Frieda Dehrmann, SAB’s Consumer Science and Sensory Manager, recently won the title of SABMiller’s Global Taster of the Year after competing against six highly skilled tasters from six international regions served by SABMiller.
The Taster of the Year challenge is in its fourth year and puts some of the best beer tasters in the world against one another. SABMiller’s approximately 1 600 tasters participated in this year’s event.
The Global Taster of the Year aims to recognise the skills of SABMiller’s tasters and their critical contribution to the quality of the end product. It also aims to encourage, maintain and further improve performance in this area. Perhaps it’s interesting to note that women have taken the top position since the event’s inception!
The challenge comprises three tasting sessions in each region. In the first session, participants are presented with nine samples. In the second session, a scaling exercise requires tasters to rank and rate the level of flavour in a sample. Here, the ability to taste the correct level of flavour is judged. In the final session, tasters are required to identify the different flavours in four samples, each with more than one flavour added and must all be identified.
SAB’s tasters spend many dedicated hours ensuring that the company’s brands conform to stringent sensory attributes. Regular taste education ensures that the organisation’s tasters’ skills are carefully developed and their progress monitored. There are more than 144 flavours identified in beer and SAB’s tasters are trained to assess a good portion of these.
Frieda Dehrmann started tasting when she joined SAB’s Prospecton Brewery in KZN in 2000. She says that “passion and persistence” are key attributes of a great beer taster. “Beer tasting is something that you must firstly be genuinely interested in doing. From there on, you can train yourself to taste well. It’s a learned process that takes commitment to being educated and personal concentration.”
She adds that there are benefits to honing your skills as a beer taster. “The real benefit of beer tasting is the personal journey of becoming in touch with your senses. It’s an exciting lesson in how to be in touch with your smell, taste, touch and sight senses, which contributes to being a whole person.”
Frieda’s interest in tasting stems from her professional training as a biochemist. Here she learned the way that the body interacts with external stimuli and how the cell and the nerves respond to this. Tasting is the practical application of biochemistry, neurophysiology and physics – all in a glass. She says that tasting is the “ultimate recreation for the restless intellectual.”
The Beer Tasting Process
Essentially, the beer tasting process can be broken up into the following steps:
- Drive-by sniffing’ – passing the glass under the nose
- ‘Under-the-covers’ testing – putting the hand over the glass and swirling to release volatiles to the top of glass
- Taking two deep sniffs
- Taking a mouthful and swirling it on the tongue
- Swallowing – the flavour comes back up the throat: this is called the ‘retro nasal effect’