How To Taste Beer
Updated: Jun 28, 2018
For anyone new to the craft beer scene, tasting beer is an enigma. There are some hundred-thousand different beers from a thousand different breweries, and how in the world are you supposed to taste those subtle hints of watermelon without someone telling you that it’s there? Well, fear not! For we, at Friends Drink Beer, ran into the same problem starting out and here’s what we’ve learned.
If you truly want to Taste the beer (and that’s taste with a capital T) you need to pour that beer into a glass. Much of what we taste happens through smell and you won’t be able to get its proper aroma if you keep that brew caged up in a bottle or can. A tulip glass is great, but if you want to get fancier there are different styles of glassware depending on the type of beer you’re drinking (KegWorks has a great glassware guide you can check out).
Pouring it into a proper glass also leads us into our next step…
THE SWIRL AND SNIFF
Now I know, I know, since when did drinking beer turn into wine tasting? But trust us, this step is important. Once the beer is poured, give it a nice, easy swirl. This will help release those subtle aromas and scents you hear so much about. Then stick that snozz in the glass and let those olfactory senses do their thing. Do your best to describe what you’re smelling. The whole point here is to try and lead you into what you’ll soon be tasting. Try and pick up on something and see if that scent pops out while you taste it. This is also a good place to get a good look at the beer. Check out how light it is, its clarity, amount of head. Different styles will obliviously have different looks and understanding the looks will help you learn what to expect when diving into the taste.
The whole reason we’re here. The number one rule we’ve learned is to take your time. Once the brew hits your pallet, let it sit there. Swirl it around a bit. Let it hit your gums, teeth, cheeks, all over like a delectable tasting mouthwash. Think about what your tasting. What hits you first? Is it sweet, sour, bitter, thick, chalky, do you sense any possible fruits, and if so, which ones? After you swallow, what tastes are you left with? It’s okay if you don’t get it all the first time (I still struggle at understanding what a “wheat flavor” tastes like). You might even think you taste something that’s not even there (Alex still thinks he tastes toffee every time we have a stout). Starting out, all you should worry about is the overall feel and understanding the basics of how different styles of beers should taste. As you branch out, you’ll soon surprise yourself by catching those subtle notes that you didn’t even realize were there.
A good way to practice is to taste it, write down or discuss what you think you’re tasting, look to see the ingredients that are really there, then taste it again to find those notes so you’ll be better educated for next time. This has been the FDB tried and true method, and we’ve found it’s the best way to educate and sharpen your pallet.