When I started out on my Tasting Tuesday journey I didn’t have a plan on how long it would go for, or what the end game was. My main motivations were, taste the beers on tap at the local craft beer bars, taste them with the staff (hoping they might learn a little), then report back via the blog.
The feedback to date has been overwhelmingly positive. Even from the brewers who’s beer I have possibly made less than positive comments about. They have contacted me for more information on why their beer may have tasted like they did, and even asked for help on improving their beer, which I am very willing to help with.
Here are some of the notable observation that have stuck with me
– Craft brewers can do no wrong
I found several faulted beers at the four bars reviewed so far. The obvious concern was none of the staff could identify the beer as faulted. There were a couple of staff that identified the beer as something they liked the taste of, even with a high level of diacetyl. The general feeling I have got is staff just accept the flavour in the beer as they don’t know any better. This is no ones fault as there has never been any training given on what is good or bad in beer, let alone what you should expect to see and not see, in different beer styles. Bar staff and the general hospitality industry, is notably transient, and training staff to a level of competency on being able to identify faulty beer is a big call.
I believe there is a training course that the Brewers Guild of New Zealand or SOBA?, run every now and again (I haven’t been able to find it on their website) If I can find out about it I am going to have to attend one and see if it is worth attending for bar owners and staff.
The short-term fix is that the owners and bar managers need to drink more beers (and different styles) with people who know more about beer than them. A good start would be brewers (mostly). They need to learn more about beer so they can be the experts in the bar, so they know as much or more than the most knowledgable punter in their bar. It is their business right?, and they should know it better than anyone.
– Between the brewery and the tap is the biggest problem
Out of all the problematic beers tasted, the majority of problems could potentially be attributed to the handling of the kegs, between when the keg leaves the chiller at the brewery and when it is hooked up to the tap to be served at the bar. Cold chain, transport, distribution and storage.
At this time of year these issues are magnified due to higher temperatures and increased sunshine. Beer that isn’t transported cold, is stored in an ambient warehouse for extended periods, delivered warm, stored warm at the outlet, stored outside and stored in the sun all has a negative impact on the quality of the beer.
Bar owners should be insisting that the brewers keep their beer cold, from the brewery to the bar. Brewers should be insisting that the bars put the kegs in the chiller on arrival, and keep them out of the sun. This isn’t going to happen overnight (in some cases it can), there are going to need to be some changes in systems, processes and building and equipment.
- Beer selection criteria
This point kind of ties in with the above couple of points. If the beer is in poor condition or actually bad then the person making the purchase decisions of craft beer should be making the hard calls and saying “hey Mr Brewer your beer is no good, you need to come pick it up and replace it with good beer or I’m not going to put it on my taps and serve it to my customers”. If “brewers can do no wrong” then purchasing will come down to pricing, deals, and personalities. So if you are a good guy, have a sweet price, you are going to get a tap. This doesn’t guarantee the quality of the beer though.
Education – of people ordering the beer, they need to keep the brewers honest and make sure they are stocking the best beer for their customers. Know good beer and bad beer, and reject bad beer.
Cold Storage – all the way from brewery to tap. Too many beers quality is being damaged due to the sun, and being warm outside the chiller for too long. Keep it cold.
These two simple points will have a huge effect on the craft beer drinkers experience. If every craft beer is a good craft beer then more people will have a positive experience and will drink more of it, and will also become champions for craft beer.
I challenge all craft brewers to not only make the best beer they can, but to also work harder to look after the condition of the beer even after it leaves your brewery. Keep it cold for as long as you can
I challenge all craft beer bar owners, managers and staff, to drink as many different beers, hopefully with someone who knows more than you so you can learn from them. Brewers are a pretty good start.
I hope these thoughts are of some help…
EDIT: If you are in Wellington check out Craft Beer College to learn more about beer. Website
EDIT 2: I remembered about this flavour training kit which could be used to help train people in off flavours and flavours that can be found in beer.
EDIT 3: Brewers Guild training. Here is a link but not much information