Wednesday, June 2, 2010

A Blind Beer Tasting, Take 1

Danny O. contemplating the five beers

A few weeks ago, on a warm summer-like night, I assembled a group of friends - glutenous beer drinkers, all of them - for a blind beer tasting.  (Note: Please don't confuse this beer tasting with the upcoming gluten-free blind beer tasting!)  My motives were two-fold: on the one hand, the tasting was part of research for a new book I'm working on, and on the other hand, I selfishly wanted to see how my home brewed Zonder Gluten Belgian Wit stacked up against competition in a blind tasting.  The results were partly predictable, partly surprising, and overall intriguing.  But before I get to the results, the methodology:

The Beer Drinkers

All four of my beer tasters were self-described "enthusiastic beer drinkers," but not necessarily beer experts.  Importantly, they were all gluten eaters, and hence, conventional beer drinkers.

The Beers

I pulled together a sampling of five beers for the tasting.  Three were conventional beers, and two were gluten-free beers, including my home brew.  They were:

Blue Moon's Belgian White Grand Cru
New Belgium's Mothership Wit
Avery's White Rascal
Green's Discovery (GF)
Zonder Gluten Belgian Wit (GF)

With the exception of Green's, which was the closest GF beer I could find, they were all beers brewed in the Belgian Wit style; yeasty and cloudy; with orange peel and coriander.

The Rules

The beer tasters received the following information: They would be tasting a sampling of five different beers, all brewed in the same style.  However, they did not know what the style would be.  Similarly, they knew they would be tasting a combination of conventional and gluten-free beers, but they didn't know how many conventional and how many GF beers were included in the sampling.  The beers were poured into clear plastic cups labeled A through E (the GF beers were B and D).

The rules were simple: 1) They may taste the beers in any order they like. 2) They may return to a beer and re-taste it at any time, and as many times as they like.

Each taster was provided with a sheet for recording tasting notes.  For each beer, they were also asked to make a decision: What it a gluten-free beer? Yes or no.  Lastly, they were asked to rank the five beers in order of preference, from most favorite (1) to least favorite (5).

The Results

Most tasters opted to cycle through the beers from lightest to darkest.  When all the beer was consumed, and their pencils were put down, we discussed and tabulated the results.  But first, I asked which beer they thought was the home brew.  Only one person correctly guessed my Zonder Gluten Belgian Wit.  One taster thought the home brew was Green's, and two thought it was Blue Moon's Grand Cru.

In general, most tasters correctly picked out the gluten-free beers from the conventional beers, and on the scale of most favorite to least favorite, conventional beers usually beat out the gluten-free beers for taste.  There were some surprises, though.

3 out of the 4 tasters thought Blue Moon was a gluten-free beer.  (It's actually brewed with a combination of barley and wheat.)  One person thought Green's was a conventional beer, and another thought the same of my Zonder Gluten.

As for how my ZG rated against the others for taste... While one taster rated it a 2 (making it her second favorite of the five), the other three tasters were in solid agreement.  They gave it a five.  It was their least favorite, by far.  Sigh.

The Conclusion

Although I'm tempted to draw grand, sweeping conclusions and put a nice little bow on the package that was the blind beer tasting, I'm not going to.  I'll simply leave you with those results, for you to ponder and from which to draw your own conclusions.  But I will say this: I'm very excited for the upcoming all-gluten-free blind beer tasting.  I can only guess that it will be quite illuminating.

- Pete


theMom said...

Sounds fun.

Are you giving any clues as to the subject matter of your upcoming book?

I just found out I was a winner of your cookbook in the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness giveaway. I know Joe will be glad to have a copy that is not due back at the library every three weeks.

gfe--gluten free easily said...

I'm glad you didn't feel too badly about being #5. In a tasting of 20 beers, your beer might still be #5! Tasting and judging beer would be very much like judging and comparing wine--very difficult! You mentioned the taster who rated yours the highest was a woman. Were there other women? There could be different taste preferences in that regard. Just a thought. Anyway, fun! Look forward to reading about the gf tasting. :-)


peterbronski said...

Hi theMom... General subject of the new book is "the evolution of gluten in world cuisine."

Hi Shirley... We had only one female taster. That's an interesting thought - I wonder how other female beer tasters might have rated the beers. Regardless, it was a fun tasting to administer.

Cheers, Pete

Amanda on Maui said...

Have you tried New Grist? It's really good. I hate beer, and I made it through a six pack recently.

peterbronski said...

Hi Amanda... Personally, I'm not much of a fan of New Grist. I've always found it to have an undesirable aftertaste. Of course, beers come in many different styles to suit many different palattes, so as long as you're enjoying your beer (or your six pack), life's all good!

Cheers, Pete