As Chris posted earlier today, we visited Whistler over the weekend and held our very own beer festival in lieu of the canceled Whistler Beer Festival. Most of the beers we consumed over the weekend were delicious; however, we did come across a few mediocre beers and even one that was terrible.
On our way home we made a stop at Howe Sound Brewing where we ordered the sampler, after one of the three samplers we ordered arrived at our table we quickly changed our order to only one sampler - we decided sharing would be a good idea. We found some of Howe Sound’s offering to be stellar, Father Johns Winter Ale and the Blond Ale were my two personal favorites, but the large majority was average at best. One beer stood out as particularly bad – the Pilsner had an unpleasant pungent aroma reminiscent of Sulfur. It turns out sulfur is a common off-flavour in lager and is often the sign of stressed yeast or green (young) beer.
When visiting small breweries and brewpubs it can be expected that a few beers along the way will have an unpleasant off-flavour or aroma. Craft brewers do a great job and create fantastic beer, but because most brewers do not pasteurize their beer and are forced to operate on a tight budget, some of their product is not always on point. I thought it would be worthwhile pointing out some common off flavours found it beer.
Cabbage/Cooked Vegetables – DMS: This flavour is generally unwanted and is often a sign of a brewer/brewery error. If wort is not chilled quickly after the boil or a lid is placed over the brew kettle during the boil, DMS off-flavours can develop.
Wet Cardboard – Oxidation: Oxidized beer is unpleasant and tastes like wet cardboard – this is not a good flavour. Excessive exposure to oxygen during the brewing process can cause oxidation and will only get worse with age.
Buttery – Diacetyl: A strong butter or butterscotch flavour is acceptable in small quantities in some English ales, but too much Diacetyl is overpowering. Diacetyl is also found in some oaked Chardonnay commonly called “butter bomb” for their intense buttery flavour.
Apple – Acetaldehyde: A green apple flavour can be found in some lagers, a traditional Budweiser will have a green apple note. In large quantities Acetaldehyde becomes unpleasant and is a good indicator of green beer. Good beer cannot be rushed.
Skunky – Light Struck: Beer and light do not mix. When beer is exposed to certain light sources, the sun for example, a powerful skunky aroma will develop and can quickly ruin a beer. Skunky beer usually means one of two things, poor product packaging (clear or green bottles are just not good) or it is a hot summer day and relaxing with a beer on a patio is the only way to cool off.
Sulfur – Sulfur is not a good aroma or taste and can make for an unpleasant beer drinking experience. Sulfur off-flavours are present in young lagers.
These are just a few of the common off-flavours found in beer. Finding these off-flavours does not necessarily mean you are drinking bad beer – it means you are drinking a healthy quantity of beer.