Discussions surrounding brewing consistency are voluminous. From the book Standards of Brewing: A Practical Approach to Consistency and Excellence by Dr. Charles Bamforth to rampant homebrewing forums, you could argue that consistency is the fifth ingredient in beer (never mind that brewers would say it’s star anise, truffle salt or grits).
One of the keys to success in the brewing business – or any manufacturing industry – is offering a consistent product so the consumer knows what he’s getting each time. But in no small part, isn’t that anathema to what we love about our little indie breweries? If we all wanted homogenized beer, we know very well where to find that.
Is consistency overrated? Is is ever okay to be differently great rather than consistently good? Famously, some of the most beloved breweries bottled beer with quality issues such as under or over carbonation, infection or visual imperfections. That’s certainly not an accepted inconsistency.
Paul Arney, who recently left Deschutes Brewery to start The Ale Apothecary, blogged about issues of control and what he dubs a Sensory Smorgasbord. He said, “Most breweries strive for consistency with a constantly changing flow of raw materials… Wonderful for our beer that we grab 12-packs… Could you imagine wineries striving for a consistent product year after year? What would be the point?”
So, whether it’s that case of seasonal release in your beer cellar to conduct vertical tastings, or simply your local’s flagship that you’d know in the dark with your tongue tied behind your back, do you celebrate variation of a single beer? When, if ever, should brewers make like homebrewers/cooks (add a pinch of Galena hops here, a dash of flaked oats there, mash at anywhere from 147-159 degrees to taste) and have customers enjoy the variation batch after batch?