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Tasting: Double blind and by the numbers

Pardon that the example of how this could work comes from the wine world — making it my second wine originated post in two days — because it’s very beer relevant.

Also, as Ed Carson pointed out with his comment about the rather dense posturing about the brain and wine that there’s a danger of violating New Beer Rules, Nos. 5 and 8, about taking beer too seriously. Fact is you don’t need to know the alcohol content or bitterness units (let alone the level of isoamyl acetate) in a beer to figure out if you like it, or to discuss it with friends.

Part one explains the premise:

There is a better way to review wine. It combines objective assessment with subjective preference in a compelling way, while providing story, context, and accountability. I’m talking scores out of 100, producer and regional story and commentary, double blind tasting, labs for insight and accountability, contextual pop-ups for technical and wine specific information, and beautiful creative commons photography. Pla-dow!

But you know what? No one will ever use such a system. Too risky. High potential for embarrassment. Too costly. Too time consuming. The list is endless.

Basically, double blind means the person (or people) doing the review would taste a beer without knowing anything about it. Not the brewery. Not what country it might be from. Not the style. Just look at the beer, taste the beer, evaluate the beer.

In Part 2 Pinotblogger provides an example of how it works. He starts with his score, the price of a bottle and a summary. Then he writes about the region where the wine was produced and the winery. Next more about his impression from the blind tasting. This is followed by the costly part that likely isn’t going to happen in wine or beer, and might actually be frivolous. That’s sending it to a lab and having it evaluated.

As you can see he got the grape variety wrong and it turned out the particular bottle at quality control issues. I think that makes it more educational.

What beer numbers would I like to see from a lab? The alcohol content and bitterness units for starters. My friend Derek Walsh, who lives in the Netherlands, provided those as well as original gravity, apparent attenuation, color and pH for many beers featured in Brew Like a Monk and Brewing With Wheat (February, Brewers Publications). He calls it a “strip search” and those numbers can tell you a lot.

Still more numbers related to quality control — like the level of dissolved oxygen or the amount of carbon dioxide — would also be interesting. But none of it is going to happen so I better get back to giving you the promised book reviews.

For further reading I suggest checking out the comments at Pinotblogger.


2 Responses to Tasting: Double blind and by the numbers

  1. Bailey October 24, 2009 at 2:06 am #

    These are a couple of good blind-tasting accounts from beer bloggers you might enjoy:

    The first is part of Barry’s ongoing experiment in teaching Germans to actually *taste* their beer, as opposed to basing their judgements on regional chauvinism.

  2. Stan Hieronymus October 24, 2009 at 8:14 am #

    Both great reads, Bailey. Thanks for the links.

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