Quality Control

ImageEver sent a beer back?

How’d it go? Nerve racking? Liberating?

I’ve sent beer back. I’ve never had a barman agree with me and always felt like a jerk doing it.

Even when pointing out bottles were past their expiration date. I did it quietly, politely and did not expect a freebie in return (but I had anticipated something). The barman’s response “oh yeah we don’t sell many of those”. I pointed out the other bottle we bought was 1 day before its date also; and he said “strange, we get delivery of those every week”.

That was about all he offered.

I found it pretty frustrating considering I know both breweries are passionate about quality control.

We took a beer back the other day because it had a fermentation flaw, and definitely not how it should taste (rather than us just not enjoying it). The barman said “it tasted like that yesterday”.

That beer was $12 a glass. Subsequently it was checked by management and apparently it tasted fine but there was definitely something wrong with ours.

Talking to people recently I’ve heard stories of bars knowing that beers are faulty but leaving them on anyway, brewers who have been told by a room of their peers that their beer was stale but angrily denying it, and breweries knowingly launching faulty beer.

I understand the considerable cost in getting beer from the raw ingredients to my mouth and this is why I am happy to pay $12 a glass.

But why does it feel like what happens in between is left to the drinker to swallow?

I would love to finish on that statement. However, people have also told me of success in taking beer back and having it replaced. And I witnessed it with my own eyes just the other day.

After they agreed to replace it, the beer still remained on the taplist.

As good beer makes inroads into the mainstream market, I’m left to wonder – why the hell should people switch to an industry, trading on quality for price, that has such a high tolerance for flaws?

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  1. Jake says:

    Beer going through bad lines (I’ve had one taste strongly of cider) is a problem too.

    In certain bars, it’s also implied that because I’m female, I wouldn’t know what hops are meant to taste like. Granted, I can’t identify each hop by taste, but sour flavours are usually not hops…

    • My girlfriend had a bit of a rant at me recently when she took a beer back. She definitely felt she was patronized for being a female.

      I can’t say for sure but I do know reputable male beer writers and judges who have had similar experiences when taking beer back. I’m wondering if it’s a “this customer doesn’t know what they are talking about, they just don’t like the taste” thing.

      However, not being a female I can’t put myself in your position to find out. Maybe a bit of a “sting” operation needs to be set up?

  2. I’ve had one taste like cider too. But mostly my experience with beer has been good. I did have bottled beer from two separate breweries that was flat and, when I contacted them, they were quite happy to replace it. One was interstate and even mailed the replacements to me at their own cost.
    That sort of service goes a long way in my book.

    • Agreed – the only brewers that gave feedback to this piece were ones I respected already. It’s the good ones that are good for a reason.

      Sierra Nevada didn’t get to where they are by dumb luck – they brewed a lot of batches before they were comfortable even releasing their first beer. Pouring money down the drain was the best business plan for them.

  3. Scotty says:

    Couldn’t have said it better myself. Had same experience recently atca certain beer themed restaurant in collingwood. ill never go back again now. Happy to pay top dollar but want quality and consistency

  4. Interesting article, I actually recently got into an email discussion with a small craft brewery who do make great beer but just so happens when I buy their beer its always flat! I probably would have spent $50 on flat beer at this brewery. I don’t live in the area so when i do buy this beer and its flat i can’t really take it back. Craft beer is a real passion of mine and i really dislike mainstream crap beers but I must say that at least you know what you are going to get with these beers. Until the craft industry gets its quality control sorted, I don’t see it making large in roads… which is a shame.

    • It’s great that you at least alerted them. It’s a tough decision to make – to tell someone their beer is wrong or just accept it.

      In the end it’s better if they know but not everyone likes criticism.

  5. I actually sent beer back for the first time this weekend. There was so much acetaldehyde it was like having your tongue wrapped in a granny smith.
    The bar tender was great and cheerfully exchanged it, but I’m not sure that the rest of the keg was pulled… maybe they were planning on passing the rest of as cider.

  6. Nick says:

    I’ve had this frustration too. I think one of the problems is that there’s quite a low barrier to entry in running a craft beer bar. A bar can just buy and start selling craft beer alongside or instead of their normal offerings because they think it’ll be profitable. There seem to be more places that sell craft beer than people with actual deep knowledge about beer, it’s production and serving. If they don’t have that knowledge and passion there’s no chance of serving customers in a satisfactory way.

    • Agreed – more and more places are putting on 5 taps of entry level beers and slapping craft on their website.

      It’s good the level is rising, but education needs to rise with it.

  7. I know you probably don’t want to call out the place, but I’d be curious. If it was one of the well known craft beer establishments then I’d be surprised and disappointed, but if it was just a random bar or restaurant with 10 macro brews on tap and one ’boutique’ beer (as my family insists on calling them. I’m not sure why it ruffles my feathers so much. Probably because it has connotations of being expensive or poncy and only for special occasions, when I want so badly for craft beer to just be the normal beer you drink all the time).

    I think beer in this country is still at the stage where actually knowing the differences and nuances of each style (or even the popular styles like IPA, PA, wheat beers etc.) is a fairly niche thing.

    As such, if the bartender doesn’t *really* know their beer, they might just think that that off flavour is supposed to be there. It’s disappointing, but it will change over time as the Australian beer palate wakes up the myriad of delicious flavours and styles on offer.

    • Hey Nik

      I don’t really want to name them. But all places mentioned are more than reptuable and present themselves as “craft” beer bars.

      I think it’s definitely a fault of education of staff.

  8. Gah, hit post too soon. That first paragraph should have finished:

    … I wouldn’t be terribly surprised, though I’d still be annoyed.

  1. February 24, 2014

    […] Ale of a Time – Quality Control […]

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