your thirst for beer
Beer Tasting 101
LEAVE IT TO YOUR TASTE BUDS – If there is ever a time to fully engage your senses, it is when you’re about to take the first sip of a freshly-poured brew. Don’t just tip it back. To truly appreciate the unique flavor, body and overall makeup of your beer, use sight, smell, taste and touch. Leave no stone unturned. Your beer has been on a journey to get into the bottle in your hand, and your senses can unlock the entire experience.
So you’ve poured your beer. Take a moment and hold the glass up in a well-lit room. Don’t hold it directly up to the light as this will dilute its true color. What do you see? Is your beer cloudy or clear in appearance? What is the consistency and color of the head? Does it leave lacy patterns on the sides of the glass or pull away with the liquid? And the color—how would you describe it?
Agitate the beer slightly in the glass. This will help pull out the aromas, as well as reduce carbonation. Go ahead and stick your nose right over the edge of the glass and breathe deeply, first through your nose and then through your mouth. What aromas do you detect?
As the beer rests in your mouth, focus on the mouthfeel. Is it smooth, velvety, creamy, tingly or prinkly? Is the carbonation light, champagne-like, sharp or delicate? And is the body robust, heavy, dense, light or delicate? How does your mouth feel after finishing your first sip—dry, or quenched?
- Then, take a sip. Let the beer sit in your mouth and meet with all your taste buds, including in the back of your tongue where your bitterness receptors are located. Focus on the nuances of the flavors; hidden notes and undertones that make up the full flavor profile.
Use this guide to help identify the flavors you are detecting.
CRISP BEER: Lighter in color, cleaner in flavor, and refreshing. Taste delicate fruit (green apple, berries, pear), malts (bready, biscuit or caramel notes), or hops (spice, floral, herbal).
HOPPY BEER: Generous amounts of hops produce a pronounced bitterness. Taste earthy and dry (grass, wood, peppers), malty (caramel, toast, coffee), or herbal (tropical fruits, citrus, resin).
MALTY BEER: Malt flavors produce a distinct level of maltiness and sweetness. Taste nutty (bread, raisins, toffee), or fruity (apples, oranges, plums).
ROASTY BEER: Very dark in appearance, these brews employ a richer, deep flavor. Taste sweet (milk chocolate, hazelnut, latte), or burnt (tar, espresso, meat).
SMOKED BEER: Smoked malts or malts aged in whiskey or bourbon barrels product a distinct flavor. Taste smoke (wood, peat, spice), or meat (sausage, bananas, nutmeg).
FRUIT BEER: Sweet and semi-dry, but not bitter. Taste fresh fruit (apple, pear, orange, lemon), or red wine (fig, raisin, cherry, plum).
TART BEER: Sour beers can be earthy and wine-like, or quite sour like a tart candy. Taste tart (lemon, orange), acidic (cherry, raspberry, black currants), or earthy (leather, grass, mild fruit).
Remember, multiple tastings of different beers have an effect on your sensory perception. If tasting several different beers, taste brews with less alcohol content and lighter color and flavor first, moving toward brews with higher alcohol content, more flavor and a darker color.