Taste beer like a professional

Monday, February 20th, 2017

Ever found yourself at a bar, about to order a beer, when you take a glance at the fridge and see a whole host of beers to choose from, but your favourite is missing? What do you do? You don’t really have a second favourite, and you’ve never really taken the time to find out what your third choice might be.

Now is the time! But with the wide variety of styles available, how do you pick which ones make the cut?

It’s time to do your own taste test to help you pick a few new brews to enjoy. But what are the most important things to look for when trying new beers? The first thing you need to do is to treat all your beers equally and create a way to rate your beers to give each one a fair chance.

The first way to rate your beer is by sight. Whether you’ve gone for a can or bottle, pour it into a glass. Then raise the glass to eye level to have a good look. It could be a range of colours from pale gold, to rich amber, dark browns or roasted dark colours.

There is no right or wrong colour; however, some styles have colour rules. Lagers and pilsners are normally lighter in colour, while stouts are usually very dark. But colour is not the only thing to look at. The clarity of the beer is also important. Some beers should be clear; this is referred to as ‘bar bright’. A cloudy beer is indicative of yeast being present and is desirable for Weiss beers but if you’re looking at a lager there’s something wrong.

Foam is another visual check. A lager or ale should have a white, creamy foam head. This prepares our brains and wets our taste buds.

The nose is an important part of the taste experience. Pass the glass under your nose slowly to allow any pungent aromas to be recognised. Swirl the glass gently to release aromas, which will be captured in the unfilled area of the glass. Bring the glass to your nose and breathe in. This is where you will start to notice the aromatic quality of the beer.

Hopped lagers, such as Hansa Pilsener, will have a light, grassy scent of the Saaz hop; Castle Milk Stout Chocolate will give a rich, dark cocoa smell and Carver’s Weiss will have a fruity and aromatic wheat-beer hoppiness.

The moment that you’ve been waiting for has finally arrived, it’s time to take a sip. Take a breath, sip your beer, swirl it around your tongue, swallow and breathe back out through the mouth. Your taste and touch senses will engage with the beer and you’ll pick up its individual characteristics. You’ll most likely be hit with sweet, bitter and sour balances. All beers are slightly sour as they are fermented, but the degree of sweetness and bitterness depends on the style of beer.

Bitter beers such as lagers, ales and dark beers can range in their quality of bitterness, from a mild and smooth bitterness through to an aggressive and sometimes lingering bitterness.

So now that you know how to taste beer like a professional, it’s the time to get your palate trained so that next time you find yourself at a bar, you’ll know exactly what you want to drink.

Remember to never drink and drive. If you are going to be trying out some new beers, make sure you have alternative transportation.

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