Beer 101

Batch Fatigue: Your Doctor Can’t Help You


Have you ever tried the latest roasted coffee porter on your friend’s recommendation, and there was no love at first sip? Have you sampled a highly anticipated sour red ale and let a “meh” escape your lips?

It happens. Sometimes because the beer simply is not aligned with your taste expectations—which in Scottish terms is known as “crap.” But other times it’s because you’re suffering from a phenomenon we’ll discuss today, known as batch fatigue.

In its simplest terms, batch fatigue is when your palate gets tired of trying new flavors every week—or, for the more adventurous among you, every glass—leaving the avid beer drinker with a less-than-ringing-endorsement of the local brewmaster’s most-recent innovation.

Before you panic, know this:

  •  Batch fatigue is a temporary condition
  •  It is not contagious
  •  There are ways to recognize it, address it, and possibly even prevent it*

*These claims have not been validated by a medical professional or even a reputable brewmaster.

Recognizing and Dealing with Batch Fatigue

Thankfully, a blood test is not required to determine if you suffer from batch fatigue. It’s as much as a mental challenge as it is a physical affliction of your taste buds. So how do we recognize this insidious disorder? Let’s start with a few simple questions:

Do you eagerly await the seasonal shifts of the tap menu of your local watering hole? Are you constantly seeking the latest releases at your local brewpub, sometimes trying 2 or more in 1 night?

If so, you, my friend, are a candidate for batch fatigue. Just being aware that too much of a new thing in a short period of time can overwhelm your taste buds may help you pace yourself more—not to mention giving you a reason to come back another night to try a flavor you didn’t get to the first time!

Here’s another way to help recognize the concept of batch fatigue. Remember when your favorite band released a new CD? (or cassette, as the case may be) Chances are you played one song over and over, then listened to the album straight through once or twice. That’s because, deep down, you knew there was no way to absorb and appreciate 10 new songs all at once. (Unless you listen to Nickelback, where all the songs sound the same, but I digress…)

Of course, over time, you dug into the rest of the album and found your favorites throughout—maybe even a few that were underappreciated by others. Same. With. Beer.

When you visit the best pubs in South Jersey, take your time and work through the latest releases the same way you would a new album. And if you start feeling like all of them are less-than-satisfying, you can ask yourself if batch fatigue is playing a factor (or if you just need to find a new brewery).

Preventing Batch Fatigue

So now that we realize batch fatigue can be a thing, what can we do to keep it from happening? One strategy employed by a certain beer aficionado with more than 30 years’ experience is to circle back to your top 10 list. Let’s see how this works:

Say you go to a festival and discover 3 great new brews that you absolutely must stock in the fridge at home. Great! Get one, drink and enjoy. Then go back and get an “Old Faithful”—a 6-pack of something from your all-time top-10 list. Once you’ve polished that off, (NOTE: this should not all happen in one day) head back and get new flavor #2 to try. Followed by an established favorite. And so forth and so on.

What you’re doing is training your palate to expand slowly—building up muscle memory for your taste buds, if you will. Plus, you’re giving your brain a chance to compare something new against something you trust. Where does the rookie fall on the taste spectrum relative to the crafty veteran? (pun intended)

The benefits of this approach are twofold: first, it helps you make time in your schedule for the beers you enjoy most. Kind of like you do with the relationships in your life. Second, it adds a sense of anticipation, knowing that you’re going back for something new and exciting. Again, kind of like some people do with relationships in their lives. (Depending on the relationship you’re in, understand that this works better with beer than people.)

An additional benefit is that eventually—at least with the beer—you’ll make some comparisons that end up re-shaping your “best-of” list as a superstar newbie pushes out one of the old guard. And you will have implemented a strategy that ensures your taste buds don’t get fried along the way!

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