Your Beer vs. Commercial Beer

When I hear people say that their homebrew is better than commercial beer, my first thought is “I wonder what commercial beer they’re talking about?”. I’ve been brewing for a long time and brewed a lot of batches. Some of my beers are better than some commercial beers, and many are not. Sure I can probably produce a better lager than Bud, but maybe not Jever. Sure I can make some great Belgian style beers, but I’d never say any of them were better than Rochefort. When you say your beer is better than commercial beer, it really doesn’t tell anybody anything.


I have a longer response that I will type at a computer, but this blows my mind Denny. Particularly regarding westy or rochefort vs your beers brewed to come close to those.

I think it is because once you have produced a certain level of beer, the differences between the two are in many cases only distinguishable through serious sensory analysis, whether it be blind triangles or spider charts or something like that.

As a beleiver in confirmation bias, don’t you think some of the taste profile you get when drinking a rochefort 12 is because you KNOW/EXPECT what you are going to get with it, whereas when tasting your own, you are evaluating what you would change on a rebrew?

Rochefort is widely considered to be one of, if not the best beer in the world. They basically only brew one beer (to different strengths) and have been brewing it for hundreds of years (I’m sure you already knew all this). It’s all they do. Contrast that with a home brewer, even an awesome home brewer with decades of experience. He most likely brews across several styles and recipes and doesn’t focus on perfecting one singular beer. Rochefort does. Saying that just because he’s a great all-around brewer, he can just throw his belgian brewer hat on for a weekend and make an equivalent of the finest belgian beer in the world (and then next weekend probably make a heady-equivalent IPA) seems like nonsense to me. Again, that man would probably have to be considered the finest brewer in the world.

I make a Rochefort 10 clone every year, sometimes twice a year. It’s my favorite beer I make. It’s very good and delicious and everybody raves about it. It’s truly a fine beer and I’m always damn proud of it. It’s still not better than R10.

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I still think its a law of diminishing returns. You think R10 is great because you expect it to be great. The Yankees win because of the pinstripes, the Soviet hockey team wins because they and their opponents know they will win.

You do the reverse and set up a blind triangle with yours against r10, if you can’t identify and adjust your beer to more closely mimic (or DIVERT FROM, if thats what you want) r10, then you need to sharpen your sensory and/or process chops. Are there elements you simply cannot replicate? Sure. Sitting in my living room drinking a solid kolsch probably wouldn’t stand up to sitting along the Rhine at a cafe, sipping your fourth stange of Reissdorf.

Not to put words into your mouth, but you are saying that if a blind triangle test was done between my beer and some of the best NE IPA’s were done, a large sample of trained tasters would find Heady/Hill/Foley/Lawsons to be ‘better’ than mine, I say fine. But that is likely a few points, from a few tasters, on a 50 point scale, when I am still brewing 35-40 point beer consistently (our last IPA scored a 47 from a GM judge in RI).

I consider myself and my brewing partner, on our larger system to be good brewers. Very good even. Yes, I consider Kimmich, Lawson, Oliver, Cilurzo, etc., etc. to be GREAT brewers, because they can design a flavor profile (that is considered excellent by a wide range of palettes) and execute that beer again and again with remarkably consistent results. They understand far more of the variables to a far greater extent than we do, and how they will ultimately affect the product.

I personally PREFER our hop-forward beers to any of Stone’s beers. Does that mean I am a better brewer than Mitch Steele? No chance. But I brew a beer that I prefer to drink any day because that recipe has been designed and executed to my specs, the way I want it. Do we come up short sometimes? Definitely. Sometimes as a result of system limitations, sometimes a result of knowledge/experience limitations, but its a risk I will take, and 7-8 times out of 10, we will execute a beer that we both prefer, and as a (I grant you, sometimes biased) judge, I say stands up to many of the Northeast’s road trip beers. I frankly wouldn’t waste my time brewing them if we weren’t really really close.

