Consistency is desirable, but at what cost?


Consistency is desirable, but at what cost?


I had a conversation with a beer brewer recently. I asked him whether size was an advantage in brewing, in that having lots of shiny new kit might help you make better beer. His response was that it buys you consistency. He then went on a semi-rant about small London breweries in railway arches and how their beers were inconsistent. What’s the use of making a great beer if you can’t reproduce it every time?

The big brewers with their shiny kit make consistent beer, but my experience is that they are almost always playing it too safe. They don’t want too much flavour that the punters might find objectionable. They don’t want to use too many expensive ingredients. So they make consistently average or just above average beers that I can’t really be bothered to drink.

In the meantime, the brewers under the railway arches turn out beers that get me really excited. If inconsistency is the price paid for these great beers, then I can live with that. Of course, we’d like consistency and greatness. But if both aren’t on offer, I don’t want to trade greatness for consistency. I’ll live with the odd sub-par bottle.

Is the same true for wine? To a degree, yes. Great wines are often made in marginal regions, by people taking risks, where the weather gods don’t always play fair. Of course, this isn’t a good way to make cheap wine. For inexpensive wine, a warm climate, irrigation, and no risk of harvest rain is just the ticket. Consistency is great. But it’s really hard to make consistent, great wine.

2 Comments on Consistency is desirable, but at what cost?
wine journalist and flavour obsessive

2 thoughts on “Consistency is desirable, but at what cost?

  1. How about “consistency in quality”? not consistent flavors, but a product that can deliver a good wine/beer in each bottle (although a bit different every batch/vintage). the problem I have often with natural wines is that some bottles are great but others are bad. they lack consistency in quality.

  2. Sounds like a similar argument to your “Brands and reassurance” post a couple of months ago. If you want to explore and try new things you’re prepared to take a few misses to find some hits. However, if you just want some quite nice lubrication for the evening you don’t want to risk opening something that might not be up to the job.

    Sometimes I want consistency and sometimes I don’t – which isn’t very consistent of me is it?

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