Foul Beer

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Josh Oakes
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Postby Josh Oakes » Fri Aug 17, 2001 11:26 am

I just had a conversation with a brewer who shall remain nameless, who was not thrilled that I had reported the fact that some of his beers were off.

The beers were purchased within the shelf life that was quoted, and the brewer felt that the condition of the beers was the responsibility to the LCBO, due to their improper handling.

Now, we all know the LCBO treats beer rather poorly at times, storing it warm and subjecting it to flourescent lighting, but I want some feedback as to where the problem really lies.

I tasted these beers as Joe Consumer would, right off the street, with my own cash. If I can buy sour beer, then so can anybody else.

But my sense is, that whether an infection problem stems from issues at the brewery or from the handling, ultimately it is the brewer's responsibility because it is their label on the product. I found the "improper handling" defense to be silly myself, since the brewer has full knowledge of the handling conditions and should account for them before sending the product out to the public.

So what do you guys think? If you get a sour or light-struck beer, is the brewer ultimately responsible?
esprit
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Postby esprit » Fri Aug 17, 2001 2:05 pm

Regardless of who is responsible, I trust you know that you can return any "bad" product for a full refund and then the LCBO will deal with the supplier if if is a regular occurrence.
Josh Oakes
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Postby Josh Oakes » Fri Aug 17, 2001 2:20 pm

Sure, I know that, but a lot of folks wouldn't know. I'm not even sure some of the LCBO people would understand what I'm talking about.

The other thing is that while I know when a beer is off, in this instance both beers were still drinkable but clearing beginning to acidify. A lot of people might not know that this is bad beer, which will very much reflect on the brewery.

But my belief is that you have to work with the system that we have, even though most of us aren't crazy about it. And since most beers don't go off on the LCBO shelves, and it happend with this brewery more than once, with different products, I am inclined to believe that there is more to it than just poor handling. If those bottle-conditioned ales can come in from England in fine condition, one cannot lay the blame solely on the LCBO.

My mind on the matter is made up, I was just curious to see what others thought about it.
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Cass
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Postby Cass » Fri Aug 17, 2001 3:36 pm

This is definitely an interesting question. Who is ultimately responsible - the seller or producer? I think responsibility falls to the brewer, because he/she suffers from "bad-will" more than the LCBO would from a bottle of bad beer.

If someone bought a beer from the LCBO and it turned out to be bad, I believe their first instinct is to associate the responsibility with the brewer rather than the LCBO. The next time they buy they would think "hmmm...that brewery makes skunky beers" rather than "boy, the LCBO sells skunky beers". I'm not saying this is right, but is most likely the mindset of most beer drinkers.

It is the LCBOs responsibility to ensure proper storage, but it is also up to the brewer to give the LCBO hell if their products are stored improperly. What other perishable product in the market is sold under such poor conditions? Again, it's a case of the monopoly dominating. If a brewery wants the product on the shelf, they have to live with the LCBO's ways.

With most products in the marketplace, if a seller is storing a product poorly, which causes negative perception from consumers, they will have the problem fixed or withdraw their product. With beer, unfortunately, the brewer has no where else to go.
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Manul
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Postby Manul » Fri Aug 17, 2001 3:39 pm

Actually I thought I was the only one who noticed LCBO beer mishandled but now when I saw your posting I'm happy someone else noticed it too. I once tried to explain to a few employees at an LCBO next to my place that Creemore Springs Lager and Niagara Falls brewery products are supposed to be stored refrigerated not on the floor at room temperature. The answer was: It's OK!
Same goes for Liberty Ale - it was sitting on the floor at Weston and 401 LCBO. All these products have a large cautionary note on their cases: Keep refrigerated! Looks like some people have problems reading.
Lyle
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Postby Lyle » Fri Aug 17, 2001 3:40 pm

There is quite a difference in the off-flavors generated

1. by an infection
2. in a light/heat-struck beer
3. in an oxidized beer

Abnormal "acidity" - i.e. when it isn't "supposed" to be there - almost always implies that the beer is infected. However, it is certainly true that an infection will progress much faster at warmer temperatures than if the bottle is kept cold.

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Lyle Ostrow
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<font size=-1>[ This Message was edited by: Lyle on 2001-08-17 18:02 ]</font>
Josh Oakes
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Postby Josh Oakes » Fri Aug 17, 2001 7:55 pm

In the case of light-struck beer, this is pure LCBO if the bottles are brown. The brewer can't do much save for putting them in enclosed six-packs. The blame for skunked-out Heineken usually is split between the stores and the brewery, as both should know better.

For sour beer, the LCBO should know better than to keep unpasteurized beer in a warm environment, especially in summer. That said, the brewery has a responsibility to make sure that the distribution network is supporting their needs. It's not a fun part of running a business, but a necessary one. And no matter what the LCBO does, the beer wouldn't be sour if the bug wasn't in the bottle in the first place.

And Cass is right, the LCBO isn't the one that will suffer from problematic beer. The brewery will, and if the consumer is new to craft beer, so will the industry. I know better, the next guy might not.
Lyle
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Postby Lyle » Sat Aug 18, 2001 5:59 pm

Josh,

Unless it is a style that is "supposed" to have a contribution from slight bacterial fermentation - the acid shouldn't be there no matter what. Heat the beer as warm as you want. (of course, a lot of other off flavors will develop).

During a properly sanitized fermentation and bottling, the bacteria just shouldn't be there. If the beer is within its printed "date" - then in this particular case I would say that it is definitely the fault of the brewer.
Lyle Ostrow
Premier Gourmet
3465 Delaware Avenue
Kenmore, NY 14217
tel:(716) 877-3574
email: premierbeer@adelphia.net

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