SENSORY. IT'S A TOUGH JOB, BUT SOMEONE'S GOTTA DO IT...
Nearly every brewer chatting to someone about their job has heard the obligatory gag, said with raised eyebrows “Well if you ever need a taste tester!!”...Bonus points to the guy who tells you to chuck the keg in the back of his car.
It turns out we actually do need some taste testers. Every Tuesday and Thursday before lunch, we round up six people to sit down and taste our newest beers. Yup, every single Pirate Life beer goes through rigorous sensory evaluation.
Our panellists vary from the head of brewing operations to someone from the hospo crew on shift that morning, even our head of finance. Each person is tasked to sit down with a pen and paper to taste, score and give their thoughts on the beers in front of them.
The beers are tasted in their best fresh condition and as a forced age sample (this is basically a special oven that heats the beer to mimic three months on a shelf). The wine glasses we use help to highlight flaws. Go figure.
The taster will be specifically looking at the following characteristics:
Appearance (colour, clarity)
Aroma (Malt, hops, yeast)
Flavour (malt, hops, yeast)
Carbonage (low to high)
Alcohol (low to high)
Bitterness (appropriate to not appropriate)
Technical quality (comments on any faults)
Forced aged sample (comments)
Summary and Score from 1-9.
This process generally takes about thirty minutes for an individual panellist to go through six or so beers. It’s important to consider each of the above characteristics from a brand profile perspective and to make note of any faults or odd flavours that don’t suit the beer.
Once everyone is finished we sit down and discuss our thoughts on each product. Our lab brewers will summarize everyone’s thoughts and distribute them via email to everyone within the company.
We hold really high standards to our products to ensure we continue to improve the quality of our beers. You may have also noticed (in reference to the specifications above) a perfect score of 10 doesn’t exist.
The average sensory score so far for 2020 is 7.6 for our core range and 7.76 for our one off beers. 9’s are rare, having only around a dozen throughout the hundreds of batches of beer we’ve made this year.
The point of the scoring is important, both to boost morale when the beers are drinking well and to ensure to communicate any changes from the sensory panel to the brewing or cellar team.
This process is not only an important part of our quality control, but also acts as an educational and personal development tool for the people who work at our brewery.
It’s a fantastic opportunity for someone from marketing, sales or hospo to sit down and tune their palates to some quality brewing minds as Red, Jack and Lewis regularly sit in on sensory.
The dedication to ensuring this happens every week is something that we pride ourselves on. It has an impact on both the accountability for the quality of our beers, but also shows the love for craft beer within our four walls.