So I was watching Brewmasters on The Discovery Channel the other night (about Sam Calagione and the Dogfish Head Brewery) and the episode was “Grain to Glass”. The “B-plot” of the episode dealt with a batch of their 120min IPA in a stuck fermentation back in June where the batch started at about 32 Plato and never got below 9 Plato. They were trying to figure out what the problem was, so they went back and pulled some bottled 120min IPA from storage and tasted them. I don’t know how many they tasted, but there was one from 2008 and one from 2006, at least. They decided the one from 2006 had the characteristics they were aiming for, and then implied that they used the notes from that brew to influence the recipe for the brews going forward.
The problem is, beer is not a static and shelf-stable product. Unless the beer is kept cryogenically frozen (generally -80C or less), it will degrade. Even the “bigger” beers which use many dark malts and have high alcohol will be altered during storage, for better or for worse. While some beers may be altered less than others, it seems a bit foolish to base recipe modifications on a sample of beer which is no longer representative of what that beer tasted like when it first hit the market.
Of course I could be missing something. Television editors are known for spinning the story in whatever way they want, and their lack of familiarity with the subject matter would make it easier for them to accidentally mislead.
On a side note, I also noted that Dogfish Head “tested” their sensory panelists with the FlavorActiv standard for “Musty” (trichloroanisole – “cork taint” for you wine enthusiasts). They must have intentionally picked that particular one for filming day, since Musty is literally one of the two easiest FlavorActiv standards to identify at the usual 3X threshold level, and it would have looked better for the camera if all their panelists were seen picking the right one. Now if they did this with FA’s “Kettle Hop”, “Grainy”, or “H2S” standards, I’d be impressed.
And while I applaud the presence of the craft brewing industry on television, I can’t help but think that this show is just a giant ad for Dogfish Head…