So have you actually tasted a beer? Legitimately drank to savor the flavor and to dissect all of its marvelous complexities? There’s a difference between drinking to have a good time, which we here at BTBT are big advocates of, and drinking to taste the beer. For craft brew aficionados the art of tasting is equally if not more important. Below is your guide to truly tasting a savory brew.
Feel free to grab your favorite beer and taste alongside us.
It’s imperative that you gently pour your delicious libation into some sort of proper glassware. Choose the appropriate style based on the beer being served. Some craft beer diehards may not agree but a wine glass is a great choice; its shape is ideal for capturing wafts of aromatic complexities.
It’s important to note that beer truly exhibits all of its flavors after it warms up a bit so if you are serving it ice cold try cupping the glass in your hands to raise the temperature slightly. On the flip side you don’t want to serve the beer too warm either.
General Serving Temperature Rules:
All beers should be served between 38-55° F.
Lagers are served colder than ales.
Stronger beers are served warmer than weaker beers.
Darker beers are served warmer than lighter beers.
Macro lagers are served as cold as the Rockies.
Serve beers a few degrees colder than the target temperature, to accommodate for warming from the glass and the drinker’s hands. (homebrewassociation.org)
Once you've poured your beer, stare at it. Marvel at it and all its grandeur. Lift the glass in front of you, but avoid direct light as this will dilute the beer’s true color. Observe it; describe its color, its head and its consistency, but don’t stare for too long. Your eyes can deceive you; they may convince your brain of accepting some pre-conceived notions. Try to free your mind as you gaze at its splendor.
Gently give the glass a swirl. This will not only tease out aromas and subtle nuances it will also loosen and stimulate carbonation and test head retention.
Breathe through your nose with two quick sniffs, then deeply with your mouth open, then again through your mouth only (nose and mouth are connected in the experience).
It’s important to note that the sense of smell enables one to perceive odors; it depends on the stimulation of sense organs in the nose by small particles carried in inhaled air. It is important not only for the detection of odors, but also for the enjoyment of food, since flavor is a blend of taste and smell. When one sniffs, air currents carrying molecules of odorous chemicals enter special compartments, called olfactory chambers, where the chemicals are dissolved in mucus. There they can act on the organs of smell in much the same way that solutions act on the taste buds of the tongue (medicaldictionary.com).
Basically don’t underestimate the connection between smell and taste.
Now finally you may sip the beer.
Taste is perceived by taste buds located all over the tongue: sweet at the tip, salty and sour at the sides, bitter at the back. When you put something in your mouth, your taste buds immediately send a direct message to your brain in order to ascertain whether the food is salty, sweet, sour, bitter or umami (a meaty, savory taste).
Back to the beer, go ahead. Sip it.
Don’t swallow the liquid right away. Let it explore and discover your entire palate. Pay very close attention to the mouthfeel, the consistency of the liquid's body, and breathe out during the process of tasting.
This process of exhaling is called "retro-olfaction" and will release retained stimulations at the mucus and mouthfeel level, but at a higher temperature. Try to detect any sweetness, salty flavors, acids and general bitterness. Explain what they are, or what they are similar to (beeradvocate).
Even if you are new to this process, keep going! Also be sure to jot down your notes and thoughts. It’s fun to have tastings with friends but try not to influence one another. Taste in silence and write down your own true descriptive expressions and then have a conversation about it.
Thoughts, comments or suggestions? Let us know and comment below!
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Check out this must read for any craft beer lover - Tasting Beer, 2nd Edition: An Insider's Guide to the World's Greatest Drink This completely updated second edition of the best-selling beer resource by Randy Mosher features the most current information on beer styles, flavor profiles, sensory evaluation guidelines, craft beer trends, food and beer pairings, and draft beer systems.
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