Tag Archives: off flavours

Taste training

The smell of failure

It absolutely stank in the room during the taste training. I nipped out to get some more Republika to spike with terrible beer fault chemicals and when I walked back in the combination of six different off-flavours filled the room like a miasma of badly made beer. Luckily these were mostly new aromas and ones we won’t come across very often, or at all, in future.

I have to say thanks to both Owen, for sharing the kit for us to use, and Deb for setting up and running the fascinating professional taste training.

Taste training
Setting up taste training

The training itself followed a set method. We had a control sample of high quality Republika and then were offered a cup of spiked lager and asked to write down what aromas and tastes we could describe. These were shared across the group and then we were told what the beer had been spiked with and we discussed where that flavour might come from. For that this paper here was a fantastic reference.

The horrible half dozen of flavours we tasted and discussed were; dimethyl sulfide (DMS), Chlorophenol, diacetyl, isoamyl acetate, isovaleric acid and Eugenol (Phenol). Individually many of these were horrific – the combination was an assault! But it was all worth it the learnings and vocabulary to describe the faults will make identifying and rectifying faults so much easier.

Get a whiff of this

Thankfully we had some great drinks brought in to be shared after the lesson to wash away the faults and remember how nice booze can be. A real varied selection as well. We started with two American wheat beers the difference between the two highlighted the impact of US versus UK hops. Citrus versus floral and the impact of oats on head & body.

We then tried a returner, a hoppy pale ale we’d tasted before. This really meant we got to use the lessons we’d just learnt. The beer had transformed from a light clean fruity pale into something that closely resembled a superb clone of Saison Dupont. The phenolic flavour that had developed as it bottle conditioned and some leathery farmyard flavours pointed to an infection in the bottle – a fortunate one that led to a real farmhouse beer.

The easiest homebrew in the world came next Aldi apple juice cider. Get juice from the cheap German supermarket, pitch in some yeast and wait. At the end of it you have a spot on cider. Not too sweet, the fruity acidic bite of apple. Refreshing, bright and clear and tasting exactly like a cider should. Easy.

A real treat of a beer next a dark Belgian strong ale that had been aged for a couple of years and had aged wonderfully. The dark fruit, treacle and sweetness of the beer evoked a fireside sipping beer with a big cigar to see the winter night through. The complex flavours developed from a a simple malt bill of pale ale and dark candy sugar is amazing. A super beer.


To wash down this beer and end the night of a fruity high we finished with a blueberry & Blackcurrant fruit wine. Sweet and sour perfectly balanced in a drink that was like sipping Ribena again amazing flavours from a simple sugar, water steeped on fruits. The simple process is obviously the best way.