There is no “bad” feedback.

A lifelong friend got her degree recently and invited us to her graduation/just-moved-to-your-neighborhood beach party this afternoon. Earlier in the morning, Vicki and I had bottled-up several experimental batches of beer*, so we decided to bring a few bottles to get some live taste tests.

*And cider. More on that in a bit.

We brought along with us our English IPA (#1), Stout (#4) and some Hard Apple Cider (#1). (The numbers represent which evolution of the recipe it is. So, for example, our Pretty Purple Porter — currently our best selling product — is #5, meaning the 5th iteration of the recipe from which we started. To continue the example, this is our 4th try to get the Stout the way we want it. Anyway…)

The crowd had a few beer drinkers, so we poured out a few plastic cups and passed them around. Vicki and I had tasted everything just prior to bottling (“quality control”! 🙂 ), so we’d already formed our opinions, but we wanted to hear what others had to say.

And here’s a thing that happened: Someone would say, for example, of the cider “oh, this is good; I love cider…” and I would ask “you don’t think the Star Anise — the licorice flavor — is too overpowering? I was thinking of cutting it back quite a bit in the next batch” and they’d say “well, yeah — it’s pretty strong. But I didn’t want diss your product that you gifted to the party…”

Ok, I started to say “there’s no such thing as bad feedback”, but that’s not quite true. There’s no such thing as bad honest feedback. If you (plus too many others) tell me something I made is great but it’s really not-great (or even just so-so), I could well go off and make tons & tons of it only to learn later that nobody really likes it and that’s not good for any of us. So, oddly enough, I greatly prefer what some people might call “bad” (I call “correcting”) feedback.

In the end, it worked out, and all the tasters pretty-much confirmed what Vicki and I already knew — which is nice because it also confirms that we have a solid working sense of the public palate, even if we don’t personally like some of the trendier things — but I thought it funny how many people were shy about offering honest feedback, even when presented with “this is an experimental batch and I don’t know if it’s any good or not, so you can be the one to help decide if we make more of it”.

I suppose more people were taught to try to be nice to others than have a background in product quality. That’s probably good in general, but I’m glad product-quality people exist, too, and that honest feedback can [usually] be coaxed out of the others. 🙂

In case you’re curious, the general feedback, confirming Vicki and my taste-tests, was:

  • English IPA: dead-on. Darned good beer. Clearly not an American or West Coast IPA, but excellent, none the less.
    We’re particularly proud because we designed the recipe for a specific taste and feel, and it came out pretty-much exactly as designed on the 1st try. 🙂
  • Stout: Good, drinkable, but kind-of skirting the line between stout-styles and needs to pick a direction. One taster suggested it might be good with a nuttier flavor. Prior to that, I thought I liked the flavor but it needed a softer mouth feel and wanted to see what it tasted like on Nitro, but I think S#5 will also include some of a nuttier roast. (I’m trying to keep it within Reinheitsgebot — the “Beer Purity Law” — so no actual nuts or nut-products, here.)
  • Cider: A good, “fun” taste — especially if you like Star Anise (licorice) — but that flavor is a bit overpowering. Two tasters suggested “it tastes like Christmas” and suggested it might work as a seasonal offering. We may do that (or something similar), but C#2 will definitely have dialed back and rearranged botanicals. I think I might also experiment with a yeast that brings out more of the apple flavor, as this one fermented to almost imperceptible.

In other news, when we got home we tasted our brand-new (before carbonation) bourban-oak aged porter and… Oh Em Gee!!!! “This is going to be a-mazing!” we both said, simultaneously. 🙂

Can’t wait to get that one into bottles (after a bit more age).

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