Tasting Faulty Beers

Another interesting event organized by Homebrewers Gorizia, this time at Birrificio Campestre brewery: a mini-course of beer defects that is part of the educational program Homebrewers Gorizia Academy, organized into a theoretical part and a practical analysis of beer defects done with the use of special tasting kits.

We met in the morning at the brewery, open especially for this course, and sat around a table prepared with booklets, coasters, stickers, notepads and pencils. Giulio, the master brewer, after a very short presentation, went straight to the point with a theoretical introduction on the defects that we can meet in a beer while his colleague was already preparing the first beer for the practical test.

After the theoretical introduction we moved on to a series of analyses of defected beers through the use of the sensory training kit Aroxa™ Uno. The kit consists of 10 capsules, each of which must be dissolved into a liter of beer with a neutral flavor to contaminate it with its defect or aroma. In this way, in addition to training to recognize the defect in question, it is also possible to discover problems that are difficult to meet. For each of these tastings, Giulio made a theoretical explanation about the main causes that generate that off-flavor and the various solutions to avoid it, all accompanied by an accurate description in the course booklet. Although it was a master’s degree in homebrewing, and so a basic know-how was expected, Giulio undertook to make the explanations as simple as possible so that they could also be understood by some participants who knew little or perhaps nothing about homebrewing: very good! Note of merit: for each taste a new glass has been used, it seems obvious but not always is.

In order of presentation we have analyzed the following defects:

  1. Diacetyl: not at all easy to recognize for many of us and characterized by a butter aroma, according to Giulio it is one of the defects that most bothers him but depending to the beer style it can also be a desired characteristic;
  2. DMS: slightly easier to recognize, to someone it looked like canned corn and to someone else boiled spinach. In fact it is a fault characterized by these scents and avoided with long and vigorous boils;
  3. Metallic: A bit confused by the fact that we did not perceive strange scents we tried to taste the beer: it seemed to have put a coin in the throat, the aftertaste was terrible. Giulio also made us try to apply a drop of beer on the hand and smell: we were shocked to feel a strong smell of blood;
  4. Hydrogen sulfide (sulfur): little perceptible initially, after having warmed up the beer we all noticed a strong smell of rotten eggs;
  5. Fruity: before telling us what it is, Giulio asked us what we felt, and personally I smelled a very ripe banana. In fact it was precisely the aroma of banana, often a defect produced by yeasts but a characteristic of some styles as German Weizen and other wheat beers;
  6. Skunk: the flaw I was most curious to learn having never met a skunk in my life. I’ll tell you that I expected that the smell of skunk is much more terrible, instead it is a slight strange smell that resembled rotten eggs, but different from the hydrogen sulfide encountered before. This is a defect caused by prolonged exposure to the light;
  7. Oxidation: classic off-flavor that can be found in homebrewed beers characterized by wet cardboard aromas and flavors. The aroma was a little hard to perceive, so Giulio said us to taste the beer: effectively in the aftertaste there was a taste in the throat that somehow reminded me of cardboard (maybe I linked the taste to the smell since I have never eaten cardboard in my life);
  8. Mould: just approaching the glass under the nose you could smell a teriffuing mold, but me and another classmate, not satisfied, tried to taste it. Don’t do it. Never. Believe me!
  9. Spicy: characterizing in some styles, the spicy and cloves aroma that someone associated with mulled wine was not perceived as a defect, so much so that someone happily drank the faulty beer;
  10. Herbal / Hoppy: it was an intense aroma of hops that is actually very easily recognizable by homebrewers as perceived regularly when opening a package of hops. During the analysis of this aroma began a competition to guess what hops were;

One thing we noticed during the various analyses was that the warmer the beer and the more the aroma was perceptible. Giulio and Homebrewers Gorizia guys agreed that a less cold beer would make the analyzed defects more evident.

After the practical course, while waiting for lunch, Giulio took us to visit the production area of his brewery. It seemed very interesting and particular because of the size that for a professional brewery seemed to me very small (but that Giulio manages it perfectly) and because of the extremely detailed explanations of each component used and each stage of the production process, with problems encountered and solutions adopted.

After that we moved to the last phase of the day, lunch with tasting of three beers. For lunch we were given a pasta and a canape with mortadella. Very good, in fact we divided the pasta left in the pot, to find out only after that lunch was not finished yet: the colleague of Giulio has in fact presented half chicken and baked potatoes for each of us. With the other three beers I did not eat nothing until lunch the next day.

The three beers I tasted were Chinook Democracy, a single hop American Pale Ale (as the name suggests) with a nice hoppy aroma, What’s Wrong With Cows?, another American Pale Ale more bitter than the previous one and the Aurora, a very fragrant and floral Golden Ale.

Really interesting course, once again I learned many new things and improved my know-how in the world of homebrewing. I heartily recommend it to all homebrewers!

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