How to give feedback?

I have a buddy at work who gave me a growler of a pale ale that he had brewed from a Brewer’s Best kit. He had put some green chilis and jalapenos in it to make it into a chili beer.

It tasted terrible. I couldn’t drink it. There’s definitely something wrong with it, but I don’t have enough training to figure out what. It had absolutely no head retention. I mean, the head had large bubbles, which dissipated in like 2 seconds. My sons found it disgusting, and they love a good homebrew.

Could the beer have been infected?

And, how the heck do I give him feedback? This was his second beer that he brewed, and I don’t want to turn him off. I’m just not sure what to tell him. I want to be honest, and I really wish I had some valuable feedback for him.

Any advice?

I’m not one who should give advice, therefor only suggest. First I would ask him his brewing procedure. Being you have some experience maybe you can tell him some things to suggest a better brew. Be honest, tell him that you may think he picked up an infection. Inform him how easy it is to do that. If you don’t want to tell him his beer stinks outright, tell him what you detect in the beer. Did he sanitize the chilies? Did he sanitize everything that contacted the wort? Maybe he picked the chilies from a garden and just washed them? IMHO, I would want someone to tell me my beer sucks rather than leave me with the impression that all is well. But that is just me. Offer him to watch your brewing procedure sometime. I think that we all drank enough beer in our lives to be able to tell that something is not good or bad tasting. Your buddy may be thinking that his beer just doesn’t taste right and is looking to you for some help. Personally I know my beer would turn any beer judge off, and some I have forced myself to drink. I strive to do better, that what this is all about for me, and one day it will happen.

Thanks. I was thinking about inviting him over to brew with me. I know he wants me to be honest, I just want to be delicate about it. I do appreciate the good advice.

You gotta bring that brother on board! Make sure he knows about this forum. Then, you may want to just taste the beer side-by-side with him, while referencing a copy of How to Brew. You can work through the tasting together and try to identify what could have gone wrong. Maybe it was something simple and you’ll nail it. Or it could be a combination of things going wrong. Get some info from him.

Bring a couple bottles of your homebrew to share, or set him up with a mixed sixer or something. You should invite him to brew with you. I think it’s probably best to just go with your regular setup, brew as you normally would. You could throw down two batches if you wanted to, and then split them or something. Or you could just brew a 10-gallon batch.

Do you have a brewday worksheet or software program? If your buddy is just getting started, I’d be tempted to jump him right up to AG. There’s just no reason to brew with extract anymore, with all the easy AG equipment systems. I’m going to give BIAB a shot, although I’m totally happy batch sparging with a braid.

You could get together and brew, too. I recently met a couple local brewers and connected the dots. At our last brewday, we had three side-by-side setups going and brewed a total of 25 gallons! :smiley: Our host was brewing a partigyle batch and simultaneously smoking 6 gorgeous racks of pork ribs. We rocked out some cribbage, feasted like cavemen and shared homebrews.

Make the connection and get something local going for homebrew, even if it’s just getting together and sampling beers once a month.


Definitely think that he should nail his process down before trying to complicate things too much. I agree with the above suggestions that inviting him over for a joint brewday might be the best way to review his process and provide suggestions.
I’m in the boat of always providing an honest review, no matter what the results.

I think telling him nicely should be OK with him. Just say there is something not right, how about we try to find out what and fix it. When he tastes his improved beer, he will thank you.

Did he had it to you as if he thought it was great? Or do you think he knows there is a problem and is looking for feedback?

Baffles me why someone would try a chili beer for your second brew. Easy way to get very discouraged.

I think he handed it to me, looking for great feedback. He’s also a kind of over-the-top kind of guy. He has drunk my homebrews on many occasions. I have all 4 of NB’s DVD’s, so I’m going to hand him the first 2. I’m definitely going to invite him to brew with me.


Baffles me why someone would try a chili beer for your second brew. Easy way to get very discouraged.[/quote]

I dunno. In many ways, the joy of homebrewing is in the creativity (at least it starts that way for a lot of people, myself included). In that vein, it is much more ‘tempting’ to brew a double-hazelnut cacao-nib-infused peanut butter porter in lieu of brewing a brown porter recipe over and over to work out the kinks in your system and learn about some of the basics (temp control, yeast pitch, etc.).

To the OP, I think this is a tough one. If this guy is a good friend of yours who you don’t mind telling he’s being a d*ck, or someone you could otherwise deliver tough news to, go ahead and give him some notes. Also, as someone noted above, is he looking for feedback/notes? One of the FOUNDERS of one of my brew clubs did a ‘Bo Pils’ that he poured me a half pint of (i wanted a sip) @ our last meeting. I had trouble finishing a SIP, much less the SAMPLE. There were just a whole bunch of things wrong with this beer, acetaldehyde, diacetyl, underattenuation, etc… But he didn’t ask me to evaluate it, so I didn’t. I threw the thing back like I was in a game of Beirut and moved on to the next beer (typically I would have dumped it to save the calories, but that would have looked a bit rude).

Also, if you are having a tough time deciphering what is wrong with it, you need to hone your palette a bit before giving ‘notes’. “Something’s ‘off’ with this” is a decent start, but it doesn’t give the guy the slightest clue as to what he might have done wrong. I agree with the above posts about brewing together as well.

Good luck!

Yeah, one thing I want to do is learn how to decipher what’s wrong with beers. I’d really like to go through some training on it.

Infection is a possibility and the no head issue could be the oils in the peppers. Just like coconut or other similar vegetal materials, they give off oils that reduce head retention. Baking them first might work if he wants to try it again. I’ve had chili beers that are pretty good, but it’s truly a novelty beer - I can’t see having several at a sitting, but that may just be my preferences -YMMV.

Be gentle, but truthful. After just 2 batches, he should be open to criticism that is constructive.


I probably would not ask too many questions or offer suggestions unless he asked for those things - I’d just have to be upfront and say what I tasted that I did not like. If he wants advice, let him bring it up.