If you travel a fair bit chances are that you will try a variety of different beers. Perhaps while swilling down these different lagers you may want to be able to say interesting witticisms that make it look like you know what the hell you’re talking about when it comes to beer. Some say that beer and wine tasting aren’t exactly different and that in reality many of the same techniques exist for sampling each in a professional manner. Perhaps, but in reality for one reason or another wine sampling has reached a high pitch as refined pursuit while beer sampling has failed to reach so high. The following (real) suggestions for sampling beer are geared to change that divide between wine and beer tasting.
True aficionados of beer actually keep a notebook to compare the initial reaction of the different stouts. Journals if nothing else can help you develop a stronger adjective base as you try to explain exactly what it is you have tasted.
Look the beer over, intensely
Give the beer an intense look over. Consider the colour, be it yellow, amber, copper, or brown then look at the head on your beer considering its consistency, width and size. The last thing to note as the head of the beer dissolves a little as it sits out is the lace, or residue, it leaves clinging to the sides of the glass. Record all of this in your journal.
Give your beer a wine’esque’ swirl
The point of this exercise for both beer and wine is to unleash more scent from the drink which should enriched the flavour as scent is strongly correlated to our sense of taste.
After the swirl take a smell of the beer.
Again, scent and smell are connected so the smell that emanates from the beer will be telling as to its eventual taste. Challenge yourself to decipher just what the smell is. Given time and practise you should come to be able to do this better. Common scent descriptors include: fruity, malty, earthy… etc. Try to stretch the descriptions and the words the best you can.
And now you taste
While checking on the flavour you should also keep yourself aware for the mouthful and the finish. So step by step: sip and let the beer cover your entire tongue, and breathe out before you swallow. What you should be trying to discern is if the scent connects with the flavour of the beer. Pay attention to the way the beer coats your mouth, it can be described as: light, medium or full. And finally the finish – after you swallow what is it that you taste? In some beers the flavour remains consistent in the finish, in other there will be the hue of an after taste – pleasant or unpleasant.