Introduction to Our Sensory Program

How do we ensure each and every All Day IPA is just as tasty as the one that came before it? A team of highly-trained Founders employees who make up our sensory panel (along with rigorous microbiological and chemical testing), that’s how. Learn more about this incredible process from our Sensory Specialist, Jason V., below:

man displaying five snifters on tray and reaching through window

A sensory panel utilizes the human senses of sight, smell, and taste to methodically evaluate the attributes of a beer. The intent is simple in nature, but complex in approach – to ensure the flavors in each of our beers are what we intended to create and are consistent from batch to batch. Producing beers that taste great and are free of off flavors is paramount to our success as a brewery. Alongside microbiological and chemical testing, sensory is a vital tool to ensure every batch of beer that goes out into the world is of the highest quality.

The complexity of a sensory panel arises from the use of humans who act as the “analytical instrument”. The human palate can be a very powerful instrument if given the proper training. Before a Founders employee can join the sensory panel, which is comprised of about 30 people, they must first go through several rounds of training. Training will teach them how to best use each of their senses, to describe and recognize beer flavors, and to identify off flavors when things go wrong in the brewing process. Being a sensory panelist is not like riding a bike; constant practice and learning is required to be an effective beer taster.

person wearing headphones sipping beer from snifter under dim light in a lab setting

When the panelists are ready, after training and testing of their skills, they can begin to evaluate batches of beer as part of our daily sensory panel. For every Founders beer, there is a flavor target to define the desired appearance, aroma, taste and mouthfeel we are hoping to achieve. The flavor target serves as a reference point, to which panelists compare subsequent batches to. Because there is power in numbers, several panelists evaluate the same beer individually and determine whether that batch is consistent with the target. Apply some statistical analysis, and we can monitor the flavor quality in every batch of beer we make! Also, identifying batches that are acceptable, but slightly off target, allows us to dig into our process to make improvements. Our beer keeps getting better!

Humans are smart creatures, so certain sensory tricks must be employed to maintain robust data and keep panelists on their toes. First, distractions are removed such as external noises and foreign aromas in the room. Headphones, dividers, and air purifiers are great for this! Next, is to limit the amount of bias the panelists have. Biases are preconceived opinions and can lead to false conclusions about the beer. It’s important to limit the sample information given to panelists, randomize serving orders, and incorporate spiked samples. Constantly controlling the environment, monitoring, and testing panelists ensures we are capturing accurate sensory data.

For every Founders beer (and seltzer!), you can be sure that our skilled sensory panel has tasted it first, ensuring quality and consistency in every batch. Cheers to them!

Sound like a dream job? Check out our open positions here and maybe one day you too could be quality checking our beer!

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2 Comments on “Introduction to Our Sensory Program”
  1. Christina

    When I worked at Founders I was lucky enough to sit on the sensory panel…it was my favorite weekly meeting! Keep being awesome FBC!

    • Founders Brewing Co.

      You keep being awesome as well, Christina!

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