SAB Master Beer Tasting Insights For A Better Consumer Experience


Ever wondered what goes on during beer manufacturing?  How do breweries manage to produce consistent quality every time?  The insights below might give you an idea of what goes on.  In addition to that, you might want to take some notes to sharpen up your beer tasting skills……


With more than 2 000 accredited beer tasters at its operations around the world, it’s fair to say that perfection is a key component in the making of beer at SABMiller.

Ensuring that the consumer taste experience offers exceptional quality at every occasion is serious business, so much so that SABMiller hosts an annual internal Global Taster challenge encouraging its beer tasters to stay ahead of the game in terms of their expertise.


SAB’s Consumer Science and Sensory Manager of Brewing, Danie Odendaal recently shared some insights into beer tasting, flavour and appreciation during a Beer Tasting Master Class at SAB’s World of Beer in Newtown, Johannesburg.


It is imperative that our products taste the same wherever our consumers crack open a can, be it in Dar es Salaam, Cape Town or Maputo.  “Our trade brewers spend time making sure the beer experience is the same throughout our markets,” says Odendaal.


To illustrate this during the Master Class, Odendaal used three Castle Lagers that had been treated with flavours used to train beer tasters, and one control glass of standard Castle Lager.


It is important to take note of how strong or weak a flavour is in a product,” cautioned Odendaal before beginning with the tasting. “There is an art to tasting beer. Test your olfactory senses. Some aromas might blind you so take a cursory sniff. Give the glass a slight swirl (see featured image) and raise it higher towards your nose. This releases some of the volatile flavours, for example, the fruity, sweet notes of esters, which you get on Carling Black Label.”


Many people perceive this to have a banana-like smell. Concentrate the smells in the top of the glass by closing it up with the palm of your hand while swirling. Then, give it a nice, deep sniff and smell the different aromas. Use all your senses. Touch, feel, taste and smell. The carbonation in beer sets off some of your pain receptors but we experience this sensation in a pleasant way.”


The three flavours treated in the beers at the Master Class were:

The first glass contained a sour sample, echoing a beer with too much lactic acid from bacterial contamination. “A beer should never be sour unless the beer style requires it,” Odendaal said.

The second was a “light struck beer”, mimicking the effects of sunlight on a beer. “The reason beer is presented in a brown or green bottle is to protect it from the sun.” This beer had herbal, toffee-like notes when nosed.


The third beer had a papery flavour, which is a result of oxidation reactions which occur naturally in a beer over time.  “It smells reminiscent of an old book, with a cardboard-like taste and smell. A stale beer is a diminished beer losing most of the taste character the brewer intended for you to enjoy.  Cool temperatures preserve beers by slowing these natural reactions, doubling or even tripling their lifespan.”

As to how to train their memories to recall each of the smells and tastes, Odendaal encouraged tasters to use their world experience to connect it to the flavours. “If it smells like something your grandmother used to cook, then remember that smell so that you can make the connection.”

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About Author


Thuli Gogela is a Food Technologist with 8 years of experience developing products in food manufacturing. She is dedicated to discovering wholesome traditional dishes and recipes with a distinctive taste from different parts of the African continent. Thuli is well known for her food blog, Mzansi Style Cuisine which was established in 2010. She saw a gap in the traditional food market that people were hungry for. From there, it didn’t take long to build her brand. In 2013, she started writing a recipe column for the Cape Times for and has collaborated with some of the biggest brands in South Africa namely, Knorr, Nedeburg Wines, First Choice and Spekko rice. Not only does Thuli feature traditional African dishes, she’s also open to developing recipes, food consultations and brand collaborations.

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