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How to Taste Beer Like the Pros

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Have you ever watched someone at a wine tasting? They stick their nose in the glass, put the glass up to the light, swirl the wine, taste, roll the wine around in their mouth, then proclaim it perfect or not. We’d like to tell you tasting beer – truly tasting beer – is a much shorter, less elaborate process, but it’s not. And that’s not a bad thing: Taking the time to experience and savor a craft brew is quite satisfying – and it will make you appreciate what you’re drinking so much more. As with wine, you can’t take a swig of beer and make an informed decision on it other to say “yea” or “nay,” especially if you’re tasting a fine, hand-crafted beer, carefully brewed, with subtle flavors. In that case, here’s how to taste beer properly (and impress your friends in the process):

Pour
Whether from the tap or from the bottle, the first step is to get that foamy goodness into a glass – a clear glass. When pouring, tilt your glass at a 45-degree angle, and pour the beer, targeting the middle of the downward side. When the glass is half full (or half empty, for you pessimists), bring the glass to a 90-degree angle. Continue to pour, adjusting your speed so that the head (or foam on top) is about the width of two fingers. 

Look

Beer Tasting look.jpgMarvel at the miracle of beer for a second before taking a closer look. Don’t hold the beer up to the light – that will dilute the color. The color you see should range from pale straw to black, depending on the style. Here are some examples of beer styles and their colors:

Pale Straw – German pilsner

Deep Gold – Pale ale

Amber-Brown – Amber ale

Ruby Brown – Porter

Black – Imperial stout

Further, look at whether the beer is opaque, hazy, or see-through, and examine the head’s color - it may range from white to brown – and consistency. Is it foamy or creamy?

Swirl

Beer Tasting smell 1.jpgYup, just like those wine people, you should give the beer in the glass a little swirl. Not too much, just enough to stimulate the carbonation, enhance the nuances and bring out the aromas. This also tests head retention and makes you look very knowledgeable about beer.

Sniff

Smell is a big part of taste. A common number that’s cited is that up to 95 percent of taste comes from aroma. However, due to a variety of factors, it’s hard to exactly quantify the weight smell has on taste, except to say it’s a big part of it.

So, sniff the beer. It might seem a little silly, but experts recommend taking two sharp, quick sniffs, then a normal sniff. Then one last sniff with your mouth open. Revel in the aroma or the “bouquet” as it’s known.

Taste

Now for the part you’ve all been waiting for: tasting the sweet, sweet nectar of the hops, grains, and other ingredients.  Don’t swig and gulp: sip and let the beer wander around your mouth and dance over your taste buds. Let the flavors linger so the Beer Tasting.jpgbeer’s signature characteristics can come out to play.

This is where we talk about the “mouthfeel” of the beer. The mouthfeel is the physical and textural sensations perceived by the mouth in relation to food or drink. What’s the consistency like? The carbonation? Is it acidic? Bitter? Sweet?

Register the flavors. Depending on the style of brew, you may taste bananas, caramel, bread, lemon, coffee, pear, or something else. Think about it: What are you tasting?

Finally, exhale, releasing the air in your mouth through your nose, and then swallow. Is there an aftertaste? How long does it linger? Is it something you like? If so, enjoy!

There you have it: Now you know how to taste beer. Once you master the tasting, exploring beer pairings is the next step. For instance Woodstock’s Pig's Ear brown ale and chocolate are amazing together!

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