​How to Set Up Employees for a Successful Tasting ​

​Think of a basketball player. They are (for the most part) good at standing at the free-throw line​ and knocking those down. It’s the same, says MadTree‘s Trevor Self, helping train employees for a tasting panel.

​”​If you have the skills to do it, practice makes you even better than just having raw talent,” he said, adding that those who put in the effort day in and day out are the ones who can immediately detect a difference or pick up on when something is off.

The Cincinnati-based brewery offers monthly training sessions for its employees and Self, who is the Brand Education Specialist for the brewery, has his group do daily releases on beer, and intermittently perform a triangle test or a blind tasting to keep the panelists trained and challenged.

In having these ​types of ​panels, ​Self said they have caught a batch of beer that wasn’t up to par and were able to confirm the issue that the panelists picked up on, pinpoint the problem and fix it the next time around.

​”​We have made actual tangible changes in the brewing process from whirlpool hop additions to yeast pitch rates to make our product even better​,” he said.​

​The main tasting panel is set up for evaluating beer on the day of package and ​ends with filling out a form that releases ​the packaging to the market or ​has​ it held in the brewery for further research. Before the beer ​is ​packaged, ​MadTree’s head brewer, production manager and sensory manager give a quick pass of the beer before ​the ​packaging ​department ​starts up the canning line.

​”​We have a small room in our production area where each panelist goes to pour a sample of whatever brand is being packaged that day​,” Self explained​. ​”​It is there for them to be able to just focus on the beer in front of them with no distractions, other smells or other opinions getting in their way.​”​

​The panel consists of a wide range of employees at MadTree. It includes employees from production, quality, graphic design and HR. It also has panels as an ‘IPA task force,’ barrel-aged beer specific training, and new product development.

In order to create a panel, ​MadTree started to train all of ​its employees on off-flavors as well as ​knowing and defining core brands and ​what ​each is supposed to taste like to help maintain as much batch-to-batch consistency as possible.

​Self said through triangle tests, tetrad tests, recognition training, scaling and true/false testing ​the brewery has ​been able to see who ​the top performers in the company were. This ​has ​allowed ​Self to hone in on 10-15 people to really focus on training and rely on to evaluate ​MadTree’s beer.

​”The key is to have not only a well-trained panelist who knows off-flavors and our brands well, but also someone who is dedicated to taste the beer day in and day out with the ability to separate bias and to honestly provide feedback on each beer regardless of whether or not it is a style they like or not,” Self said.

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