I received a DM the day after CTFoB from a beer buddy who will remain nameless. It was regarding a brewery that will also remain nameless. The beer buddy – let’s call him Bob – asked if anyone had “‘publicly rebuked” said brewery for its “band aid beer”.
I feel I can safely discuss this in public without humiliating the brewer, because there wasn’t just one brewery putting out “band aid beer”. In fact, there weren’t just two. Before I go on, let me explain what I – and my mate Bob – mean by “band aid beer”. We’ll have a little practical interlude here – go and grab your first aid kit, pull out the band aids and give them a good old whiff. Or you could even just sniff the entire kit for that matter. That ‘medicine chest’ aroma you’re smelling – that’s what Bob smelled in the unnamed brewer’s beer. Its official title is ‘chlorophenols’ and it can be caused by chlorine being present during the brew (from over-chlorinated water or using bleach to sanitise equipment and not rinsing properly).
It is, in my experience, the most common off-flavour/aroma found in craft beers in South Africa. We’ll talk more about off-flavours in another post. The point of this one is two-fold: first, to tell brewers that serving sub-par beer is not cool and second to educate Joe Beer-drinking public on what constitutes an unacceptable flavour in beer so that brewers can’t get away with putting out a bad batch. I don’t want to imply that there’s an abundance of bad beer out there, because there isn’t. But I have been on the receiving end of the occasional bad pint and when I’ve sent it back I have, a couple of times, been given the excuse that it ‘tastes different because it’s craft beer’.
If you’re a brewer reading this and thinking that I’m talking about you, then I probably am. Whether I’ve met you or not, tasted your beers or not, if you’re thinking about the time you served a questionable keg because people might not know the difference; the time you couldn’t bear to dump the 200-litres of below-par beer so served it with a smile and an assurance that it’ supposed to taste like that, then this post is for you. Of course, it is possible that some brewers don’t know they’re pouring poor pints. Some flavours are imperceptible to some people and not every brewer knows every off aroma. But brewers, please listen to your public – if more than one or two drinkers claim your beer is sour, phenolic or cidery, then they’re probably right.
The “beer revolution” in South Africa has been quick and it’s been awesome, but we’re not there yet. Until every beer on show at a festival is pretty close to flawless, until I can confidently order any beer on tap knowing it will be off-flavour-free, the revolution keeps on keeping on. And it takes both a conscientious brewer and a knowledgeable drinker to create the perfect pint.
This post was first published on The Craft Beer Project.