Brewing Beer - Beer Tasting

Over the years, beer tasting professionals have developed practices that can easily be adapted by anyone with a passion for brewing beer and wanting to maximize their beer tasting experience at the same time. When tasting beer, it is important to start with a known freshly poured brew. Apart from some notable exceptions, beer does not keep beyond a few months and consequently, beer that has been kept for a while is not the ideal candidate for beer tasting.

The glass used for beer tasting should preferably be thoroughly clean and, most importantly, rinsed in plain water and air dried. Cotton from drying clothes and particles from paper towel can introduce unwanted character, interfere with head production and oils and dirt can interfere with aromas and alter head retention. Ideally, the glass should be at the same temperature as the beer itself in order to prevent any alteration to the liquid when it is poured into the glass.

Pour slowly into a glass tipped at a 45 degree angle, until about half full then straighten and finish pouring. For extra foamy brews, pause mid way then finish.

Look - Note the Appearance

Some beers, such as yeasty Wheat beers, have a cloudy haze. This is not necessarily undesirable. All the professional experience in the world does not alter the fact that taste is an individual affair.

Note the color and degree of carbonation. Different styles will have their own characteristics. Light lagers are golden with large heads, dark ales are chocolaty and some form no head at all. Like dogs, they can vary. But within a 'breed' they should exhibit the character of their type well.

Smell - Experience the Aroma

Smell is a sense with much greater complexity than taste. According to studies carried out at the Taste Treatment and Research Foundation in Chicago and elsewhere, 90% of perceived taste is the result of smell.

Use it to enhance your pleasure by noting the odor. Swirl the glass to aid vaporization and hold the nose directly over the rim. Is the aroma Hoppy or malty - Fruity or phenolic. Some have hints of lemon, others are more iodine like.

Chamomile, pine, pepper and a wide variety of other secondary scents are found in brews. Take the time to search for them.

Feel - Test the Mouth Feel

Taste and touch combine to produce distinctive mouth feels . Proteins in beer do not ferment and contribute strongly, for example. Hardness or softness of the water used makes a big difference, too.

Search out alkalinity or metallic feels. Decide if the brew is astringent or gentle. Carbonation plays a part, obviously. The bubbles interact with special receptors on the tongue to impart a distinctive sensation, flat or 'zingy' . This kind of flat is not necessarily bad - some Stout's are not intended to be as fizzy as a pilsner .

Thick or thin, viscous or smooth, dry or tart, soapy or oily and other characteristics all play a part in the overall mouth feel . See how many you can distinguish.

Taste - What is the Flavor

Not for nothing is this considered the centerpiece of the beer drinking experience. Tastes range from the sweet Lambics to the almost tasteless mass market brews that shall go unmentioned although most of them seem to have found their way into the UK pubs and supermarkets.

High alcohol brews often have a spicy taste. Test first by wetting the lips with the liquid and inhaling slowly through the mouth, then sip. You will also get the double whammy effect of aroma evaporating off the lips into the nose.

High yeast brews, like barley wine or Bocks have a distinctive flavor favored by some and disliked by others. Sample a variety to find out which you prefer. Clear the palate in between tests using water or an unsalted cracker.

Brews high in esters have a fruity profile. Trappist ales commonly have hints of banana produced in part by the unique yeasts used.

After Taste - Concentrate on the After Taste

Beer drinking is a complex chemical reaction. It does not end after the liquid is swallowed. Get the full benefit of your sampling by focusing and trying to identify the chief flavors left.

They can be bitter or sweet, but can vary in other ways. Some linger awhile, others dissipate almost immediately. do not overwhelm the effort by taking huge gulps. This is a taste test, not a drinking contest. Sip and swallow. Take your time.

Professionals can identify about a hundred of the thousand known flavors in a single beer. If you can make out a half dozen or so, you are doing well.