Mike’s recent articles chronicling his adventures in drinking through some of his cellared beer led me down the contemplative path that considers what makes a brewery good at what they do. Mike noted that the beers that did not stand the test of time were flawed from the beginning, as time in the bottle allowed imperfections (i.e. bacterial infections) to dominate the beer. Thus, a good brewery crosses all there T’s and dots all their I’s to insure that their brew is contaminate free. Of course, even a brewery known for excellence is not immune to mistakes…brewers are human, after all.
That being said, I feel that one trait that is paramount to a “good” brewery is consistency. Consistency is, for the most part, fundamental to any and every industry. If you order a Big Mac from a McDonald’s in Pasadina, you expect it to taste like that Big Mac you ordered from the McDonald’s while on vacation in New York, right? Consistancy.
About a year ago, I had a certain brewery’s flagship double IPA (DIPA) and found myself thoroughly enjoying it. I am not a huge hop head, so for me to relish each sip of a IPA, particularly those of the Imperial variety, the brew must be beautifully balanced. I am not too picky when it comes to hop variety; that is, I like a variety of hops from Cascade, to Citra, to Saaz. What I need is a suitable malt backing to make the bitter and fruity/piney notes from the hops palatable, but at the same time I don’t want a super sweet DIPA.
The DIPA in question nailed it. Nice robust lemony and grapefruity hops with a silky roast caramel malt backing. It is important to note that the beer was only a few months old. A couple of months ago, I was able to score another bottle of the DIPA, it was also only a few months young. Upon pouring it, the beer seemed noticeably thinner. Upon tasting it, I nearly spit the brew out. It was VERY thin, and lacked any noticeable sweet profile. My wife, who had also enjoyed the brew with me in the past concurred. This tasted like hop flavored vodka. Disgusting.
I wondered…did the brewery try to cut corners? You know, use less malt but mash at lower temperatures to keep the ABV intact? Was it just a bad batch?
As a homebrewer, I know that consistency is not exceptionally easy. Several of my recipes I find so enjoyable I try to occasionally replicate the results. Sometimes the results are spot on, sometimes not. The more technical equipment I get, the easier it is to achieve consistency. For example, upgrading from an analog dial kitchen scale to a precise digital scale helped me nail hop profiles.
What do you think…Is consistency a big deal for you? My next article will deal with how inconsistency can be a good trait for particular breweries.