Perfecting the Craft (Case Study)

New Belgium Brewing leverages data to concoct their award-winning brews.

Have you ever wondered why that cold beer that you grab after a long day at the office or while hanging out with friends is so darn refreshing? Well, it may have been scientifically crafted to perfection — especially if it came from Fort Collins-based New Belgium Brewing Company.  

“In New Belgium’s sensory program we have to make sure every beer meets our quality standards, and that wouldn’t be possible without rigorous data collection and analysis of both our panelists and the beer. We’re not merely drinking beer – we’re evaluating it, and that one word indicates how important data is for us to do our job,” says Ali Schultz, Sensory Analyst at New Belgium Brewing.

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Staying competitive in the $23.5 billion craft brewing market takes informed and precise decision making, persistence, and well, perfection. The folks over at New Belgium have created an environment — dubbed the Sensory Lab — devoted entirely towards continuous innovation. In the Sensory Lab, employee-owners are trained on everything there is to know about beer tasting. The best part: the Sensory Lab is packed with expert palates that have been conditioned to understand, recognize, and pursue the finer, more nuanced aspects of what makes the most consistently refreshing beer possible.

By training and tracking the evolution of each employee-owner in the Sensory Lab, New Belgium can continuously innovate the brewing landscape, driving product development and ensuring they stay at the top of the fast-growing craft beer industry.

– Excerpt from the Case Study

Beer and Data – The Perfect Match

Before implementing survey projects into their data collection process, the analysis and actionable use of data coming from tastings were cumbersome, according to New Belgium Brewing.

The brewery’s main challenge was finding the right intel needed to formulate a new flavor. Standard research methods were failing them, especially when it came to gathering high-quality data. While brewing companies utilizing Sensory Labs are common, New Belgium Brewing found that:

  • Sensory labs are usually deemed an afterthought instead of a research driver.
  • Product development typically relies on untrained panelists instead of beer experts.
  • It’s difficult to efficiently train professional-grade panelists and organize tasting data.

The way in which the brewery has established gathering actionable insights is one many can benefit from, as it helps them overcome the challenges listed above.

Every New Belgium Brewing employee is considered an employee-owner, which attributes to greater employee happiness, satisfaction, and higher pay. This status means that employees are inherently more invested in the success of the business, and their contributions to the company. By implementing strategic data collection via surveys into the Sensory Lab training process, New Belgium can ensure that they are creating the best product possible. Administering surveys on a consistent basis allows Sensory Analysts to precisely measure the palate development in employee-owners, as questions aim to expose incompetencies in recognizing flavors and overall tastes. The result of this process is a group of certified, homegrown tasting panelists, and a constant harvest of quality assurance data.

The Numbers and Results Speak for Themselves

By developing a program in which employee-owners become trained in-house taste-testing professionals, New Belgium Brewing was able to:

  • Save thousands of dollars each and every month.
  • Maintain high levels of employee motivation and engagement.
  • Expand their presence by opening a second brewery in Asheville, NC to meet nationwide demands.
  • Become the fourth largest craft brewery in the country, and the eighth largest brewery overall.

Download the full Perfecting The Craft case study to learn more about how quality data enabled New Belgium Brewing to take their business to new heights.

Perfecting the Craft (Case Study)

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