By Joy Neighbors
With an array of craft breweries and home-beer makers crafting tempting suds, this is the perfect time to learn how to taste beer for its appreciation value.
Just like with wine, beer attracts its share of connoisseurs. Here are eight suggestions on how to taste, and take your beer enjoyment to the next level.
1. Temperature matters
Just as wine tastes better at different temperatures, beers are also more enjoyable when served at certain temps. Beers designated as blonds, pilsners and lager should be served between 35-45 degrees. Dark beers, such as porters and stouts, taste better when served around 55-degrees or near room temperature. (Just like red wines.) Once you’ve finished tasting, it’s fine to chill the beer, but don’t add ice to it. That changes the flavor profile and the body.
2. The pour
Beer can come from a can, bottle or draft spout, just be sure to pour it in a clear glass before tasting. And, yes, there is a correct way to pour. Tilt the glass so that you pour the beverage onto the inside of the glass filling it about half full. That allows for some swirling room and space for the head to form. (There are specific glasses for different types of beer, but for now just pour it into a clear, standard pint glass.)
3. Check it out
Raise the glass and take a good look at the beer. What color is it? What consistency is the head — thick or thin? How much foam is there? What color is it? Is the beer clear or cloudy? All of these questions tell you more about the brew.
4. Swirl it
Yes, just like with wine you need to give the glass a slight swirl to release those interesting aromas.
The first sniff doesn’t really count, but the second one should offer up some essence of the beer. Does it smell like malt or hops? (Light beers are usually hoppier; dark beers can include malt, chocolate and coffee aromas.) Take one more sniff with your mouth slightly open. You could smell anything from citrus, yeast, or nuts to wildflowers.
Take a small sip but don’t swallow immediately. Move the beer around in your mouth, and let it envelop your tongue. Then expel the air in your mouth and swallow. Is the beer bitter or sweet? What flavors come out?
Does the beer feel complex in your mouth? Would you describe it as opulent (rich and well balanced), chalky (dry and dusty), or thin (lacking body, flavor and/or complexity)? Does it appear to be weak and fizzy, or thick and chewy?
Did the beer leave a good taste in your mouth? Was the finish bitter? Or did you enjoy a malty sweetness at the end?
Once you get the hang of tasting beer, you’ll discover what flavors and aromas appeal to you. Not all beers are the same. If you try wheat beers and just can’t appreciate them, move on to another style. That’s part of the fun. You’ll eventually discover what type of beer is right for you. Remember, the bottom line when tasting beer — don’t overthink, just enjoy the drink.