Eating humble pie at the ACBC

A couple of weeks ago, I attended the Australian Craft Brewers Conference (ACBC) hosted by the Craft Brewers Industry Association in Melbourne and had a most informative experience.  As you know many of the tastings I write about are totally subjective – what I taste, whether it is a nice beer.  At the same time, I find it a little difficult to understand how friends of mine can continue to drink commercial pale lagery things when I have given them tastes of really great beers.

ACBC-GBW-HeroHowever, at the conference, I was forced to eat some humble pie.  I sat through a session run by Tina Panoutsos, the lady in charge of sensory analysis for CUB.  Her job is to develop a cohort of people within CUB who are able to professionally taste their beers for defects.  One of the first activities Tina did with the conference goers was to give them all a taste test.  Tina gave a group of people, including myself, a little piece of card with a specific taste built into it.  We all placed it in our mouths at the same time and as we registered the flavour on the card, we stood up.

The first revelation was the time delay among those standing up – for some, the taste was immediately apparent, for some, it took some time to detect it.  However, for me, and a few others, we were left sitting and never tasted the flavour at all.  Tina talked about how people have different sensitivities to various tastes and in some cases, are completely unable to taste the flavour at all.

And this hit me like a rock.  Although there are beers I would argue any beer drinker would like (Hop Hog for instance), everyone really does have a unique set of tastes, and what I taste is not necessarily what the person next to me is tasting.  So I might like a beer that someone else doesn’t like because I can taste some complimentary flavours that the other person can not.  Alternatively, they might not like the beer because they can taste a ‘fault’ or other flavour that makes the beer unpleasant for them, but which I am completely unable to detect.

So, the next time you are bagging someone for liking something you consider the cat produced, bear in mind, what he is tasting may not be what you taste, and he might actually really like that flavour.  This might help prevent us all from becoming a bunch of beer snobs!

Enjoy your beer, whatever it tastes like.

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