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Old 02-25-2010, 09:49 PM   #1
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Default SWMBO blind taste test

I recently brewed a stout that I thought was pretty fantastic (I usually think both myself and my brews are pretty fantastic ). I decided it stacked up pretty well against commercial brews, so I bought a Samuel Smith's oatmeal stout and a Deschutes Obsidian stout to do a blind taste test with SWMBO.

Let's just say this was both a kick to the nuts and an eye opening experience.

She started with "A" which was the Sam Smith. She noted it's sweetness, molasses, and a few other things.
Next was "B" Which was the Deschuttes. She noted chocolate, bitter coffee, roast, etc.

Lastly was my baby, Trillion Midnight Stout. I brewed this with loads of Black patent, Chocolate, Caramel, and a few other specialty roasted malts. I thought it had a great roasty almost smoky finish that I love. She took her first sip, swallowed, grimaced, and wrote a single word: "Awful"

Awful.

Apparently she thought it was WAY too bitter, and had a weird taste and unpleasant aftertaste. She tried it once more, same reaction, couldn't even finish the sample glass.

At first I was distraught, then I realized this may be the first time that I've EVER gotten an honest unbiased opinion of my beer. Everyone tells me how great my beer is, and I agree whole heartedly. However I now am coming to realize my **** isn't as hot as I think it is. How many people were just being nice and choked down my swill with a fake smile on their face?
After further pondering, I realize my taste is way different from mainstream consumers. I am a malt-o-holic. I love extreme bitterness, sharp biting, almost burnt smoky flavors. But most people will find these flavors in their beer to be "Awful".

I know, I should just brew what I like and not worry about it. But a huge part of this hobby is the joy and satisfaction I get from sharing with friends. Not to mention my delusions of one day expanding into a microbrewery.

I now realize this was a very positive experience, and I've been trying to think of ways to get solid, unbiased opinions of my beer in an effort to improve it.

Anyone else have a similar experience? A "wake-up call" so to speak?

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Old 02-25-2010, 09:58 PM   #2
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The 'wake-up call' as you refer to it often comes after someone gets back the scoresheets from their first homebrew competition. Competitions may not always have the most perceptive judges, but the blind evaluation process usually means the comments are honest. Good to hear that you took away something positive from your wife's negative comments (not everyone will do that!).

If you enjoy the beer you brew, then that should be reward enough. That's the beauty of homebrewing -- you can produce (and drink) whatever pleases you! The brewer.

Having to brew to please other people is a whole different ball of wax. Obviously there are rewards when you can do that, too, but the satisfaction is different.

So many reasons to brew....

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Old 02-25-2010, 09:59 PM   #3
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Enter a competition. The judges have no idea who you are and will be brutally honest with you.

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Old 02-25-2010, 10:01 PM   #4
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I wish people would be more honest about my beers as well. My fiance always seems to like my beers more than me. Fortunately I have joined a local homebrew club and we have "beer Challenges" every other month. We will pick a category of beers (Wheat, Stout, Holliday, low gravity, etc) and then we all brew that type of beer for the following contest in 2 months. I get decent feedback at the challenges but our judges are not professionals by any means. Sometimes we even resort to pulling some of the regulars from the bar to do the judging. (our meetings are held in the back of a microbrewery that is gracious enough to let us use their facilities and expertise.) So look into a homebrew club, even if they don't do contests you'll still get honest feedback from your fellow homebrewers.

P.S. the winner of our contests is allowed the honor to brew another batch of the winning beer with the brewers of the microbrewery and put a 5 gallon keg on tap at the brewery. We are considering putting all the profits from these "small batches" towards a local charity as well.

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Old 02-25-2010, 10:13 PM   #5
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Old 02-25-2010, 10:14 PM   #6
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I think that on the whole, homebrewers have a hard time being objective when tasting their own beer. Just look at all the people on the forum who pitch a liquid yeast without a starter, ferment at 80 degrees for a week, bottle, and 3 days later proclaim it's the best beer they've ever had.

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Old 02-25-2010, 10:38 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by KingBrianI View Post
I think that on the whole, homebrewers have a hard time being objective when tasting their own beer. Just look at all the people on the forum who pitch a liquid yeast without a starter, ferment at 80 degrees for a week, bottle, and 3 days later proclaim it's the best beer they've ever had.
This was part of my realization.

My process could use a LOT of refinement. I guess I've gotten complacent because I really do like what I brew, but I know it could be a lot better. The criticism was just motivation to do better, which is exactly what I need.
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Old 02-26-2010, 01:28 PM   #8
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Had an interesting experience with my GF IPA. One guy said, "It's not an IPA." The woman next to him said, "It's an ENGLISH IPA, stupid!" She also said it was a bit thin and lacked body. Which was reasonable, as I had used dextrose to dry it out and went too far.

Homebrewers, at least in the clubs I hang out in, are quite willing to give honest opinions. I rarely share any beer with people who are not homebrewers, so the "it's free beer" factor doesn't arise.

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Old 02-26-2010, 08:00 PM   #9
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If you really want to have your own microbrewery then by all means take into account what "others" think of your beer...but personally I was sick of spending $10+ on a six pack of good beer...so its all about what I like. There is a huge variety of beers...why? because people are NOT the same and everybody has their own opinion in taste..I DGAF if my gf doesnt like it (more beer for me)...if it is a beer that I enjoy, then thats all that matters and my brew was more than successful.

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Old 02-26-2010, 08:29 PM   #10
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I think the important questions is whether the beer is technically sound, ie, no off flavors, aromas, etc, just brewed to a personal style that may not either accurately reflect the BJCP style or everyone's taste, or is the beer not technically sound and could be improved from well thought out critique and some changes to your brewing process.

I am a strong proponent of brewing what you like and what you enjoy and having that be the largest factor in what you brew and why you brew.

However, if your beer really is astringent, phenolic, oxidized, infected, or has one of the myriad of other problems that can result during the brewing process and if you could make even better beer that you would enjoy even more by being helped to recognize the problems and correcting them, wouldn't you want to do that? Sometimes you don't know your beer has problems until a different palate than yours (preferably an educated one) tastes it and helps you see the things you may have been overlooking.

I shudder to think about the beer that my husband and I were brewing several years ago that we thought, at the time, was great homebrew. I was happy with it and we certainly drank it, but we didn't understand brewing to a style or what we were tasting when tasting faults. We joined a homebrew club 3 years ago and quickly learned that our beer was NOT as good as it could be "technically speaking" but at the same time we gained valuable commentary on how to fix what was wrong, praise for what was good, and invaluable friendships. It looks like others mentioned the valuable input they got from their brew clubs, if there's one in your area, check it out and see what they think of your beer.

So, certainly brew what you like but IMHO don't close your willingness to be honestly critiqued and learn how to improve your beer on the principal that you should brew what you like and not worry what anyone else says. Perhaps you should ask your SWMBO what was "awful" specifically with respect to the funny taste/aftertaste as her comments on the other two beers seemed pretty spot on.

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