Craft Beer Blog

The Basics of How to Taste a Beer in 4 Simple Steps

Posted by Sarah Bedrick on Apr 27, 2012, 8:51:00 AM
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With craft breweries growing in popularity, more and more people are starting to take beertasting beer  more seriously. People are expanding beyond the typical lawn mower beer and are beginning to try new styles and learn how to taste them.

There are four simple steps to properly tasting a beer and should be done consecutively. Below you'll find the basics, but of course, the more refined your tasting skills become, the more seriously you can approach the tasting. 

1. Pour the beer.

First pour the beer into a clean glass. While many people do drink beer straight out of a bottle or can, it is really not the best way to properly taste a beer. When pouring be sure to pour down the side of the glass - and choose the speed which best provides a 1 to 2 inch foam head.

2. Appearance.

Before you dive in head first into your beer, take a moment to review it's appearance. Some people like to hold up fingers on the other side of the class to determine it's clarity. With some styles of beer, you'll be able to see your fingers clearly through the other side. However, with other styled beers, like wheat, it will be unfiltered and have the appearance of cloudy.

3. Swirl it around and smell it's aroma. 

Still before you take your first sip, take a nice whiff of the smell of the beer. About 90-95% of what you experience is through the sense of smell. Beer advocate recommends breathing through your nose with two quick sniffs, then with your mouth open, then again through your mouth only.

4. Taste it. 

Now you can taste the beer. Take a sip, but resist the need to immediately swallow. Let the beer float around you palate getting a full effect and understanding of the flavors. Often the first flavors you note, can be different than the final taste, aka the finish of the beer. 

Also pay attention to the mouthfeel. Is it velvety like a stout, crisp and carbonated, or chewy.

Other tips to tasting beers:

1. Cleanse your palate in between beers. If you're trying multiple beers, cleansing your palate is a must. Many people simply use water, and others use cheese and crackers, but if you do - note that these still can affect the flavors of the beer. 

2. Let the beer warm up a bit. Sometimes beer can be served too cold, and if the beer is too cold it can mask the flavors not allowing you to get a true and honest taste of the flavors.

3. If you're trying multiple beers, follow a color scheme. Most professionals recommend starting with lighter colored beers and moving to the darker. But oddly, IPAs have some of the most complex flavors and should be tasted last - although they're generally a lighter color.

This is just a very basic guide to tasting beers, and of course if you have any suggestions or input you'd like to add, feel free to use the comment box below.

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Topics: beer tasting