I never talk about bad beers. Well, almost never. I don’t like to write open reviews with negative criticism, the photo and the name of the brewery and post it around social media. But I often find some nasty ones. Bad beer brings us together as nobody likes it.
Is it a one-time flaw?
No. The defects of beers can be many and we usually find them because of clues, aromas and flavors called off-flavors and taints, a warning of an upcoming sad beer story. You need to train yourself to identify bad beer! Spoiler: training is not fun. It consists of tasting encapsulated defects individually. So, you´ll learn to recognize each of these very unpleasant attributes in beer, testing a very large range of each defective element. Ew.
Bad beer can be poorly made, with low quality ingredients, without technique or be the product of some misfortune in the fermentation or wrong procedure.
It was perfect until…
This is important to say: bad beer can also happen due to several other things. Imagine that the beer left the factory perfect, but having had a bad trip in logistics, it has acquired bad sensory consequences.
Sometimes it happens that the beer arrives perfectly at the point of sale (bar, restaurant, emporium, bakery, pub, etc) but is not well handled. The storage is horrible and the beer will have to wait a very long time to be refrigerated and sold. If it’s draft beer, there’s still the issue of cleaning the draft beer line, the quality of the gas, and all that stuff.
There is still a chance that the glass is poorly washed, dirty and greasy, or “so clean” that it has leftover detergent or dryer in it. If not, did the service slip? Did the service fail and was so rude that it spoiled the day or night of those who just wanted a cold one? Was the environment too hot, with a lot of noise, loud music, stuffy? Was the atmosphere all crooked, with people pestering, boring company and a bad crowd vibe?
But what if it was none of those things?
Bad could be my language. Seriously, many times when we are not well, nothing is good. I’m sour, bitter about life, upset or sad. The beer could have been perfect, but it didn’t match the mood. Or maybe it’s a bad stomach, a fever starting, a runny nose, a sore throat.
What if the beer has a hint of acidity that I was not ready for? What if it’s a style with high bitterness and I’m not such a fan of this flinch when drinking? What if it’s aged and I don’t like woody flavors? Or is it too light and I like something stronger? A different fruit, too daring of a proposal? What if it’s low carbonated or even not so cold? Is a beer terrible, just because it’s not my taste?
Thinking here, a lot can make a beer go bad without it being of bad quality. Some labels need to be taken more than once, at different times, places or companies. Other lots, other chances.
What we can’t take is bad beer. But look, it just might not be the beer.
I usually write an email to the factory, comment on the batch, what happened and what I felt. Not super detailed because it is not a judgment or a consultancy, but a feedback which, I believe, helps a lot in the quality control of the factories. When it is from a craft brewery that I have a greater appreciation for, I think it is even more important to take this information to the company, as many of these breweries are still learning and improving their processes, investing in better protocols and machinery.
*I was reading the article: “Can A Beer Can’s Size Impact Its Flavor?” And there are other variables in this text, which I could have brought to this conversation. (here)