Brewers neglecting ‘field quality’: Expert

Very few brewers pay adequate attention to ensuring their beers are of a consistently high quality when they are presented to consumers in the marketplace, according to Brewers Association quality ambassador Neil Witte.

Witte recently founded field qualityconsultancy Craft Quality Solutions, after finishing up a long stint as quality control liaison for the Duvel USA family of beer brands. Also a Master Cicerone, he replaced Dick Cantwell as BA quality ambassador in February this year.

“I’ve had a lot of experience over the past 16 years working with beer outside the brewery,” he told delegates at the Craft Brewers Conference 2017 this week.

“I tell you, it still is one of those areas where there’s a lot of people paying a little bit of attention… but there’s not a lot of people paying a lot of attention to what’s happening to beer in the marketplace.”

Neil Witte, second from right in the quality panel at CBC 2017 this week. Picture credit Brewers Association

Witte said the Quality Priority Pyramid developed by the BA is every bit as applicable to beer once it leaves the brewery.

“I challenge brewers to think about this Quality Pyramid not just through the lens of what’s happening inside the brewery or in your lab or on the packaging line,” he said.

The Quality Priority Pyramid

“This is something that I think requires a lot of focus from a lot more brewers. There’s a lot of attention that needs to be paid to things like transportation, storage and distribution, things like line cleaning and draft system design.”

Witte said he is constantly shocked at how few brewers put legible date codes on their beers that can be easily understood by the consumer.

“It does a disservice to your own brewery and really the industry,” he said.

Consumers know bad beer
Witte said the landscape has changed for brewers in America, where many beer drinkers are now much more educated than previously.

“A lot of consumers are now able to pick up when something is not quite right with the beer, but they might not know enough to know that maybe this is something that is not really the brewery’s fault, per se,” he said.

“Can they tell if it’s something from a dirty draft line or if it’s something that’s coming out of the brewery? If the beer tastes bad to them, well you just made bad beer and they don’t know any different.”

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