Wednesday, January 31, 2007

How To Taste Beer

Tasting beers may seem simple to many: buy beer and drink it. However, there are an increasing number of people who understand that craft beers can be just as complex as some wines. Because so many brewers are starting to put more thought and effort into brewing beer, we as beer drinkers should also think more about what we taste when we drink beer.

Just like tasting wine, there are a few steps that one must go through to fully appreciate what one is consuming. There are many aspects to beer that makes it what it is - appearance, aroma, flavor, and body - and a beer enthusiast should be able to identify many traits of a beer within these components.

The following four steps aren’t that difficult to implement and can make your beer drinking experience a million times better, especially if you like to drink craft beers. On the contrary, these steps could quite possibly make you hate your favorite macrobrewery’s best offerings.

There are a few things to note when looking at a freshly poured beer. It is very important to pay attention to a beer’s color, clarity, and head retention. Knowing these characteristics of a beer can give you a pretty good foreshadowing of what the beer will be like when you actually taste it.

This is obviously the easiest step but nonetheless important. By gently swirling the beer you can disturb it just enough to allow its aromas to be amplified for a moment. Before swirling your beer make sure you have your nose ready to do some analyzing.

Many people don’t think of beer as aromatic (except once you’ve had a few too many and you begin sweating) but a beer’s smell is actually pretty important. When inhaling pay attention to whether the beer’s aroma is sweet, floral, spicy, or otherwise - these aromas often hint at what types of malts, hops, and yeasts were used and how it was brewed.

Obviously tasting the beer is the most fun and first impressions usually mean a lot, so do your best to get the most out of this step. It is important to figure out what is flavoring your beer so take notice to whether the beer is sweet, bitter, or balanced - do this by intentionally forcing the beer over your taste buds. Within a beer’s balance one can typically identify many sub-characteristics. Don’t forget to note what type of feel or texture the beer has. Along with a beer’s overall taste, body is probably one of the only things most people seem to care about, for example: America’s obsession with “light” beers. Much like a beer’s aromatic characteristics, the different parts to a beer’s taste can also tell you much about the beer’s ingredients and how the beer was made.

Hopefully these beer tasting methods will help the next time you drink a beer. I know that when I was first told about them around a year and a half ago I started noticing so much more about my favorite beers and especially beers I was trying for the first time. Once you have started using these four steps, you will eventually be able to break down each step even further, identifying more and more small details about the beer you are tasting. Good luck on your next beer tasting adventure - make sure you put your new knowledge to good use! Cheers!

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