Iowa State Fair 2011 – Oenology Competition Results

Well I just received my scoring sheets in the mail on Friday from the Iowa State Fair, and I have some very good news. My final judging scores were high enough that I received two bronze and one silver ribbon from the state fair.

And in reading the scoring sheets, the most surprising thing that I noticed was that the cider that I thought was the worst of the bunch, which was the one that used the Lalvin yeast scored the highest of the three entries that I submitted, winning a silver ribbon. While the cider that used the Premier Cuvee yeast scored the lowest of the three, which I thought was the best of the three. So go figure. But this is most certainly motivation for next year, to work on my brewing techniques.

So here is the breakdown of the final scoring:

21A – Vegetable Beer – Pumpkin Ale – Final Score: 29.5/50

27A – Common Cider – Final Score: 28.5/50
Yeast: Premier Cuvee

27B – English Cider – Final Score: 37/50
Yeast: Lalvin 71B-1122

Iowa State Fair 2011 – Oenology Competition

One of my goals from last year was to enter a couple of beers into the Iowa State Fair. And what ended up happening last year, was that I totally missed the entry deadline, since I couldn’t figure out how to even submit an entry in the first place.

Well this year, I checked the State Fair’s website on June 28th (a Wednesday) to figure out the entry process, and talk about looking in the nick of time. This year’s entry deadline was July 1st (a Friday) so I just submitted my entries with only a few days to spare.

I ended up entering three different brews into the State Fair this year, with the breakdown being two hard ciders (one with batch #23 using Premier Cuvee yeast aged less than 1 year, and the other cider used Lalvin 71B-1122 yeast aged for 2 years) and the beer I entered was that pumpkin ale that I kegged back in November 2009.

With my entry application accepted, I swung by the fair grounds on July 23rd, since that was the date to drop off oenology entries. And the judging is going to happen before the fair starts on July31st.

The way that the read the entry form, it seems like the final results won’t be released until after the fair is over. Which doesn’t seem to make sense to me, but maybe they will post the results on the fairs website, when the fair starts in a couple of days. Personally I’m curious to see what the judges think of my entries, since this is the first time that I’ve entered one of my brews into a competition. Wish me luck.

Hard Cider – Batch 22 & 23 – October 2010

At first this year, I didn’t think about making hard cider since I’m just bringing online ~15 gallons of cider from the 2009 batches. But then I remembered a conversation with JRR a number of years back, about forcing yourself to make cider each year, since it takes about a year of aging to get a batch in drinkable condition. So that means if you skip a cider year, it will be at least two years before you’ll have any hard cider to drink. With that in mind, two weekends ago I placed a special order for 10 gallons of un-treated apple cider (at $5 a gallon) with my cider guy at the downtown farmers market. Since last years cider had preservatives (sodium benzoate) and took FOREVER to ferment out. I worked out a deal with my cider guy for a special order of cider without any preservatives. Continue reading

Hard Cider – Batch 17 – Bottled and Kegged – August 2010

With fall very rapidly approaching, its time to start moving the 2009 hard cider inventory from the fermentor into a more consumable form (bottles and kegs). So the first batch on the production schedule is batch number 17, which used the Red Star Premier Cuvee yeast. The main reason for picking this batch, was that the grommet for the airlock broke in half (pic below) right before I left for Michigan two weekends ago. So I had to make an emergency fix with some Scotch tape to keep a somewhat airtight seal. Suprisingly the tape formed a good enough seal around the airlock, that it gave me enough time this week to clean out my last empty keg. Continue reading

Working with treated apple cider and the problems with sodium benzoate

Note: Keep in mind that this article was supposed to be posted in November 2009, I guess better late then never. For a current update on the ciders status, see this posting.

So get a load of this. It’s been about a month since I started fermenting this year’s batch of hard cider. And about two weeks ago, I finally bothered to take an FG reading to see how the fermentation was coming along. And what was the FG on the hydrometer… was the same as the OG….1.050. Then I started thinking to myself “What the hell just happened?” Continue reading

Hard Cider Gravity Check

Well its been a couple of months since the last gravity check on the hard cider, and surprisingly we are doing pretty good on the final gravity.

Here is the breakdown of the three different batches:

  • Lalvin 71B-1122 yeast – 0.996
  • Red Star Premier Cuvee yeast – 1.004
  • Red Star Cote des Blancs – 1.000

Out of the three batches, the batch that used the Premier Cuvee yeast is crystal clear (all pics below are from the premier cuvee batch), while the other two batches are still cloudy. But I think that the most surprising item is that the Cote des Blancs is the only batch that is done fermenting, while the other two still have some slow activity going.

I’m thinking about maybe pitching another batch of yeast into the Premier Cuvee & Lalvin batches for one final push, but I haven’t really committed to this idea. Part of it being that I’m already 4 months into these batches, and I still haven’t even bottled any of the stuff so that it can really lay down to mellow out. Not to mention that I’m short on wine bottles, even though I have 4 cases of empty bottles. Decisions decisions, so many little decisions to make.

Made First Batch of Hard Cider this weekend

Its that time of the year again. With the fall harvest fast approaching, so it could only mean one thing. Time for fresh apple cider! And with fresh apple cider, it means that its time for me to make some hard cider!

Since the local homebrew shop that I use doesn’t carry White Labs (long story from the owners), my only other option was a Wyeast Sweet Mead smack pack or Red Star dry yeast. So I ended up going with the Red Star Premier Cuvée dry yeast (PDF datasheet), since I’m looking to make more of a dry cider instead of a sweet cider. Continue reading