Beer Faults: Why we need to be honest

Recently,  bearded Texan and naturalised Cape Townian Mitch Lockhart of the Craft Beer Project unveiled the elephant in the brewery. His #beerhonest article highlighted how ‘bad’ craft beer does immeasurable damage to the industry. In it, he lays out some preventative measures against this dark force, which is an issue that potentially holds us back from being a great beer nation. South African Beerlovers have tended to accept the faults in micro-brewed beer with an “Oh well it’s craft beer and that’s what its suppose to be like” or similar. This is the result of SA being in its infancy when it comes to beer (aside from the impeccably-brewed hot country lagers we have grown up with).

However, we need follow Lockhart and be #beerhonest if we are to progress, and help our Brewers make wonderful tasting and internationally competitive beers. It’s not easy – no one likes to deliver bad news. A lot of brewers do what they do as a passion, and treat their products as their own children; no one wants to tell a parent that their child has a fault. However, if that parent is never properly informed then the child’s chance of rectifying that fault is minimized, and they’ll take that issue into adulthood. Kak children make kak adults, and kak parents themselves. Now that the analogy has run its full course, we should conclude that it’s important that Beerlovers recognize faults in beer and are able to give knowledgeable, constructive feedback to the brewers, so their products of passion can reach full potential. And in turn, help propel South African craft beer to its rightful place at the top of the world’s pile.

The trick here, as in many walks of life, is education. At Beerhouse we are curators of a vast library of beer, and it is important that we educate ourselves on all things beer, and take seriously our job as custodians of beer. We need to be able to pick up on the faults in beer, pass that knowledge onto the Beerlover, and give feedback to Brewers. This is the only way to progress. We educate our Beerhouse Navigators to take Beerlovers safely through Beerland, and give them tools to help expand the common understanding of beer. One of our training sessions focuses on ‘Faults in Beer’ – primary indications, as well as typical causes. Beerhouse Navigators are, after all, the foot soldiers in the Beer Revolution.

We have pulled kegs for various faults and have given constructive feedback where necessary. Thankfully, 99% of Brewers have taken our advice on board, and have come back with a superior products. Result! And cheers to you guys.

People are often quick to point fingers at the Brewers, but it’s not only in the brewery that faults can occur. Improper storage, failing to rotate stock and clean beer lines and many more working pitfalls can turn a well-made beer into one riddled with faults. It’s our duty as curators to make sure we do our utmost to serve the beer as the Brewer intended, and as fresh as possible.

As a way of helping you the Beerlover pick up on common faults in our beloved liquid, we have created a SlideShare that highlights typical issues and how they occur, based on the Beers Judges Certifification Program (BJCP).  Now, we don’t want to destroy your experience, as over-analyzing can have the reverse effect on the primary function of drinking beer, namely, enjoyment. However, we do need you, as fellow revolutionaries, to help make the Craft Beer march as glorious as it can be.

Some ‘faults’ are actually acceptable; when next you have a German-style Weiss beer and notice an aroma of banana (esters) and clove (phenols) (both natural by-products of yeast consuming fermentation sugars) don’t send it back and write an email to the brewer. These faults in other beers are unacceptable, but actually encouraged in this particular style. That said, you don’t want diacetyl (butterscotch) in your India Pale Ale, or band-aid, rotting vegetables or vinegar in any style!

So arm yourself with knowledge and join the revolution! Beer is a wonderful thing, but like most things of beauty it can be fragile. Be #beerhonest and together we can make Beerland a better place.


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