Three Steps in Tasting Beer

Everything that we perceive about the world is done through our senses – from sight to touch, to how we understand our emotions and feelings. But our perception isn’t just limited to the senses alone, because life itself influences how we perceive and brings our mind back to an exact location or emotion.

If you’re asking yourself if I’m still talking about tasting beer, I absolutely am, I was just in my philosophical bag. Ok! So, let’s breakdown my three steps to perceiving and tasting great beer. This won’t be an exhaustive or deep list, but just the basics. Sight, Smell and Taste.

Sight

I could start off with the importance of glassware or simply having a beer clean glass, but today, I’m just talking about the appearance of the beer.

But also, make sure your damn glass is clean fam!

So, let’s be honest, we do everything with our eyes. We eat with our eyes, we experience love at first sight, and we find that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. As it relates to beer, I’m looking at the color of the beer, the clarity, or lack thereof, how quickly or heavy it moves around the glass and depending on the style, how lively the carbonation jumps in and out of the glass.

The color could tell you the style, the heaviness of the beer or if any fruit additions were added.

Take the below picture for example, what’s the first thing you notice about it? The color, right? That bright and vibrant rose hue typically indicates the addition of some fruit – whether it be strawberry, cherry, raspberry or even pomegranate. Beers this color aren’t usually stouts either. More than likely, this was a fruited sour, so now, as a taster, you can prepare your mind for what you are about to taste. Preparing your brain is essential in preparing your taste buds.

If I told you to expect a big espresso notes with impressions of dark chocolate and caramel, your initial reaction would be completely thrown off. But if I said, expect notes of tart raspberries, sweet juicy strawberries and hints of vanilla, you are more than likely to pick out that exact flavor once you go to taste.

Aroma

This is my favorite part of tasting beer before I even taste the beer.

I always tell people to think of the last family dinner or holiday get together and think of that dish you love so much. Imagine yourself walking around the house and the aroma of that dish penetrating your nostrils. I bet if you close your eyes, you could described exactly how that dish will taste based simply on its aroma – and of course, your past experience with it.

Tasting beer is truly a beautiful art that takes intimate time to master.

I’m no doctor, so I can’t tell you how the molecules of aromas translate to taste, but they do. Does the ocean smell salty? If the answer is yes, then I’ve made the point that I want to make.

Take a Gose for example – a beer traditionally brewed with higher amounts of saline in the water, will give off mineral aromas that speak to the saltiness that you might get in the taste.

If you take a Stout and you’ll be able to discover aromas of roast, coffee, chocolate or toffee. Or maybe you have an IPA in front of you, notes of citrus, pine and tropical fruits might be the star of the show. All of these indicators will prepare your brain to taste according to the aroma.

Quite often, if the aroma is robust and complex, I could sit for at least five minutes picking out the aroma before I even taste the beer. Tasting beer is truly a beautiful art that takes intimate time to master and enjoy.

Taste

All of this leads to the big finale, the Taste.

This is pretty simple and honestly, the steps before are as important, if not more.

When I taste beer, I taste in three parts. Based on the aroma, I look for what I perceived most prominent first. If its a stout, my first sensor to light up is the bitterness level (coffee, roast, dark malts) and the sweetness level (light to dark malts, molasses) followed by my perception of the alcohol level. For IPAs, bitterness level (pine, orange rind), sweetness level (clean malts, pineapple, mango) and of course, the alcohol level.

I remember when I first was tasting and writing about beer, I had someone tell me, “I wish my boyfriend talked to me the way you talk about beer”. Yea, I get pretty poetic when I write about my relationship with beer, but she’s always complex and full of surprising. The journey is beautiful.

The next time you pick up your favorite beer, pour it in to a glass and use your sense of sight, aroma and taste to complete the full round of tasting notes. Once you do that, you’ll have a deeper understanding of the beer you are consuming.

Remove the Limits. Uncap Everything!

Eric Jackson of UncapEverything.com

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