Saturday 24 April 2010

Flavour Panel End of Term Exam

Our flavour panel were screened and selected to have tasting abilities and taste vocabularies which range from better than average to excellent. Over the past few weeks I have been subjecting them to the fraught and stressful annual tasting ability surveillance tests which involve measuring their ability to detect and describe key flavour notes and off tastes such as Citral, Diacetyl, Iso amyl acetate, 5-methyl furfural etc etc etc.

The results are in and a few of the panel follow the blog so here is a posh graph which gives the results. You will note I am prefect and got 100%. I should do though as I am a brewer and familiar with the flavour standards. Click on the image to enlarge it.

This is the first stage of this year’s screening. I have yet to put them through the triangle taste tests where they have to identify if a beer in a set of three is different or not. This sounds easy but it normally sorts the men from the boys or the ladies from the maids. Tris beat me on one of the triangles last time.

Alas, any of the panel who fall below better than average will not be able to contribute to the marking in future panels and will have to be exterminated!

Please excuse the inflammatory question but I wonder how many of the panellists selected to judge prominent beer competitions undergo similar screening?


Dean Browne said...

Hey Stuart - are you producing the samples using one of those tasting kits like the one offered by or are you mixing your own cauldron of trouble?

Dean Browne said...

BY the way; (not to sound bitter), but judging from the commentary that we have received from tasters at national beer competitions, I would guess that the majority of panelists at those things have very little tasting skill. They are certainly not screened based upon their ability to accurately discern individual flavors in beer.

Korev said...

Do you use a spider graph approach to the aroma and flavour profile of your beers? as I would have thought it is not only faults that need to be identified but also "drift" over time

Kieran Haslett-Moore said...

Not sure about in the UK but here there is no general testing of the judges apart from a calibration beer to make sure the panel is on the same page. However judging panels are always carefully put together with a mix of technical judges (usually brewers and sensory analysts from major breweries) and style judges (micro brewers, beer writers, beer retailers like myself). We tend to use a consensus method of judging where the panel can use the strengths of the entire table. So you can use the technical skills of a macro brewing analyst who has only ever produced golden lagers and can pick DMS at extremly low levels but wouldnt have a clue how a Saison should taste and the Beer Writer who has travelled extensivly and knows the intricacys of beer styles from around the world. I think the ballance works well on the whole.

Mark, said...

I'd love to benchmark my own palette to see if where I fit. Kieran's comments seem pretty sensible - any beer judging would benefit from a mix of technical expertise and wider style knowledge. And even then the punters might not agree with the experts!

Stuart Howe said...
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Stuart Howe said...

Dean hi, Most are Flavor Active, some BRI some in house. I have done well in competitions up to now but worry about the ability of panelists to pick out aromas that just shouldn't be there.

Korev hi, We rank 19 descriptors along with trueness to type and preference and the mean result for these across the panel is compared to the expected norms. This highlights trends very effectively. We undertake the first phase of the tasting individualy and then discuss each beer. The discussion phase is also very useful in detecting drifts and trends.

Your panels sound good Keiran although consensus panels do need very careful management to prevent strong personalities pushing for the panel to select their opinion of the beer.

I should add that every competition I have ever been involved in has been very well organised and the panelists have all been wonderful human beings. If any panelists are reading this now and go on to recognise any of my beers in tastings in the next few years please remember that I love you like family!

Kieran Haslett-Moore said...

Indeed they do need managing! But I think on the whole we manage to get it right.

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