“This beer smells of rotten eggs.” A silent mumbling spreads through the room. Many agree: The beer smells of rotten eggs. The next beer has a taste of red apples. “Yes. This is completely wrong,” one says. “It is far too strong,” says another.
The atmosphere in the taste panel’s laboratory is informal but focused. Today, they are training their taste buds, but when a brewery sends a beer where errors must be detected, there is silence. There are more than 70 different flavors to check for and this requires highly trained taste buds, which must not be disturbed by other taste considerations.
Taste is subjective
Chief Consultant and Brew Master Jeppe Kieldsen sits at the end of the table. He has been a member of NIRAS’ taste panel for more than 15 years and has tasted practically all types of beer.
“Tasting beer is very rewarding and a very subjective experience. Some people might think that a certain beer tastes of banana, while some people do not. If you say it out loud you can easily affect the other panel members who then might think that they taste the same. This is no good.”
As an independent panel we do not have an agenda and no breweries to look over our shoulders when we taste. In that way, we ensure the quality.”
Independence ensures the quality
Most often, large brewery companies have their own taste panels but there is only a few independent taste panels in the world – and NIRAS’ is one of them.
“Geographically, our clients are spread out all over the world. Common to all of them is that they use us as a reference for how the beer should taste. As an independent panel we do not have an agenda and no breweries to look over our shoulders when we taste. In that way, we ensure the quality,” Jeppe says.
The panel works as a tool that detects errors where they go through the 70 most common flavors to find out what is wrong with the beer. As an example, they had a beer from South America which tasted of smoke. Here, they found that the brewery in their production used rice dried over open fire instead of warm air.
Expertise results in respect
During his 14 years in NIRAS Jeppe has travelled around the world as a consultant on different brewery projects – greenfield breweries as well as expansion of existing breweries. He works a lot in Ethiopia and Angola, and there, it results in great respect when you are able to tell how a beer should taste.
“A brewery is alive, and many things can go wrong in the fermentation process. It makes a big difference that we as engineers have the skills and not only install the pipes but also know the actual core product of the brewery,” Jeppe says.