One of the biggest challenges when brewing large batches of beer is ensuring that it maintains a consistent level of quality every time it leaves the brewery and enters the market.
As a brewer, your reputation depends on maintaining consistency in your product, aka “staying true to the brand”. It’s human nature for people to remember one bad or variable create a experience with a product or service, regardless of whether it lived up to expectations the other 99 times.
Of course, every brewer worth their hops, yeast, malt and water wants their beer to always be fresh and tasty, smell good and taste pleasant. In most cases, determining your recipe and adhering to a rigorous brewing process and quality control will get you all of that.
But nothing is foolproof, and standards can either slip or be compromised. Or you may have a problem with a batch of ingredients. Or unwanted flavors like sulfur contaminate your batch. There’s a lot more to this list.
This is where a beer sensory program comes into play to save the day. The good news is that it’s easy to integrate into your weekly operations, and the cost, space, time and effort required to set it up and run it is relatively minimal.
Note: Since we create a published this article, we’ve made some tweaks and enhancements to the way the program works. Check out our follow-up sensory program story here.
What is the Beer Sensory Program? Why is it important?
A beer sensory program involves regular and ongoing testing of beer samples from the perspective of taste, smell and mouthfeel to ensure they meet “true brand” standards before they leave the brewery. Think of it as your brewery’s quality create a control gatekeeper,
ensuring that your recipes and brewing processes are maintained 100% of the time, that your beer has no “off flavors” or off tastes, and that it meets “true to brand” standards.
It’s about maintaining your brand’s continued consistency in the marketplace. In the increasingly competitive craft beer world, letting a tainted batch of beer “into the wild” can seriously damage your reputation.
This is achieved through the create a ongoing training and development of a select group of brewery employees. Their role as members of the sensory team is to identify any quality differences in test batches of beer through smell, taste, sight and touch.
Sensory development (through fault and taste training and sensory expert assessment), combined with ongoing exposure and experience, enables the sensory experts to identify the presence of so-called “bad” tastes and odors in test batches of beer that meet their true brand specifications.
These sensory skills can be used to help determine if your beer meets the brand’s standards.
Being “true to the brand” means that your beer tastes, smells and (in the mouth) feels the way it should. Being true to the brand doesn’t just mean having no flaws, it means making sure you get the right taste, aroma and appearance.
You can enjoy a range of quality beers that are fault-free and taste great but are inconsistent with each other or the brand.
First, though, you need something definable to measure it against. To do this, you need to create products that truly meet the brand’s specifications for each beer you are evaluating, which provides a qualitative description of how the beer should be presented.
At Black Hops, we have created true brand specifications for all of our core line of beers. Here are the ones we created for the pale ales.
Appearance: Light golden color. Medium white with a persistent head. Slightly hazy, but not cloudy.
Aroma: Medium citrusy, reminiscent of citrus and some low pine trees. Low to medium caramel malt sweetness. Low pear ester content.
Taste: Medium-low create a citrus, reminiscent of citrus and some low pine. Low to medium breadiness, caramel malt sweetness. Lingering citrus.
Body, mouthfeel and bitterness: medium body. Medium create a carbonation. Medium-high, bitter, but not too astringent.
This is the yardstick we use to test if the next batch of the pale ale we just brewed really lives up to the brand.
Effective beer sensory procedures are a key factor in maintaining quality control standards in breweries. But that’s not the only thing we do here.
There are many other create a formal testing procedures throughout the brewing process, from raw materials to finished product.
But that’s an article for another time, so stay tuned for part two.