Sponsored Documenting Beer Flavor for the Professional Brewer

No matter how often we drink a beer, it’s not often we actually taste it. Our palates are the most critical instrument at our disposal, yet they are often underutilized or misused. How can you use lab techniques and instrumentation in conjunction with your senses to develop a quality assurance program for your brewery?

Here are three tips to get any brewery started in documenting the flavor profile of their beer:

Recipe Development
Are your recipes standardized? Are you using software to build recipes and calculate values such as ABV, estimated attenuation, and ingredient quantities? Calculated vs. actual values can vary depending on many factors, including efficiencies, extraction, and yeast growth, to name a few.

Updating your brewing software with measured values can help paint an accurate picture of your wort going into the fermenter and the resulting finished beer.

Pro-tip: Look at your yeast. Measuring ingredients is vital for consistency and ensuring you’re following your recipe. Measuring your malt, hops, and water is expected, so why wouldn’t you measure how much yeast you are pitching? Yeast, a living microorganism, can have a variable effect on flavor depending on the health and quantity of the yeast. A brewer can count yeast using microscopy or rely on a commercial lab to provide cell concentration and the desired amount for each recipe.

Starting a Sensory Program
Documenting the flavor profile of your beer can be as easy as notes in a notebook or as complicated as using sophisticated sensory software and spreadsheets. Whatever you decide, it’s important to put pen to paper and ensure you have attributes of the beer which can be measured against. Love the batch from last year and want to rebrew it? Congrats, you can look at old logs and see the beer profile.

Pro-tip: Start small. To start, take a few employees and create a process for documentation. Work on solidifying a process and build the panel size and group from there. Create habits of collecting sensory data with as much importance as gravity and pH.

Lab Analysis
There are many standardized methods for quantifying beer flavor and taste, but the testing tools, like gas chromatography, can be costly. Utilizing the tools in a lab can give accurate figures on qualities like bitterness, esters, alcohols, and diacetyl (and much more).

It’s important to understand that the threshold of some of these compounds and numbers from a lab don’t always equate to how it may taste in a beer balanced by thousands of other flavors. This data can play an essential role in flagging a potential issue (which can be supported through sensory) or help benchmark a product you want to recreate.

Pro-tip: Utilize third-party labs. White Labs offers affordable analytical services which can be used to provide a breakdown of key characteristics and flavors of your beer.

Whether it’s a $250,000 chemistry lab or Bob’s palate at the bar, it’s crucial to have an arsenal of tools are your disposal to paint a picture of your beer. Collecting valuable data can lead to actionable change and allow you to create (and recreate) the best beer possible!

Excited about data collection and how to optimize yeast handling and QA/QC techniques to make world-class beer? Check out the workshops and classes presented by the education team at White Labs to learn more.

Take Your Fermentation to the Next Level!
White Labs’ PurePitch® Next Generation, an evolution of PurePitch® – the most superior and consistent yeast on the market – has been made even better with reliable cell concentrations and innovative packaging for ease of use and a pitch rate resulting in a foolproof fermentation every time. Find out more or order online at WhiteLabs.com
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