Blind tasting a better way?

Discussion in 'Beer Talk' started by Traveler1, Feb 9, 2020.

  1. Traveler1

    Traveler1 Initiate (58) Jul 12, 2019 Texas

    Just on a whim, and with my wife’s help, I’ve tried blind-tasting a few different beers that I’ve got on hand in the fridge. The results have been very surprising because many of my ratings of taste differ significantly from previous non-blind ratings. So now I’m wondering about the roles of marketing and expectation play into the non-blind ratings that I’ve posted here. Anyone have insights on this?
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  2. Scott17Taylor

    Scott17Taylor Meyvn (1,459) Oct 28, 2013 Iowa

    Blind tasting is always better in terms of getting an accurate review. I definitely think when trying a hyped beer a lot of people will overinflate their ratings.

    The only thing is, a lot of the time I’m holding my limited bottles for a particular time. Usually when friends are over, which makes it tough to drink blind,
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  3. defunksta

    defunksta Crusader (731) Jan 18, 2019 Illinois

    I blind test a lot of reviews and I'll admit, I am probably frequently influenced by my expectations. But I continue and repeatedly to do so to seek out objectivity. I have been surprised how much my review varies from revisiting some beers. I think palate fatigue is underestimated and even some of the best and complex beers can seem "simple" if you even had a smell or taste of a similar beer within a few minutes.
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  4. Traveler1

    Traveler1 Initiate (58) Jul 12, 2019 Texas

    defunksta, I couldn't agree more. I think I'm going to try blind tasting my entire list to see how much it differs.
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  5. sharpski

    sharpski Meyvn (1,162) Oct 11, 2010 Oregon
    Society Trader

    If you think you're immune to hype or marketing, a true blind tasting should clear that up for you right away. Not everyone wants to leave the state of blissful ignorance, though.
  6. pat61

    pat61 Poo-Bah (5,456) Dec 29, 2010 Minnesota

    I have blind tasted enough beer in competitions and on my own to where my evaluations are fairly close. I am also fairly unaware of beer hype.
    Singlefinpin likes this.
  7. lastmango

    lastmango Champion (898) Dec 11, 2014 Pennsylvania

    Way back in the 80s when I was taking a marketing class in college, my prof wanted to make a point about how advertising affects people. He brought in a number of beers and the class did a blind taste test after each person declared their order of preference. We had those who swore by Bud or Miller. Being in Baltimore, we had to have a National Bohemian product. There were no imports or craft present. But one was a malt liquor, either Colt 45 or Old English. Well, much to the surprise of everyone, the malt liquor scored on top. In the pre-test listing, almost everyone ranked the malt liquor at the bottom of what they would prefer. The Bud and Miller fanatics were howling that the taste test was rigged. Of course, the prof pointed out that they were likely swayed by the constant ads for those beers at the time.
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  8. IMFletcher

    IMFletcher Defender (670) May 2, 2014 Kentucky

    I've been a part of a few blind tastings that revolved around guessing which barrel treatment each variant from a set was -- they went remarkably poorly.

    I'm about to do one with some local haze vs some hyped haze -- all because I told a local brewer I was pretty confident his stuff was on par. He wants to be part of it. I'm eager to see if I'm an idiot or a huge idiot.
  9. JonnoWillsteed

    JonnoWillsteed Meyvn (1,242) Apr 12, 2013 England

    Re: Traveler1's opening post.
    I find blind-tasting productive. It's like no one is guiding what my expectations should be; my judgement is solely down to me. I have levels of how 'blind'.
    - Do I read other reviews on BA beforehand? Not if it's a beer new to me that I'm about to review. I tend to do that after I've posted my review when it's fun comparing my experience to others!
    - I usually check a beer is listed here before sampling it, but that flags up any current rating which risks steering me. That said I'm not afraid to be honest and find a beer others are raving about not to my liking (and vice versa).
    - I also avoid reading any description on say a can/bottle, especially the type such as 'The story of this beer/us' until after I'm done reviewing. My usual baseline info to go on is:- country/brewery/name/style/ABV%. That gives me some idea of where the brewer is likely aiming at.

    For the occasional total blind-tasting. I find this useful for comparing two different beers of a similar style. For example recently a couple of 'trad' English strong ales from breweries with history and repute... Fullers 1845 Strong Ale 6.3% - and - Greene King Heritage Vintage Fine [strong] Ale 6.5%.
    I'd really enjoyed them both on the occasions I'd seen them available in the shops and bought some, both superb quality. The Greene King I could buy 200M from home, the Fullers was available only from a shop about a R/T 3 mile walk across London. Was it worth the journey?

    Blind-tasting side by side (wife kindly pouring them in the kitchen, bringing the glasses to me in the lounge, with zero clues) on a clean palate really showed up how they differ. They're both in my top 20 or 30, but I understand each of them better now.
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  10. IMFletcher

    IMFletcher Defender (670) May 2, 2014 Kentucky

    Update: We did the blind test. They looked the same. They smelled the same. The brewer took a sip of each and immediately knew because of a slight variation on the finish. That variation was noticeable to me when cold, but after 5 minutes we all agreed that it had vanished to the point the two beers were basically identical. But it wasn't necessarily a detracting/benefiting variation, and I can confirm that I was right -- for once.

