How to Taste a Beer for Review.
Submitted by Bruce Ticknor on Fri, 05/09/2008 – 10:06
When we sample a beer it is much more an experience than simply tasting.
We use all 5 of our senses, including hearing. Hearing is the least useful when sampling a beer, but personally I find the sharp “snap, fizz” of a cap lifting off or the bright “pop” of a swing top bottle opening to be very enticing. It begins the whole tasting experience.
Here are some thoughts on how to try to get the most out of the experience.
1. Appearance: It is surprising how much the look of a beer can affect our appreciation for it. When we glance at a glass of beer our mind is already forming expectations for the taste of the beer. A dark reddish brown appearance leads us to expect coffee or chocolate tastes and a bright clear yellow beer leads us to expect fruit juices or other light tastes. So take a moment to look at the glass you have just poured. Is it clear or cloudy, brightly coloured or pale. Try to describe the colour to yourself since the act of doing so helps you refine your appreciation. Also look at the head of the beer. A thick head is appealing to a beer drinker and helps to release the aromas and tastes. Also look to see if it is smooth and creamy, rocky, coarse or fine. Is it bright white, off white, tan, brown, or some other colour?
2. Aroma: The aroma of a beer gives us our first real clue about how the beer might taste. Our senses of smell and of taste are very closely related, in fact much of what we think of as taste is actually smell. The tongue does not have nearly as many receptors as the nose does. When evaluating the aroma of a beer it is best to smell it frequently as changes in temperature and any reduction in the amount of head on the beer can affect the aroma. You can look for scents like grass, citrus, spices, dough, coffee, chocolate and many more. Sometimes the aroma may seem to be very faint and subdued, while with other beers the aroma may jump right out at you.
3. Taste: This is what beer drinking is all about, unless all you want to do is pound back a few with the boy’s and not care whether you enjoy the experience or not.
When you take your first mouthful a whole session begins. Beer is a complex taste. A blend of Malt, Hops, water, and yeast. Each can add different tastes and flavours to the whole of the beer. None of this is a firm rule, but generally Malt adds a sweet aspect to a beer. That is really what the malt is for. Alcohol is made from sugars and it is only the malt which contributes sugar. Malts can be roasted, toasted, steeped for longer or shorter times, and can be made from a variety of grains although Barley is the most common in craft beers, Wheat is probably the second most common, although when you get to the mainstream beers you will find rice, corn, refined sugar, and heaven only knows what else.
Hops are the cone shaped flower of a climbing plant which is related to the cannabis plant. There are several varieties grown around the world and each adds it’s own distinctive taste to the mixture.
Hops provide a bitterness, a sour taste, the hints of flowers and of citrus to beer. The combination and amount of hops and the timing, during the brewing process, they are added are the basis of the Brewmasters art.
Finally the yeast. A Brewmaster will carefully preserve his favorite yeast strains from each batch, judging which strain will provide the tastes he wants in the next style he creates. In Belgian lambic beers, for instance, the wild yeasts of the region are allowed to settle on top of the beer so that it ferments spontaneously, but this is not a repeatable technique and each batch will be different. Most Brewmasters prefer to stick to what they know works and so create a more or less consistent style of beer.
So, what should you look for when tasting a beer? That depends entirely on the beer you are tasting. There are no hard and fast rules. Try to discern each individual taste. Savor the beer, sip it slowly and hold it in your mouth for a few seconds. More flavours may become apparent as you actually swallow the beer since some of our taste buds are well back on the tongue. Look for sour, sweet, bitter, and salty tastes since these are all that our taste buds by themselves can actually discern.
Look for the way the tastes blend together or contrast each other.
Finally try to find words to describe what you just experienced. Personally I find that to be the most difficult part. Tastes are very hard to put into words so we end up saying things like chocolate or coriander to describe the taste. The beer does not really taste exactly like those flavours but it seems to resemble them a bit and that is how we describe the taste in a manner in which (we hope) others will understand.
4. Body: The texture of the beer in the mouth and the feel on the tongue are other important aspects of the beer tasting experience. Is the beer creamy and smooth, watery and thin, sharp edged and raw feeling? Does it leave a tingle or sparkle on the tongue or does it just lay there like a mouthful of water? Does it ease a dry throat when you swallow?
Beers can be all these things and combinations of them. Some beers will start out creamy and coating your mouth nicely and then end with a sharp bite or bright tingle as you swallow. All these add to the enjoyment of the beer as a whole.
5. Final Judgment: Finally, how do all these experiences combine in your mind. Don’t concentrate so hard on breaking down the individual aspects of the process that you lose site of the overall experience. What it really comes down to is simple. Did you enjoy the beer you just drank? Do you want more of the same beer? Would you look for that beer again, knowing the tastes you experienced the last time?
Like most things, the ability to discern tastes and aromas improves with practice. The greater variety of beer flavours you have experienced the easier it becomes to distinguish various qualities in the beer.
So go crack one, pour it into a clean glass, and enjoy the experience.
Nemsis and Devoid
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Submitted by izledoy (not verified) on Sat, 06/06/2009 – 07:43.
Most beers are cleared of yeast by filtering when packaged in bottles and cans. However, bottle conditioned beers retain some yeast—either by being unfiltered, or by being filtered and then reseeded with fresh yeast. It is usually recommended that the beer be poured slowly, leaving any yeast sediment at the bottom of the bottle. However, some drinkers prefer to pour in the yeast; this practice is customary with wheat beers. Typically, when serving a hefeweizen, 90% of the contents are poured, and the remainder is swirled to suspend the sediment before pouring it into the glass. Alternatively, the bottle may be inverted prior to opening. Glass bottles are always used for bottle conditioned beers.
Many beers are sold in cans, though there is considerable variation in the proportion between different countries. In Sweden in 2001, 63.9% of beer was sold in cans. People either drink from the can or pour the beer into a glass. Cans protect the beer from light (thereby preventing “skunked” beer) and have a seal less prone to leaking over time than bottles. Cans were initially viewed as a technological breakthrough for maintaining the quality of a beer, then became commonly associated with less expensive, mass-produced beers, even though the quality of storage in cans is much like bottles. Plastic (PET) bottles are used by some breweries
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Submitted by Anonymous on Tue, 11/13/2012 – 15:56.
once beer is pasteurized it is ruined. I spent 2 month tasting beer in southern and northern Bavaria. In every case, the beer that was delicious on tap was ordinary, uninteresting beer in the bottle. I do not believe that in Bavaria I drank any bottle conditioned beer though they are of course common in Belgium. Once they pasteurized it and put it in a bottle, no beer is any good.
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