Blind Tasting: Analysed

The Wheatsheaf Hotel’s little tin shed was packed to the brim on Saturday 14 January 2017 as I hosted my first event ‘So You Think You Know SA Craft Beer’. The 55 strong crowd included first time beer drinkers, beginner craft drinkers, all the way through to seasoned veterans. There were beer sales representatives, home brewers, BJCP judges, some supportive family members and friends in the crowd.

The crowd was asked if they ever judged a book by its cover and what factors influence their beery decisions. Marketing and labels play a huge part in the craft beer industry and Rodge Smith from Big Red Dog Design gave some pointers to the crowd about label making, as he designs the labels for Big Shed Brewing Concern.

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What is Your Top Five SA Beers?

Before the competitive blind tasting began, I asked everyone to write down their top five favourite SA beers. Some of their favourites were:

Pirate Life Pale Ale: 13

Brew Boys Hoppapotamus: 11

Pirate Life IIPA: 9

Prancing Pony IRA:9

Coopers Pale Ale: 9

Pirate Life IPA: 8

Prancing Pony Pale Ale: 7

Little Bang Galactopus: 6

Mismatch XPA: 5

Big Shed Golden Stout Time: 5

Coopers Sparkling: 5

 A break down of the breweries voted for before the blind tasting:

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 Let the Blind Tasting Begin

The mood in the room changed from subdued to extremely jolly very quickly as the first six beers were poured and brought to the tables. The first beer was from Robe Town, a brewery known for their farmhouse style beers. There were elements of funk in this pale ale as it has been open fermented and filtered through hay. Beer number two saw Pikes pale ale brought to the table. This beer is the newest addition to the Pikes family and was received extremely well with numerous positive comments. Beer three and Clare Valley’s pale ale was next, again with a large number of positive comments. Prancing Pony’s Hopwork Orange APA was beer number four and this one seemed to confuse quite a few drinkers, with very few being able to guess the brewery or the beer. The new kids on the block Shifty Lizard provided the pale ale for number five. With Mismatch’s XPA rounding out the pale ale section. This XPA is said to nestle in between the pale ale and IPA category. The pale ale category was super confusing for most, with very few able to guess the correct brewery. Nine drinkers thought I had thrown them a mega curveball and believe I had added in Coopers pale ale as one of the beers, this was incorrect.

After a short toilet break and a very entertaining game of heads and tails, the punters had beer on their table again with beer number seven. All the way from South Australia’s River Land, Woolshed’s Cherax Destructor was tasting super fresh. Some people likened this one to Brew Boys Hoppapotamus and Pirate Life’s IIPA. Beer number eight was the Smiling Samoyed IPA, that was only bottled and picked up from the brewery the day before the event. Towards the end of the beers now and the little tin shed was abuzz with happy punters. Beer nine introduced Pirate Life’s IPA into the mix with quite a large number guessing the correct brewery. Rounding out the ten beers was Wheaty Brewing Corps Blood Oats. This beer was awarded the most correct guesses for the evening.

After everyone had rated their beers and completed all their guesses, it was voting time. To vote everyone visited my website and clicked on the survey link. The audience still didn’t know which beers were which but instead were voting on beers 1-6 in the pale ale category and beer 7-10 in the IPA category.

Once everyone had voted, we marked our sheets as a group and revealed the donating breweries and their beers. There was quite a few ‘ohhhhs’ and ‘ahhhhs’ in the audiences as each beer was displayed on the big screen. We had two winners for the day Mark Reed and Luke Scrivens on 12 out of 20, with Aidan Galpin and Marc Huber coming second with 11 out of 20.

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The Winning Brewers

The winner of the Pale Ale category with 22 votes was CLARE VALLEY BREWING COMPANY with their pale ale. Big congratulations to them and their beer. Coming in a close second on 20 votes was Mismatch’s XPA, with Pikes and Shifty Lizard coming in equal third on 13 with their pale ales.

Pale Ales

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Beer 1: Robe Town Pale Ale, Beer 2: Pikes Pale Ale, Beer 3: Clare Valley Pale Ale, Beer 4: Prancing Pony Hopwork Orange APA, Beer 5: Shifty Lizard Pale Ale, Beer 6: Mismatch XPA.

The IPA category was an extremely close affair with all IPAs rating extremely highly. In the end SMILING SAMOYED’S IPA won the vote with 24 votes. Congratulations to Kate and Simon for their super delicious IPA, well done. Second place went to Jade at Wheaty Brewing Corps with her Blood Oats on 22 votes. Closely behind were the Pirates with their IPA with 21 votes.

IPAs

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Beer 7: Woolshed Cherax Destructor, Beer 8: Smiling Samoyed IPA, Beer 9: Pirate Life IPA, Beer 10: Wheaty Brewing Corps Blood Oats.

How Much Influence Does Marketing Have on the Market?

A very interesting discovery was made throughout this blind tasting. At the beginning I asked each participant to write down their top five SA beers. Some of those beers featured in the tasting. A total of ten people voted one of their top five beers poorly during the blind tasting, which does prove marketing is a big influence in the industry. By reading the participants top five beers, I also discovered that a large number of drinkers are very brand loyal. Quite a few drinkers put down several beers from the one brewery. Only four participants who listed one of the top five beers followed through with a high rating of that beer under blind tasting conditions.

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Concluding

Breweries will continue to throw large wads of cash towards their marketing schemes in order to win over their drinkers and create fan clubs across Australia. Removing the labels through blind tasting is extremely interesting because it levels the playing field. Breweries that are smaller and can’t afford large marketing campaigns but still make great beer, can compete in a fairer manner. ‘So You Think You Know SA Craft Beer’ was a huge success as I have received a large number of positive comments and useful feedback. Thanks again for the support, thanks to everyone at the Wheatsheaf Hotel, thanks for reading my website and I hope to see you all at another event soon.

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