Good sensory techniques for training a beer panel

Sensory Session
Mona B Wolf , The Wolf Group, Cincinnati, OH, USA
Co-author(s): Jill Rolfes, The Wolf Group, Cincinnati, OH, USA

ABSTRACT: A panel that provides sound, quality data is one that clearly understands its objectives and purpose for creation. In the initial selection phase, screening for various tasting acuities is paramount to understanding the panel’s strengths as well as limitations. Clearly acknowledging how different tasting techniques affect the palate and preparing uniform samples ensures panelists better understand the attributes being profiled. Continual and ongoing practice sessions with real time feedback foster confidence within the panel. “Feedback” references panelist analysis with report generation that clearly brings to light key attributes that need reintroduction for future practice and eventual mastery. The development of a scaling system depends on proper attribute references and acute lexicon development specifically tailored to the innate nuances of beer. These references provide a way for all panelists to “be on the same page,” as it is understood all palates and olfactory abilities are not created the same—much in the same way the development of proper lexicon terminology is critical for the panel to “think” about the product as a cohesive unit starting from the same point of reference. Proper lexicon development ensures single flavors are not simply piled into one group when they are in fact separate attributes. Moderators must be aware of fatigue within the panel. Allowing sufficient break time between sampling sessions and setting concrete limits to the number of samples tested are favorable ways to avoid this most common and often overlooked pitfall.

Mona Baker Wolf, founder and president of The Wolf Group, encompasses more than 30 years of knowledge, expertise, and practice in sensory evaluation. Since 1988, Mona has established herself and The Wolf Group as a respected partner in the consumer research industry. Mona is also a consultant, speaker, and trainer in the application of state-of-the-art sensory techniques. Mona is the president and founder of WolfSENSORY, Inc. a private sensory-consulting firm with clients across the United States and Canada. In addition, she is the founder and president of WolfSERVICES, Inc., which is a contract testing lab specializing in quality control and quality assurance testing, combining traditional analytical and microbial techniques with sensory profiling. Mona holds a B.S. degree in food science from Purdue University, and an MBA from the Rochester Institute of Technology. She serves as chair for the ASTM Sub-committee E18.05 for Sensory Applications – General and is past chair of ASTM Sub-committee E18.08 on Sensory Evaluations by Consumers. She is the coeditor of ASTM Manual 26 on Sensory Techniques. She is currently chair-elect for the main committee of ASTM E-18 on Sensory Evaluation. Mona has been a professional member of the Institute of Food Technology and a member of the SED Division since 1972.