A short time ago I was presented with the rare opportunity for a mass taste-testing. A friend of mine was having an anniversary celebration and asked if I could brew a couple of beers for the event. I immediately accepted. This would be an excellent opportunity to test my brews with a wider audience and to promote the nascent brewery.
My friend granted me free rein to choose what I would brew. I decided to do one traditional style beer, such as we will be brewing when we open, and one more modern style beer. Both beers started with a basic pale ale recipe of my own creation. One was lightly hopped and about 3.5% alcohol. The other was more heavily hopped, along the lines of an IPA, and had about 6% alcohol. Since I was using some of my own hops, I had no way to calculate IBU's for the beers. When finished, both tasted very good to me. I had hit my intended mark with both efforts.
The night of the big event came. I did not give the guests too detailed descriptions of the beers. I wanted people to try them without prejudice. I decided to put out the lower alcohol/bitterness beer first. I was very pleased with the crowd reaction. I received numerous compliments. Many guests noted that it did not "taste like any other beers". Perhaps the best compliment was the speed with which the keg emptied.
Once the first beer was gone I hooked up the second keg. These results were very interesting. The crowd was split right down the middle. Several guests complimented me on yet another good brew. However, just as many stated that they liked the first beer better and the second keg took much longer to empty.
What I take away from this is that I am on the right track. My recipes and style of brewing has a wide appeal. There is real potential for strong sales once we get the brewery up and running.
In other taste testings, I have noticed a definite prejudice against lower alcohol/malty beers. If you don't tell people what they are drinking, the results are 90% positive. If I say ahead of time "This is 3% alcohol and lightly hopped," I get a 50/50 split. One rather proud critic of all things beer boldly predicted the failure of our brewery because "Anything other than a double IPA is not worth drinking."
Given the results from my friend's party, it appears that there are beers other than double-IPA's that are worth brewing. The key getting people to taste them with an open mind.