Finally, a big ‘well-said’ to Rad, as always. I’m glad you enjoy my (sometimes passionate) ramblings! We recently did a IIPA with 50% Conan and 50% harvested HF yeast. We’ll see how it goes!


A few issues from this thread just resonate. Do I make better beer than all the pros? No. Do I make better than the majority of the pros? Usually. Still need to work on the consistency. Tomorrow I’m going to try and replicate the amazing batch of schwartzbier I brewed a couple years ago. Last year’s batch didn’t match up. But that is hardly surprising, the batch from a couple years ago was one of the best schwartzbiers I’ve ever tasted. If only I could do that every time…

As I said earlier, to me that is what this hobby is about. Constantly improving and trying to make the best beer possible.

I will say that while I sometimes get blown away by a new commercial offering, it is far more common for me to be disappointed by what is being sold as craft brew these days. It really is true that anyone can open a brewery and call themselves a pro - whether they know how to brew well or not.


I think a major hang up with many Americans is the term “pro.” When we think of that term we correlate it with athletics (usually). Those athletes are the best of the best and have proven to be so. Not anyone can just join their favorite team and say I’m a “pro.” With opening a brewery you can.

Funny thing, I remember a year or 2 ago some guy came on here on the old forum (assumingly from a non English speaking country due to his grammar) and had a major hang up with the levels you would earn with posts. He wanted to know what made some of us master brewers and how we EARNED those titles. That presents to me that in other countries you must earn that title, not just open a brewery and call yourself that.

There are a lot of biases that come with something you’ve made. It’s been touched on above-- some brewers think their beer tastes great, even if it does not. Pride of authorship or something. On the other hand, some brewers (typically the better ones) can find flaws in their own beers that are imperceptible to anyone else.

This goes for both homebrewers and commercial brewers.

The one thing you have as an advantage as a homebrewer is freshness. I can make a hoppy beer, timed as such to be able to drink it at the PEAK of freshness. While my beer might not be as consistently high quality as Sculpin or Lagunitas, the fact that it is being drunk under ideal conditions means that it often is just as good, or better, of a drinking experience.

As far as sour beers go, world-class classic belgian examples aside (rodenbach, boon for instance), I make sour beers that are every bit as good as a lot of the domestic commercial beers that go for $20-$30 a bottle. Sometimes worse. Sometimes better. On average, about the same.

With a little paperwork, anyone can claim to be a professional anything (that doesn’t require a specific degree/professional license.) Now, being a successful pro is a different matter.

I like the sports analogy, but let’s draw it out a bit… Among pros there are still strata, there are celebrity-level players who will be remembered forever for their greatness, workhorses who clearly deserve to be there, but will will never be as good as the celebs, and even the, “can’t we just trade this schlub” players. And under all that there’s the minor leagues. And even so-called semi-pro leagues.

In professional brewing, I’d say the same thing happens; only more so. There are the celebrity brewers, all the way down to the zero-distribution brewpubs. Even a few schlubs who somehow manage to stay in business. Professional brewing requires business accumen as well as brewing chops. The celebrity brewers need both, but at the bottom layers it’s possible to lean on business more than brewing. A brewpub with awesome food can be very successful even with mediocre brews.

I guess the point I’m trying to work around to is that claiming “I’m capable of producing beer as good as some professional offerings” may, on the surface, sound like hubris, but the statement is really only referring to an assessment of the contents of the pint glass. Even if I were to specifically claim my IPA is better than Dogfish Head’s 60 Minute (it’s not) It’s still not claiming to be better than, or even in the same league as Sam Calagione. Being able to make a 175,000 barrels a year is a different game, even though it’s possible to side-by-side the results.

The only thing professional means is you brew for a living. I know of at least one small professional brewery that isn’t that consistent and the beer varies slightly from batch to batch kind of like mine. Is that a problem? I guess that depends, I think it’s kind of fun. They are all good beers. If you spend enough money and get a fully automated system I see no reason why you can’t brew almost any beer consistently. Of course we can’t duplicate barrel aged beer but we can make comparatively good ones.

