So let’s get educational MTBR!!!
Here is a general rundown on beer tasting and flavors, so you can sound even more like a beer nerd with your buds after shredding the singletrack!
How to taste:
1. POUR IT: Yes there is a time and place for swilling out of a bottle/can/growler/keg but when you want to get the full effect, pour your beer into a glass. Mostly you want to get some frothy head (for aroma release), but don’t pour it so hard it foams over, this varies with beer type. Tilt your glass, and pour without “glugging” the bottle/can/growler. Discussion of what glass is for another time, pouring is always better than out of the bottle, unless of course it’s into that coffee cup you haven’t washed in 3 years.
2. LOOK AT IT: You wouldn’t kiss a girl without knowing what she looked like first, would you? Stare deep into your glass, adore it, tell it how pretty you think it is. You should evaluate the clarity (murky, clear, dark, hazy) color (you should know your colors by now) and head (creamy, frothy, bubbly, or lack thereof)
3. SNIFF IT: Your nose is the gateway to your taste buds. A few short quick sniffs will do the trick. Give your beer a gentle swirl to get some of that aroma out, the more swirling you do the more legit you look (sarcasm you dork, this isn’t wine).
4. DOWN THE HATCH: Sip, not chug, not gulp, Sip. Let the choir of angels envelop your tongue and caress it with the sweet nectar of the heavens. Your tongue is not a plank of wood, it’s a complex animal that responds in different ways to different flavors, bathe it thoroughly as you sip, to cover it front to back. Each region will give you specific flavors.
5. SWOLLOW! Spitting is for wine people, beer people commit. As you swallow your sip exhale through your nose, this is the retronasal method (to impress your friends) and it results in a surprising amount of additional flavor. You are giving the back of your sniffer one last hurrah, like your beer is waving goodbye on its way to your belly.
6. BASK IN DELIGHT: Reflect upon your brief voyage. Examine its effects. Are you a changed man/woman ? have you obtained nirvana? did Jesus wearing velvet pajamas just slide down your throat while giggling like a schoolgirl? Think about what you ingested, and how it has (hopefully) made you happier.
Taste Attributes (know what your drinking):
As you move further down the trail in your beer adventure, you will start noticing flavors that show up every so often. No not “stout vs lager” more “I taste corn in this one” or “hmmm there is that butterscotch flavor again” Now it’s time for you to start learning what those flavors are. I will not give you all the info but some basics. In my opinion you should at least know the following 4, these are the big hitters that you should be quick to recognize, and are all too common (unfortunately):
These 4 are always bad, and though they will do you no harm, they are a sign that something bad happened to that beer. The Oxidation and Lightstruck are two that you can help prevent, store your beer properly, and drink it in due time. (beer cellaring is a topic for another thread)
Below are some other basic attributes. These are just flavor attributes, sometimes they are designed into the beer, sometimes they are not. Just because you taste these does not necessarily mean there is something wrong with your beer, but sometimes its never a good thing (like Butyric, bleeeech).
These will take time to recognize, and you have to focus on looking for them. Though sometimes people are Anosmic (fancy word for incapable of tasting) to some of these off flavors, and will just never get them. I have met several people that never taste Diacetyl even if it’s a buttery bomb, yet they catch other flavors way better than I do. You also have to take into account what you like individually. I have a major sensitivity to and dislike of DMS, while my wife actually enjoys the flavor. That mouth/tongue/nose/head of yours is unique, just like your mommy told you.
Now for a picture, if you want to dive even deeper:
The world of beer taste goes even deeper than that picture, but that adventure will not be covered in this post. You must walk that path without me young Jedi.
While beer has been around for a LONG time, the sensory side of it is still under development. Wine is much further ahead, and has set some good guidelines to flavor recognition, beer is catching up. This is an exciting time for beer, the craft revolution, the enlightened age. Come my brothers and sisters, let us drink to good health, and the singletrack of life!!!
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