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Don’t Release Bad Beer! It Hurts Craft Culture

 

Too many brewers are releasing bad beer and this is a detriment to all involved, particularly in a developing Craft beer culture.

 

New breweries are seemingly popping up everywhere, and many of them are producing great beer. In an age of information, this is the way that things should be as there are resources to help the brewer just as there are resources to help the taster.

On the other had, there are some breweries that are making bad beer. Sadly, many are choosing to release it to the public instead of dumping it down the drain and learning from their mistakes.  This is bad for the reputation of the brewery, and a stain on Craft beer culture.

Bell Curve of bad beer

Such is the way of the world, and the bell curve, that a few produce great beer and a few produce terrible beer.  The shame is that in some cases the bad beer gets released.

 

Across Canada we are seeing an explosion in new brewery openings, and this has led to much discussion on how to handle concerns that consumers and critics have over some of these new breweries and their beer.

In the author’s local area, we have seen over half a dozen breweries looking to open in the next few months, and recently some of them attended a beer festival to spread the word on their work and serve some of their beers.

The event was a great success and allowed people a sneak peak at what to expect in the coming months. Chatting during the festival with experienced industry vets, homebrewers and Craft beer fans allowed for a great deal of insight.

 

Consensus amongst the experienced tasters in the crowd was that more than half of the entries from these new local brewers were technically flawed. (Not to speak of beers that were stretching stylistic guidelines which is the brewers prerogative)

The responses to these flaws by the Craft beer knowledgeable folks were the real eye opener. Here is a partial list of their comments and what was implied:

 

  • Growing Pains – (they will figure out how to make good beer eventually after they open is the unspoken message)
  • They weren’t using their production system {many brewed on a test system as required by alcohol lawmakers} – (this implies that they will make better beer on a larger or different system)
  • It wasn’t noticed by many of the tasters (This was certainly the case as many were observed raving over flawed beers)
  • They didn’t seem to notice (as in the brewers/ownership/pourers didn’t seem to recognize the flaws in the beers that they were serving)

 

These talking points require a rebuttal and the simplest parallel that comes to mind is the restaurant world.

When a new restaurant is opened, it is immediately judged by its paying customers and professional reviewers alike. Certain standards are required yet some latitude is given to allow for growth and improvement. With this allowance for positive change comes  certain minimum standards. Some examples are; an acceptable level of cleanliness, reasonably prompt service, pleasant and competent staff, prices that reflect perceived value and kitchen staff that produce food that is suitably prepared.

Deviating from these expectations of restaurants bring wrath and scorn (along with poor Yelp scores). Failure to not only improve, but do so quickly, often results in an eroding customer base and eventual ruin.

 

 

Taking the restaurant analogy and applying it to the Craft brewery startup problems discussed above we can note that there are some atypical rationalizations that benefit from closer examination and discussion:

 

  • Growing Pains – technically flawed beers are far different from beers that need fine tuning. Fine tuning is the norm in brewery practice, but tweaking a recipe or process is not the same as figuring out what’s wrong with your beer. Problems with water chemistry, DMS, and diacetyl simply do not get better over time, but instead reflect poor practice
  • They weren’t using their production system – not brewing on a preferred system may yield problems with things such as efficiency and hop utilization but don’t typically produce the flaws mentioned above
  • It wasn’t noticed by many of the tasters – this may be true, but speaks to the experience and expectations of an underdeveloped market. As a market matures this experience would change, and furthermore this could be viewed as a lucky break for the breweries involved. Worse yet, knowingly serving bad beer is an insult to the drinker and bad for the Craft beer community
  • They didn’t seem to notice – this indicates a lack of experience and training on the part of those involved. If you can’t fairly evaluate your beer, you are probably not in the right business (or part of the business) for your skills. On a deeper level this seems to (worryingly) indicate an ownership group with little beer knowledge looking to turn a profit where they see an opportunity and not bringing in required expertise

 

Of the breweries in attendance, only one brewery was observed asking for help with evaluating their beer, and several didn’t ask for any feedback on their offerings. Of course they are by no means required to ask for feedback, but that is really a matter of a missed opportunity, particularly with so many flawed beers.

In each of the aforementioned cases, it comes down to the fault of the brewery. Whether they know it or not, putting out bad beer is their fault. It’s on them if they foist bad beer on the public, and one hopes that as the market matures it will correct such folly. A fan of free market economics would argue that this is the natural order of things, but there is more to this problem than money.

Even if many in the public aren’t aware of bad beer, they deserve good examples to enjoy and even learn from. In a developing Craft beer market, the Craft brewers should be elevating the discourse about beer character and quality at every opportunity as opposed to muddying the waters. Brewers and breweries should be teaching the public the differences between good and bad beer.  They should be taking advantage of passionate consumers and showing them what makes a good beer, and what makes a bad one.  Serving beers that contain high levels of off flavours like DMS and Diacetyl is only teaching the unknowing public that these are acceptable beer characteristics which hurts the culture, consumer and even the brewery in question.

 

Failing to produce good beer and educate the developing Craft culture is a disservice to all involved.

 

Shame on the brewery that releases bad Craft beer. Our passion (and palates) deserve better.

 

 

beerideas

Beerideas is a fortysomething father that enjoys well made beverages. He is a homebrewer, educator and child at heart.

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