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Should I cut my barrels in half and plant geraniums in them then? :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:

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Of course not unless you want to but their barrels would be different than yours so I would think the flavors would be different. Not that that’s a bad thing. I like surprises and don’t try to clone beers anyway. Disclaimer , I havnt barrel aged so I’m just guessing or would it be gassing?

I’m just messin’ with you! And the barrels that breweries buy are available for purchase to the homebrew market too. It’s a bit of a feat to fill a 55-gallon whiskey barrel, but very achievable, especially for a club. 10 to 15 gallon spirit barrels are a good size for homebrewing, and with a little attention to minimizing oxygen ingress are just as viable as full size barrels.

With the recent explosion of breweries wanting to jump into the barrel-aged beer market and the high margins associated with these beers, I’d say a skilled homebrewer can produce barrel aged beer as good or better than 75% (maybe more?) of the BA beers on the market. Mostly because a lot of them aren’t doing it very well, though.

Should just let it go as it’s devolving into a semantic argument at this point, but here’s one more post (sorry).

While working towards an exact clone has never been my goal, if it was there’s probably a bit more than the wonderful ambiance that I’d be unable to replicate. I don’t have access to their water or their exact yeast or malt. Sure, I can treat my water to try and match theirs and 1762 is probably a pretty close facsimile for their yeast, but will they be exactly the same, i doubt it.

Wouldn’t the same have to hold true for your beers? Clearly, you’ve high expectations for your beer. That bias is bound to show up (and realizing you have bias does nothing to mitigate it). That was pretty much the whole original point I was trying to make.

This is where words start getting parsed. I’ve no problem with a subjective statement like this. You can say you like you’re beer better than Heady, etc, and since you can dial into your own taste preferences, you probably can. That’s different to me than saying ‘I make beer just as good as Heady’, which comes across as an objective statement putting you as a brewer at the same level as the best in the world…that’s a bold statement and one I’d be hesitant to accept at face value- from anyone. Apologize if that comes across as petty semantics, but it creates a hugely different interpretation of what you’re trying to say. You make a good point about differentiating between replicating another brewer’s product and being able to create it out of whole cloth in the first place.

I think this is probably the #1 reason for bad commercial beer. Opened up a Hog Heaven from Avery a while back and it was disgusting. Stale and oxidized. If that was the first time having it, I’d think Avery sucked. In reality, it’s a great beer and it’s Binnys or the distribution channel that put it there that sucks.

I’ve also been pleasantly surprised how well sours turn out, even just straight unblended ones sometimes. Commercial ones are always hit and miss if you start straying from the classics. With such high variability, some probably just don’t turn out well, but they may have to just bottle and sell them anyway for business reasons. I don’t buy the $20+ ones anymore.

I’d love to try one (and I say that out of genuine interest and curiosity, not to be an @sshole.) I’d pay for shipping if you’re willing to go through the effort of sending a couple.

So in conclusion, my point is…I’m not even sure anymore, but I did waste a lot of work time, and for that I’m grateful.

And that’s it in a nutshell , a professional Brewer is one who gets paid to waste time.

So, let’s name some of these commercial breweries that your beer is better than. That way we have a yardstick for comparison.

Budweiser, Miller, Coors to name a few. I will give them a nod to consistency though

That’s a very low bar. I was wondering if those were the kind of beers that people were comparing to. I wasn’t, which is why I think I had a different take on things.

Indeed… that changes things. I’m specifically referring to “craft(y)” beer when I compare to commercial beer. So my eventual “attainable” goal of a decent, midrange APA is something like Dale’s Pale, or Sierra Nevada Pale. That probably took me a year and quite a few batches. I would need to be much better than I am now to make something like a Pseudo Sue.

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You said better than. I feel I make an American lager that can match Sam for instance. My pale has been compared to Bass. I feel my IPA can go head to head with lauganitas. Of course that’s my opinion and that of my friends. That’s who I really have to please.

Of course it is, and that’s important. But at least for me, I need to be more objective than “my friends like it” when I compare my beers to commercial.