How to Start a Beer Sensory Program: A Comprehensive Guide for Craft Breweries

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As the craft beer industry continues to become more competitive, breweries are realizing the importance of maintaining consistent beer quality and delighting their customers’ taste buds. This ensures that your consumers are loyal to your brand driving repeat sales.

One effective way to achieve this is by implementing a beer sensory program. A well-designed sensory program can help breweries identify off-flavours, evaluate beer characteristics, and make informed decisions to enhance their brewing processes. In this article, we will provide a step-by-step guide on how to start a beer sensory program, empowering breweries to improve the quality and enjoyment of their brews.

Define Objectives and Scope:

Clearly define the objectives and scope of your beer sensory program. It’s very easy to go down the rabbit hole and create something that is way more complex than what you actually need.  Keep things simple when starting out!  This ensures that your sensory program won’t become bogged down and ultimately fail.

Start with the basics such as “I want to know if my beer is consistent from batch to batch” or “I want my team to be able to clearly identify any potential issues with my beer”.

Understand the Purpose and Benefits of a Beer Sensory Program:

Begin by familiarizing yourself with the purpose and benefits of a beer sensory program. It serves as a quality control tool (not dissimilar to, say, your Density Meter), enabling breweries to identify flaws and inconsistencies in their beer production and shelf stability. Additionally, a sensory program helps breweries understand their beer’s unique characteristics, refine recipes, and create an exceptional drinking experience for customers.

Establish a Sensory Evaluation Team:

Build a sensory evaluation team consisting of at least one Program Manager who will run your sensory program as well as Panellists who are individuals that have a passion for beer and are keen to learn sensory analysis. Train your Panellists to become proficient in beer evaluation techniques and ensure they understand the goals of the sensory program.

Set Up an Appropriate Sensory Space:

While many sensory experts out there say that you should designate a dedicated sensory space within your brewery for conducting evaluations; this isn’t always practical for many breweries due to their size limitations. All you need is a space that should be free from distractions, draughts, noise and strong odours.

Often, your taproom outside of trading hours is good enough when starting out. Consider factors such as lighting, temperature, and seating arrangements to create an optimal environment for sensory analysis.

Use Established Evaluation Methods:

When starting your brewery sensory program, the methods you need to employ to evaluate beer aren’t always clear in the beginning. This is because you’re probably not clear in the objectives of your sensory program. You can achieve some amazing beer quality results simply by employing the following methods:

  • VDK Analysis to confirm that fermentation has fully completed
  • True To Brand Analysis to ensure that your beer is consistent, not only upon release to market but over the entirety of its shelf life.

Skip Paper Forms & Spreadsheets – Collect Data With An App:

Don’t waste your time developing tasting sheets and evaluation forms for your beer sensory program. Whilst it’s important to capture essential information such as appearance, aroma, flavour, mouthfeel, and overall impression; collecting data electronically means that you can visualise your sensory results and profile your Panellists.

Doing so will ensure that you can feed that intelligence back into continuous improvement outcomes for your beer.

Conduct Regular Sensory Sessions:

Schedule regular sensory evaluations to monitor the quality of your beer. This can be done weekly, monthly, or based on production schedule. Collect data consistently and analyze trends over time to identify any patterns or areas of improvement.

Regular sensory sessions are also important to maintain the skills of your Panellists.

Act on Sensory Feedback:

Once you gather sensory feedback, take actionable steps to address any issues or areas for improvement. Collaborate with your brewing team to understand potential causes and implement necessary adjustments to recipes, processes, or ingredients.

Continuously Educate and Improve:

Encourage ongoing education and professional development for your sensory evaluation team. Organize regular training sessions to expand their knowledge and refine their sensory skills. Staying updated on industry trends will further enhance your program’s effectiveness.

Conclusion:

Starting a beer sensory program is a crucial step toward ensuring the consistent quality of your brews and creating an exceptional drinking experience for your customers. By following this comprehensive guide, breweries can establish a well-structured sensory program that evaluates beer characteristics, identifies off-flavours, and drives continuous improvement.

Embrace the power of sensory analysis, and unlock the full potential of your brewery’s creations.

If you want to know more about how to attain a clear pathway to a fully functional sensory program in as little as 14 days, book yourself a Sensory Assessment with one of the SmartSensory Team.

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