One of the most important steps in experiencing craft beer is tasting it, obviously! When you are drinking a new beer for the first time, or experiencing one of your favorites, everyone can use a little help in the steps to truly enjoy the beer you just paid good money for. Here are some basic steps for experiencing a beer. They include:
- The Swirl
- The Smell
- The Taste
1. Look at it.
This might seem obvious, but once the beer is in a clear glass, give it a good look. Hold the glass in front of you and pay attention to its color. Don’t hold the beer to a light, as the color of the light will interfere with the real look and color of the beer. Pay attention to its consistency, color, and the head on the beer.
2. Swirl it.
Gently agitating your beer in the glass allows the smells trapped in the beer to escape. This prepares the beer for the next step. Swirling the beer also helps you to see the color and head retention, or how well the head on the beer stays in one piece.
3. Smell it.
Most of what you experience when you taste anything is smell. Don’t believe me? Hold your nose and taste something, then taste it again with your nose unplugged. You will notice a huge difference. Take a deep sniff of the beer to fill your nose with its aroma. This will give you a basic idea of the smell and taste before you even drink it.
4. Taste it
Take a small sip of the beer. Don’t take a mouthful at first, though. Remember that you are trying to experience the beer, not down it like a frat party. Swish the beer around in your mouth so all your tastebuds get their turn with it. At this point, you should be noting the consistency of the beer in your mouth (called mouthfeel) as well as some basic tastes of the beer. While the beer is still in your mouth, breathe out through your nose. This action, called retro-olfaction, will be similar to your initial smell of the beer, but should be slightly different due to the temperature difference of the beer. At this point, notice the different tastes of the beer, including sweetness, bitterness, and acidity.
Remember, everything affects the way a beer tastes. This includes the type of glass used, how the beer was stored, and even the temperature at which you are enjoying the beer. Expect the taste to change as the beer warms up, especially if the beer was too cold to begin with. Don’t let it get too warm, but sample it at slightly different temperatures to get the full effect. As you finish up tasting the beer, remember these 5 main characteristics that help you to describe/rate/define a beer. They are:
- Overall Impression
Now that you experienced the beer, enjoy it! Every drink doesn’t need to be a professional tasting event, but the initial taste should be methodical so you know exactly what it is you paid for, and can describe it to your friends!
For those that really want to learn more about tasting beer, check out this book by Randy Mosher.