Why Bad Beer Can Be Good For Your Brewery

Sometimes, breweries can have “happy accidents” or else find out what the consumer likes and doesn’t like during an experimentation period. Sometimes, that bad beer can lead to great beer, new lines of thinking and eventually a better balance ledger.

One of those moments came for Boulder, Colorado’s Upslope Brewing early on in its development.

Head brewer Sam Scruby said a temperature sensor malfunction led to a change in how the brewery fermented its Belgian Style Pale Ale.

“We would brew into two 15-barrel fermenters and blend the two batches into our 30-bbl brite tank,” Scruby explained to Brewer. “We brewed our Belgian Pale ale into both of ‘The Twins’ and left for the weekend. Unfortunately (or maybe, fortunately), our temperature sensor crapped out on one of the tanks and the beer fermented at a much higher temperature than what our yeast provider recommended. We found out about the error on Saturday and came in to expect the worst.”

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Yet, when Scruby and his team tasted the fermenting beer in a side-by-side comparison, they preferred the higher temperature fermentation batch more.

“We decided the errant fermentation was more in line with what we wanted,” he said, noting that the beer has gone on to win numerous awards. We are very happy to have discovered this fermentation tweak via “Murphy’s Law,” he said.

For Adam Robbings, co-founder and head brewer at Reuben’s Brews in Seattle, working with experimental hops can be tricky. Being in a hop-forward area such as the Pacific Northwest can mean that many customers are willing to try to ideas, but it doesn’t always work out.

“[It’s] an interesting phenomenon,” he said. “Lots of customers like the idea, but when they try it often, experimental hops are too unlike what people expect — and they aren’t sure about the new flavor profile.”

Robbings said that his team has learned to work on smaller batches with experimental hops going forward.

“We’ll see what we like about the hop profile and work on a blend in very small batches before brewing something for distribution,” he said.

Upslope photo courtesy of Luke Trautwein. Reuben’s Brews photo courtesy of Reuben’s Brews.

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