So what do you think of my beer?
A common question heard by anyone who tries home brewed beer. It is also one that I find to be far more complex than it seems.
In my experience with brewers there are two main groups that ask this question. While both require simple answers, telling the two groups apart can be quite difficult. I’ll come back to them shortly.
While tasting beer over the years, I have sampled brews from the sublime to the sub par. One of the best homebrews that I ever tasted would stand up to any professionally made beer from around the world. On the other hand most beer enthusiasts have also tasted beer that was professionally made yet did not live up to expectations.
I mentioned above that there are two main groups that ask for feedback on their beer. The first group, when identified is easy to answer. These folks are typically just looking for positive feedback, a pat on the back and an enthusiastic smile. In my experience this is the group that many brewers (professional and amateur alike) belong to.
The second group of brewers (and one that I admit I belong to) wants the brutal truth. They want to know how their beer actually tastes. What flavours are detected, whether good or bad, are of utmost importance. To this group of people identifying the characteristics of their beer matters more than interpersonal niceties.
Herein lies the problem when sampling someone’s beer in front of them. Some folks simply do not want hear their beers being truly critically analyzed if flaws are to be found in them. This is not to say that most folks aren’t open to minor tips to improve their beer, as indeed most people do want to get better at their craft.
This subject is one that I have discussed with beer judges, beer professionals and amateur home brewers and everyone seems to have their own opinion and way of dealing with this situation.
What I do is basically give minor feedback and try to keep things positive. I usually discuss process and recipes to find common ground and try to build a discussion from there. Often it becomes apparent which group the brewer belongs to and then how to proceed becomes apparent. If the brewer doesn’t seem to want negative feedback, I try to leave a positive comment and a tip to improve.
So the obvious question becomes, how do you deal with the other group if brewers? I simply give them what I would want myself – the honest and sometimes brutal truth. I have been told that some one of my beers smelled of a variety of nauseating scents. I was once told that one of my beers tasted sour and acidic – which is disappointing if it’s not a true sour style of beer.
The great thing about this honest feedback is that it allows one to quickly identify flaws in their recipe and process which in turn leads to better beer.
And don’t we all want better beer?