Beer Tasting 101

Tasting beer for most is an art, and an acquired ability, much like wine. I do not consider myself a pro, but I do enjoy it enough to want to teach people to enjoy the beer they’re drinking. Often times I’m out with people who will only drink the lightest beer, because they’re intimidated by the dark colors of ambers, porters and stouts – or are scared of trying a hoppy beer because all they know it to be is bitter. Those scary dark beers usually have caramel, chocolate, coffee, maple or spice flavors – that sound pretty good, right? Those hoppy beers tend to have floral , fruity or citrus notes – mmmm, yum, tasty, right?

What are the basic steps to taste beer?

1. Appearance (What do you see?)

  • Color
  • Head
  • Carbonation levels

2. Aroma (what do you smell?)
3. Flavor (what do you taste?)
4. Mouthfeel (how does the beer feel on your tongue?)
5. What is your over all Impression?

Take pause and marvel at its greatness before you partake in it – it’s a beautiful beer! Raise the beer in front of you, describe its color, its head (foam on top of the beer) and its consistency (still/uncarbonated, petillant/slightly carbonated, sparkling).

Swirl your beer (as you would with wine). This will pull out aromas, stimulate carbonation and test head retention.

Breathe through your nose with two quick sniffs. What do you smell at first? Chocolate? Citrus? Floral? Spices?

Now sip the beer, but resist swallowing immediately. Note the mouthfeel, the consistency of the liquid’s body, and breathe out during the process of tasting. Try to detect any sweetness, salty flavors, acids and general bitterness. Explain what they are, or what they are similar to.

Also, try tasting the beer after it warms a bit (just a bit – not too much). Really cold beer tends to mask some of the flavors. As a beer warms, its true flavors will come through, become more pronounced.

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