Ignore This Post If You Don't Care What Your Beer Tastes Like

Before I really started to understand beer, I probably drank my fair share of off-flavored pints. The difference now is that I know what those off flavors taste like; a somewhat unfortunate side effect of getting to know our favorite, sudsy beverage. I say, "somewhat unfortunate" because those beers never really hurt me, and I didn't know any better, so the only disservice here is to the pubs and breweries that didn't receive appropriate feedback. Which possibly proliferated the impurity of their professional pint programming. Ah, alliteration.

I love the Internet.

I love the Internet.

So, today, we're going to gloss over some off flavors in a hopefully simple impurity primer. I may go more in depth into any one of the following things at another date but I'm pretty sensitive to eye glaze so I'll try not to get too technical on you. And, as always, there will be pictures to make you blink once or twice.

Perhaps the most popular off-flavor and the one most tasted by people, (even those that don't know what it is or that it's off) is, oh, hold on, I have something for this:

If you click on the image above it will take you to a fun video about how your beer gets "skunked". In fact, it's so good, you should just do that real quick and come back. Go ahead, I'll stay right here.

See? Wasn't that fun and informative? Now, how about the image of a swimming pool filled with beer? Yusssss...

Everyone's senses are different and there are lots of us who can't actually taste some of these off flavor compounds. For example, I have to have a pretty heavy dose of diacetyl to get it but I'm really sensitive to DMS. Nevertheless, here's some of the more distinctive off flavors that you might run across and what they actually taste like in beer:

3-Methyl-2-Butene-1-Thiol "Skunky" or "Light-struck"
Tastes/smells like - skunk cabbage, cat musk
Just watch the video. Seriously. It's short and comical.

Acetone
Tastes/smells like: nail polish remover, paint thinner

Acetyldehyde
Tastes/smells like: green apples, freshly cut pumpkin

This apple isn't green but it's creepy. Just like your beer with acetyldehyde would be.

This apple isn't green but it's creepy. Just like your beer with acetyldehyde would be.

Chloro/phenol
Tastes/smells like: plastic, vinyl, Band-Aids

Diacetyl
Tastes/smells like: butter, butterscotch, often accompanied with a slick feeling on the tongue

Dimethyl Sulfide (DMS)
Tastes/smells like: cooked corn and/or vegetables

Trans-2-Nonenal
Tastes/smells like: cardboard, paper, sherry wine

Blink! Dammit, blink!

Blink! Dammit, blink!

We're thinking about doing an off-flavor tasting at the brewery. This would involve doctoring several light lagers, each with a different off flavor compound so you can taste and see if you can pick up any of these flaws. We'll keep you updated as to if and when that might happen. In fact, that's something we would put in our shiny, new, monthly newsletter, (hint: sign up here).

Let us know if you'd be interested in this type of a class by emailing us: whitewall@whitewallbrewing.com, and remember, ignorance may be bliss but you can hardly ignore skunk butt if it shows up in your beer...

Lyra Penoyer