For more than a dozen years, Gary Spedding has been conducting mini-sensory classes for Great American Beer Festival (GABF) and World Beer Cup judges and each year shows up with a new lesson. “They ask what we’ll come up with next to fool them,” says Spedding. These are not parlor games. One year, for instance, Spedding presented beers containing the same amount of bittering acids. One was spiked with more aromatic odor compounds, and judges consistently described it as more bitter. “We’re focusing on what influences perceptions,” Spedding says.
He runs the Brewing and Distilling Analytical Services (BDAS) in Lexington, KY, which provides a full range of testing for breweries of all sizes. Spedding talks about each piece of equipment in his laboratory with a certain paternal pride, explaining the value of the measurements it makes. He earned a Ph.D. in biochemistry in his native England and was laboratory director at Siebel Institute of Technology before he founded BDAS in 2002. He respects numbers, but also understands the role sensory analysis plays in determining beer quality.
“As far as I know we are the only lab [providing] sensory analysis along with chemical testing,” Spedding said. The importance of beer quality was a major topic of discussion at the 2014 Craft Brewers Conference. Labs like BDAS give smaller brewers access to the same analysis as those with their own equipment. The owners of Country Boy Brewing, which opened in 2012 and made 1,744 barrels in 2013, understand that better than most. They brew just a mile from Spedding’s lab. “All the time we are asking ourselves, ‘Are we using Gary enough?’” says co-founder Jeff Beagle. That’s a question more brewers might also ask.
This profile appears in the November 2014 issue of All About Beer Magazine. Click here for a free trial of our next issue.