I was at a beer tasting the other night and we reached a topic of concern to all craft beer fans. Is it ever acceptable to dump a craft beer down the drain? A friend invited us all to his place to taste a variety of beer. We had a combination of craft beer and homebrewed samples to taste, and as per usual there were samples of varying quality. As the evening wore on though, we came to our dilemma.
What is a craft beer drinker to do when given a beer that is clearly not up to snuff? Drink, pour or otherwise?
As these things are wont to do, our discussion quickly turned. We focused briefly on the beer and then we quickly turned our attention to the elephant in the room. The beer that we had all put in our glasses was simply not what it was supposed to be. It was lacking, and everyone there knew it. What was left then, was to decide how to go about things in a matter that would be acceptable to all. The beer was not mine so I wanted to defer to the others on the matter. I identified the defect in the beer, mentioned it to the others and waited to see what they would do. Everyone agreed on the flaw, and it was so strong that it was overpowering. Folks quickly divided into two camps where one set wanted to pour out the beer (which I secretly wanted to do) and others felt that since it was a pricey example we should drink it down one way or the other. I don’t want to make this sound like it was a large and heated debate. The entire thing was over in the matter of what was less than a minute. What we did was simply followed the owner’s lead. When he said that there was no point in drinking it, I led the charge to get rid of it.
In my mind, life is far too short to drink bad beer.
Later that same evening I was handed a beer to taste and evaluate. The brewer was unhappy with the taste of it, but could not identify what the problem with the beer was. After a few tastes and sniffs it became readily apparent that the beer was phenolic and had several of the associated off-flavours – smoke, burnt plastic and the like. With the flavours identified, we were able to quickly diagnose the most likely culprit for the bad beer – a fermentation temperature that was too high. The brewer recalled his brewday and where his error lay, and it will be corrected in the future. How did I solve the problem of what to do with this bad beer? Simple – I planned for it. Tasting a beer that I knew ahead of time was not quite right meant that I was able to take a much smaller sample. It pays to ask questions ahead of time! So to sum things up, and so that others can learn from my mistakes, here are my tips for how to deal with bad beer.