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What to do when you experience a bad craft beer

Did you know that just like wine, beer can have flaws that you may be able to pick up when you smell or taste it. Here's what to do when that happens.

by: Karl Tessendorf | 07 Mar 2019
 
drinking craft beer from a glass

ALSO READ: 4 Best ways to start making your own beer

The craft beer revolution is here and we’re all lucky enough to be living it. There’s never been a better time to dive into new beer styles, the multitude of flavours, and things that make you say, ‘What wizardry is this?!’. But like any young local industry still finding its feet, the good always comes with some bad. And when beer goes bad it can make even the most die hard fan mutter a few choice words under their breath as they dump it down the drain. I’ve had more than my fair share over the years and it never gets easier or less irritating.

Let’s take a closer look at this ugly side of craft and see what we can learn. 

What is bad beer?

When I say bad beer, I mean a beer that has a flaw. These flaws are usually the result of poor sanitation, bad brewing and bottling, or dodgy storage. They manifest in a delightful range of rank aromas and flavours that can explode out the bottle featuring everything from sweet corn, rotten eggs and band-aids to wet cardboard, baby vomit and paint thinners. The science of brewing is exactly that - a science, and while brewers do have plenty of creative room, the basic principles of temperature, time and sanitation, sanitation and sanitation must be followed.  

How can bad beer be prevented?

Bad beer can happen to anyone. No brewery is perfect but brewers can take measures to reduce the risks. Flash pasteurisation (kills all yeast and bugs) and sterile filtration (filters out most yeast and bugs) are two options but both come with challenges. A flash pasteuriser costs more than most small breweries do and as a result, only the really big brands can afford them. Sterile filtration is a cheaper alternative but it strips flavour out of the beer during the process. Both processes add shelf life and stability to beer. 

Many smaller craft brewers around the country do neither and there seems to be a certain romance that is associated with an unfiltered, unpasteurised beer. I have no problem with this provided the brewer gets it right (and many do) because there’s nothing romantic about a drain pour.  

What should you do with a bad beer?

There are three schools of thought on this. The first is to dump the beer and move on with your life. I’ll admit, I’ve done this in the past on many occasion and from there on out, I usually just avoid that brewery. The second option is one that sadly we are seeing more of on social media and it involves a negative rant post. In my view, this achieves nothing. No brewer sets out to make a bad beer but mistakes do happen. Don’t get me wrong, I am all for calling out bad beers, but slagging a brewery off online without giving them a chance to fix the situation is classless. The third and best option is to contact the brewer and tell them where you got the beer and what the problem was. Any brewer worth his malt will rectify the situation and use the feedback to fix the issue. 

At the end of the day, we all want the industry to grow and develop. South Africa has the potential to be a world class beer destination. I prefer to be on the side that’s pushing forward with constructive criticism rather than dragging us down for 5 seconds of social media fame.    

ALSO READ: 5 Reasons to start homebrewing

Read more on: beer  |  craft beer  |  drinks
 

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