What I really want to discuss today, is beer quality versus value, which is at the heart of “how to make a good commercial beer”?
I’m going to be straight with you here…I believe Budweiser, is a high-quality beer!
You might crazy think I’m crazy. I’ve had this argument with several of my craft-brewing brethren before. I’ll argue the same case to you, as I did to them.
I’ve spent a short time working for, what some of you may call the “dark side”.
I worked for one of macro-beer companies. Believe me when I say; the knowledge and skill-level of the people making the likes of Budweiser, is incredible.
These brewing behemoths have very defined parameters for the beer they make. If the beer is out of spec, it doesn’t go to market, irrespective of batch size.
How To Make a Good Commercial Beer…Budweiser is Good Quality Beer!
Let me ask you…have you ever had a Bud, which has gushed, tasted like cardboard (oxidized) or infected?
I’m going to say no? That’s high-quality beer…in my opinion
The equipment used to make Budweiser along with the testing in the lab, throughout the whole brewing process, is some of the best and thorough in the brewing industry.
I mean they even test the bottles they purchase, for a number of parameters. Being happy to rejects a whole truck of bottles, if they are out of spec.
Have you ever had a can of craft beer which gushed, tasted off, or been infected? I’m sure you have…that’s low-quality beer.
Often smaller craft breweries don’t have the best equipment and minimal lab facilities. This can lead to beer, which is not shelf stable going to market.
I mean, we’ve all heard stories of exploding beer cans…!!!
Often these beers, like the one in the video, referment in the can/bottle. From the sugars added, when brewers’ dose non-fermented fruit addition, to a batch.
This is bad brewing and dangerous…beer should never be refermenting in a can/bottle…ever!
What Does Beer Quality Mean? How To Make a Good Commercial Beer
So, to sum up, what do we mean by high quality beer?
- Beer quality refers to how well the beer is made.
- The beer is consistent from batch-to-batch.
- The brewing team has made every effort to ensure the beer is brewed to standard SOP’s and it’s the best it can be.
- The beer is tested as much as possible, through the process to ensure it is in with specified parameters.
- The beer being packed is in the best shape possible, for shelf stability and longer shelf-life.
- The whole ethos being, when the beer is drunk by the customer, it’s in best condition possible. Plus, the sensory, is as the beer, was originally conceived
I understand, the average craft brewery doesn’t have the resources of AB InBev (parent company of Budweiser).
However, with proper SOP’s and parameters set, beer produced by smaller breweries can be consistent, taste great and be shelf-stable. This is high quality beer.
How To Make a Good Commercial Beer…Beer Value
What do we mean by beer value? Well, a lot depends on the perceptions and opinions of the drinker. Craft beer drinkers, usually make beer buying decisions based on:
- The beer itself
- The brewery who produced the beer
- References from friends
- The style of the beer – for example, IPA, imperial stout or Vienna lager
Do you like pastry stouts? Then this beer style has a high value to you. What about Czech style pilsners…do you like them? If not, then this beer is low value to you.
Look, I’ll happily drink Pilsner Urquell on draft, if I see it anywhere in the world. I know what I’m going to get.
It’s consistent (if the lines have been properly cleaned), clean, easy drinking and the price point is decent.
For example, I can get a 500ml glass for 25 RMB (just under USD$ 4) in Shanghai.
If you ever get the chance to try the “tanker” version of Pilsner Urquell…please do, it’s next level. Anyway, I’m digressing.
The Flipside to Beer Value/Quality – How to Make a Good Commercial Beer
Now before, I said Budweiser makes “quality” beer. However, in some places in Shanghai, Budweiser is 25 RMB per 500ml glass. Does this represent good value to me?
Of course, I know what the beer will taste like (consistency), but Budweiser isn’t a beer which will excite me.
This is a low value beer to me, especially if there’s Pilsner Urquell on tap too. In summary beer value is it’s…” hype factor”.
What’s A High Value but Low-Quality Beer?
These certainly exist. We’re back to exploding cans!
We have all heard the stories of beer, where the cans explode. As it says in the article linked:
“This becomes a problem with beers that are prone to refermentation, a process in which yeast and microbes continue to process sugars, expelling additional carbon dioxide.
It’s most common with increasingly popular fruited or flavored beers because they have both active yeast and fermentable sugars.”Taken from popularmechanics.com
Now often these heavily fruited beers, which can go POP, are expensive to buy. Click here for our guide to adding fruit puree to beer, safely.
When these beers first came on the craft scene. People would queue round the block to ensure they got their 4-pack of a limited release.
It was the “hype factor”; and people paid big bucks for them.
However, buying beer which could potentially harm the drinker, represent poor value!
It’s the same with inconstant beer, where one bottle might be properly carbonated, but the next gushes when opened…it’s poor quality.
Craft Beer Drinkers Are Becoming More Educated
Craft breweries are popping up all around the world now. The knowledge of the average craft beer drinker is on the rise.
Brewers need to be aware of this; accepting for many drinkers, you’re only as good as the last beer they drank. It can take just one bad beer to lose a customer.
It’s why when people of ask on forums, like in the image below, should they dump a beer. Pretty much everyone universally says “when in doubt, dump it out”.
Granted the instance pictured is quite extreme, but in most cases if you’re asking the questions “should I dump it”. The answer is generally…yes.
How to Make a Good Commercial Beer – Conclusions
A good commercial beer is of high quality, but offers value too. I know this isn’t rocket science. However, I want to stress quality means consistency, good repeatable processes and ensuring beer is in spec.
A brewery needs to have proper SOP (standard operation procedures) in place and make sure all staff are trained, to follow them correctly.
This ensures beer hits all the specification thought out the brewing process like:
- Mash temp, liquor to grist ratio and pH
- Hop additions, timings and IBU’s
- Whirlpool times and kettle wort pH
- Standardized wort aeration, pitch temps and yeast pitching rates
- Fermentation profile
- Final wort gravity and pH
- The CO2 levels in the beer
- Clarification process and over beer appearance
- Sensory analysis
These are just some of the metrics, a brewery can check, make notes on and revert back to at a later date.
As I said before, smaller craft breweries might not have the equipment of big breweries, but they can still put measures in place. To make consistent and high value beer.
Need Help with A Brewing Project or Beer Processing?
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