With the launch of Gladfield’s new American Ale malt we decided to offer homebrewers the chance to get up to 5kg of this malt free so they could learn about a new ingredient. To keep it interesting, all brewers were asked to provide a sample of the beer they made and League of Brewers lined up some cash prizes for the tastiest beers. The promotion was launched at the start of April, with all beers submitted two months later in time for judging and a follow-on social on the 31st June.
Gladfield’s American Ale malt is a variation of their standard Ale malt. It has been developed to have a reduced malt flavour profile so it is easier to brew hop-forward styles, as have become very popular in the USA. Gladfield say “what separates it from our standard Ale malt is a newly developed a kilning recipe that favours colour formation typical to an Ale malt but with a clean malt profile and without the extra toasted flavours.” Feedback from commercial brewers involved in trials have been very positive so as homebrewers we were very keen to see what people would do with it.
We had a reasonable uptake to the promotion with nearly three sacks of grain given away free. However a number of participants had problems along the way and for a variety of reasons were unable to present a beer to be judged.
Regardless, we ended up with quite a range of styles presented including Steam beer, American Blonde, India Red Ale, and even a Stout alongside the Pale Ales and IPAs we expected.
The beers were judged by a panel of three judges blind tasting each beer and scoring it for Appearance, Aroma, Mouthfeel, Taste, and Overall perceptions. As with any homebrew competition there was a range of quality in the beers presented, but there were a number of clear stand-outs that made for a rewarding judging experience. There was consensus on first place, however three beers were re-poured for a parallel tasting to determine second and third.
All of the beers scored reasonably highly for appearance, although there was a tendency to have some haze. Aroma and Taste scores fluctuated highly (as you might imagine) but it was interesting to see how some brewers had taken advantage of the low malt character to focus entirely on developing complex but complementary hop flavours and aromas whilst others took the chance to let some specialty malt characters join the party as well.
The Winners (click for full recipe)
First place: Rhys Clarke / IPA (Focal Banger clone)
Second place: Christian Galbraith / India Red Ale
Third place: Gareth Phillips / American Blonde Ale
Talking to the brewers after the event it seems that the vast majority are keen to brew with this malt again, if they are not already, with some of the more hop-focused brewers already deciding to make American Ale their standard base malt. One of the winners chose the Showcase to also experiment with some of the Gladfield Specialty malts and enthusiastically described himself as a “convert” after the experience.
Our next Showcase, Gladfield Manuka-Smoked Malt was launched immediately after this event with pre-registration available up until 12th June. Late entry possible but not guaranteed.