One of my goals for this year was to submit a beer to a Homebrew competition. Well! Check it off the list because I submitted my first attempt at a Saison to the Erie County Fair, and just got back the results!
One of the main ways to improve a skill set is to get constructive feedback from people who know what they are talking about. This could be for anything really, like speaking a language, or running form or whatever. Homebrewing is one of those subjective skills where even though my friends might like a beer, there might be ways to improve that a certified judge might pick up on. For a while now I felt that I had some off-notes underpinning the majority of my beers, so tease that out, I submitted it for official judging.
Sure enough, they detected what I had suspected. Chlorophenols! I've historically used good-old-fashioned Buffalo Tap water for my brewing. Turns out, that might not be the best strategy . . . who would have thought. Chlorophenols are the product of yeast consuming the chlorine or chloramine in the tap water, which then produce off flavors that I would describe as being "sharp" to the tongue. Others describe it as medicinal or like sticking your face in a freshly opened first-aid kit. That is obviously not exactly the flavor profile that I was going for.
Getting feedback is certainly a humbling experience, but I think it will make me a better homebrewer for it. I've been reading up on steps to take to adjust the water profile, aka buying better water and or using Campden tablets, or using a filter. I think overall even though I didn't win or score particularly highly, I learned from it, which was the goal!