Notwithstanding the sophistication of modern production, distribution and retail operations, assessment of product flavour quality, both in-process and in final package, remains as important today as it has ever been.
It all sounds easy! Why then do most breweries suffer from between 20 and 100 known problems at any one time with many more going undetected? Often the reason is simple – a lack of trained problem-solvers in the brewery. And an untrained problem-solver, taking the wrong steps to fix a problem, may create several new problems in the process.
The ability to prevent future beer production problems and deal with existing ones is an essential skill in the brewing operations of today.
We have pioneered the development of problem management systems and tools for application in the brewery environment. With production problems costing millions of dollars per brewery each year, this is a key area of business continuity which should not be overlooked.
We have helped breweries solve all kinds of process problems, including brewhouse yield problems, brewhouse cycle time and extract loss problems, brewery yeast problems, fermentability problems, fobbing problems, microbiological problems, problems with off-flavours and taints, flavour stability problems, and beer haze issues.
Analysis of the flavour of foods and beverages be used to find out how different people react to sets of products (to find out who likes what). It can also be used to find out about products by using groups of people as a type of measuring instrument (to ‘measure’ the flavour of different products).
It is measurement of product flavour that is most commonly practiced in production sites making soft drinks, beer, cider etc. Analysis of how different people react to different products is the domain of consumer research, which is usually carried out in the marketplace. In both cases testing is carried out ‘blind’ without the assessors having any knowledge of the identity of the samples they are being asked to evaluate. Such blind taste tests are the cornerstone of sensory analysis.
Two approaches can be applied to manage quality in food and beverage production operations. Systems based on quality control (QC) place an emphasis on testing the final product. Batches of product that fail to meet pre-determined quality standards are rejected. The causes of failure are investigated retrospectively. Those based on quality assurance (QA) emphasise testing of raw materials and in-process samples. They place importance on prevention of problems, rather than on their detection.