    Sadly, this doesn't mean my local brewery can now start churning out a beer I have to rely on trading partners for, because not everyone has access to the same hops all the time. But I feel more confident to run over there and give the new stuff he keeps brewing a try.
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  11. Scott17Taylor

    Scott17Taylor Meyvn (1,459) Oct 28, 2013 Iowa

    Agreed, I think most of us probably overrate anything we went into excited. I don’t necessarily think that’s a bad thing, but always take hype with a grain of salt.
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  12. micada

    micada Disciple (306) Jul 13, 2015 New York

    I know I get a sense of positive bias when I pay $12 for a 12 oz bottle of beer. I expect that it’s amazeballs before tasting, but once I do, if I’m being honest, sometimes it’s only meh. FW 23 is like that for me. Great tasting, easy to empty, but for almost $13, ehhhh.
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  13. jesskidden

    jesskidden Poo-Bah (1,944) Aug 10, 2005 New Jersey
    Society Trader

    There was a somewhat infamous (in beer circles, at least) blind beer taste test done in the early '60s by a San Francisco outfit called The Institute for Design Analysis involving 96 drinkers and eight brands of lager beer which found that the average beer drinker:
    • Cannot distinguish between brands.
    • Changes his evaluation once a brand is identified.
    • Reacts differently when the brand only is given than when the actual label is shown.
  14. rgordon

    rgordon Meyvn (1,015) Apr 26, 2012 North Carolina

    Many years ago I worked with a group of wine and beer enthusiasts that also happened to be a fine sales team. One Wednesday a month we would meet from 9:00 AM to 2:00 PM. We would blind taste mostly wine but also beer. The goal was for a group consensus or thumbs down for items submitted to us to potentially add to our growing portfolio. We did not rate in any way. We would attempt to identify grape (beer type), provenance and record our taste impressions. We would compare our notes and vote yea or nay. It was hugely instructive, fun, and invaluable in the development of our palates. Everyone in that group went on to establish a distinguished career in the wine and beer trade. A neutral person would always do the set up, so it was perfectly blind and the best vetting system I've ever been part of. We always had great food to compliment these events.
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  15. islay

    islay Disciple (328) Jan 6, 2008 Minnesota

    That doesn't surprise me at all. 1) The product that tastes the most different from the rest is likely to stand out in a blind tasting and rank at either the top or the bottom. This is one of the fundamental flaws with blind tastings, which I think are mostly a valuable exercise otherwise. Do a blind tasting of malt liquors and throw an AAL into the mix, and the AAL may well rise to the top just for being different. The choice of the field matters considerably. 2) People, especially those with unsophisticated palates (such as a group of college-aged AAL drinkers), tend to gravitate toward sweet products, especially in small doses, and a malt liquor would be by far the sweetest of that bunch. That's why Pepsi did so well in the "Pepsi Challenge" (at what sounds like around the same time as your professor's beer challenge) even as most people in the long-term prefer Coke.

    I think that provides a good lesson that what stands out the most to you in a positive way in a few ounces when compared to other similar products is not necessarily the same as the thing that you'll prefer in large quantities over a long period of time. Blind tastings can be quite revealing of biases, but they can also be misleading with regard to overall preferences.
    lastmango likes this.
  16. GetMeAnIPA

    GetMeAnIPA Defender (618) Mar 28, 2009 California

    Bias is real. People like to think it isn’t but it is.
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  17. lastmango

    lastmango Champion (898) Dec 11, 2014 Pennsylvania

    That was very evident in my college class taste test.
  18. lastmango

    lastmango Champion (898) Dec 11, 2014 Pennsylvania

    I see your point. During that time period in Maryland, craft was almost unheard of and the biggest imports were Heine, Becks and if you really searched, Dortmunder Union.
  19. defunksta

    defunksta Crusader (731) Jan 18, 2019 Illinois

    Sadly so accurate. Even the best of us fall victim.
    lastmango likes this.
  20. ScaryEd

    ScaryEd Poo-Bah (2,369) Feb 19, 2012 New Hampshire

    The problem is I know what beer I'm putting in my fridge so it's kind of silly to even bother. But I absolutely agree that biases exist and I myself have several of them.

    I definitely want to try a blind taste test at some point, particularly with Tree House beer because that's my worst bias. I'm guessing if someone put in a NEIPA from Brewery McBrewbeer I'd probably like it just as much if not more than the TH one. *Shrugs*
  21. defunksta

    defunksta Crusader (731) Jan 18, 2019 Illinois

    Do a blind taste test!
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  22. jonphisher

    jonphisher Aspirant (225) Aug 9, 2015 New Jersey

    Use a black glass too, it’s such a mindfuck and so much fun. If more people tasted truly blind. All/most hype would die. Let’s make it happen.
  23. Rekrule

    Rekrule Defender (645) Nov 11, 2011 Massachusetts

    Triangle test is the most fun with styles. Can you even pick the beer that's different from a pair of three? The answer is that you are guessing every time.
    jonphisher likes this.