer festivals, or perhaps the only five fests the author has attended. And, while you’re drinking summer beer, you can pour it in your own UV protecting beer glass.

If you think the IPA craze has run its course, think again. Now, there’s an IPA smoked with sheep dung. Who knows, it might taste good paired with some insects.


Sour Beer News

Fans of sour beer all know that Cantillon is the bomb. And now, appropriately, it is going to be aged in a bomb shelter. And, New Glarus has some new sours aged in its own special cave.

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BJCP Comparison Spreadsheet

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Mark Schoppe’s spreadsheet. You can download a copy by clicking the last link in the article.

The proposed new BJCP Guidelines have been released for comment and they contain many changes from the 2008 guidelines. The BJCP site has a spreadsheet mapping the new category numbers to the old, but Mark Schoppe, of the Austin ZEALOTS, has taken that a step further. He has made a spreadsheet that details all the additions and deletions of styles, plus changes in numeric parameters. (You may remember Mark as the 2012 NInkasi winner. I also interviewed him for the “Competitive Brewing Logistics” article.)

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Top All-Grain Articles From Our First Year

IMG_1657We published a lot of all-grain articles in our first year, many hitting on some of the biggest questions in all-grain brewing. Here’s a list of our top all-grain brewing articles, running roughly from the beginning of a brew day to the end of one.

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Jalapeño Cheddar Beer Bread

We occasionally run cooking with beer stories. And we occasionally run an article by a guest writer. Today we’re are doing both things . . . and adding cheese. This is my sister’s Jalapeño Cheddar Beer Bread.


DSC_0277_2Jalapeño Cheddar Beer Bread

by Emily Colby



3 cups self-rising flour

1 cup shredded extra sharp cheddar cheese

2 jalapeños or other hot peppers (chopped)

2 tbsp cilantro (chopped)

12 ounces of lager beer

1 egg yolk (optional)

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Five Tips for Summer Brewing


It’s hot out, but you can still brew.

Summer is here, and this can put a crimp in the plans of some homebrewers. For homebrewers without a fermentation chamber, or other form of active fermentation temperature control, summertime means a temporary cessation in brewing. If fermentation temperatures climb out of the recommended fermentation range, beers can be overly estery or even contain higher alcohols (also called fusel oils), that can cause health problems. However, armed with a little knowledge, you can beat the heat and brew happily throughout the summer.

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Vienna Lager Recipe

IMG_2105Here is my recipe for Vienna lager. It employs a single decoction mash for wort production and uses kräusening to produce a crisp lager beer without that “homebrew lager” flavor. It takes a little extra effort to make, but results in an excellent “all-around” beer.


Wiener Blut

Vienna Lager

by Chris Colby

All-grain; English units



An all-around, well-balanced amber lager. Malty, from Vienna malt and a single decoction mash, but also hopped enough to provide balance. Moderate body and carbonation.

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Brewing Science Articles from Year One

birthday-party-suppliesYesterday, Beer and Wine Journal turned one year old. All this week, I’ll be publishing some lists that collect some of our content for those who have just discovered us. Yesterday, I started with the obvious top 10 list — our reader favorite articles. Today I’m going to collect our best brewing science articles.

I learned how to brew while in graduate school (Boston University, Dept. of Biology) and am interested in the science of beer production as well as the craft. So, from time to time, I’ll publish some fairly nerdy stuff. Here’s the best of that so far. (And keep an eye out for a series on what scientifically-inclined brewers should know about carbohydrates, including starch, simple sugars, and “dextrins.” I’ll have that out sometime this summer.)

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Can You Cut Corners? (I: Cleaning and Sanitation)

DSCN0716The reason I brew is to have fun and make the highest quality beer possible. I believe that, in order to brew the best beer possible, you need to pay attention to each and every step in the process. The highest quality beer comes from an extreme attention to detail. Still, I am also aware that brewing can be very forgiving. (And also, I’ll admit that there are times I just throw a batch together, because I’m running low on beer.)

Fairly often, in response to articles I write, a brewer will respond with a faster or simpler method of a technique I’m describing. (“Why go through the hassle of injecting oxygen in your wort when you can just use a whisk to aerate”) In this series of articles, I am going to describe what happens when you cut corners in various stages of brewing. My intent is to argue that doing things “the right way” is your best option. However, I’m aware that some brewers — for reasons to do with time, space, or money — may use this as a guide to where to cut corners. That’s fine with me. I’m not trying to force everyone to brew exactly as I do. (And just so you know, I think there are many valid paths within the boundaries of “the right way” to brew. I’m also aware that some brewers may have time, space, money, or other constraints that limit their options when it comes to brewing.) I’m just hoping to point out the likely outcomes that may accompany rushing steps, skipping steps, or generally cutting corners.

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