So, you've decided you like beer, eh? Enough to brave the sweet, smokey, malty, hoppy, bitter or downright strange flavors that brewers like to invent? If your answer is yes, this guide will help you sound smart enough to hold your own amongst distinguished company.
There are four key factors to consider when tasting beer: APPEARANCE, AROMA, MOUTHFEEL, and TASTE.
To determine APPEARANCE, look at the beer.
Is it the right color for the style or known ingredients? Does it appear watery or dull? Are the unexpected particulates in it? Is the head of the beer true to it's style. Does is have a long lasting and rocky head? Is the head bright white, tan, or even pink? And most importantly, does it look delicious?
To judge AROMA, smell the beer. First you swirl the beer in your glass to agitate and release the essence (sometimes you can even use your hand over the glass to capture the aroma).
Guess what girls? It doesn't end there, there are 3 parts to aroma: the actual aroma, bouquet, and odor.
Aroma: is typically determined by the malt, grain, and any fermentation by-products. The aromas that originate from the malt and grain are often described as nutty, sweet, grainy, and malty. Smell the beer in the glass immediately after it is poured. What do you smell? Yeast? Hop? Malt? Roast (like coffee or smokey or burnt)? Sweet? Fruity?
Bouqet: this gets tricky, everything you sniff when you identify the aroma are considered a part of the bouqet. However, you will also want to determine any hop charactristics at this time. These are usually defined as herbal, pine, floral, resin, and spice.
Odor: Now, this is typically a negative characteristic. Depending on the style of the beer, a sweet smell can be negative. Other flavors run the gamut, from fishy to skunky, or alcohol-y, etc.
Next is MOUTHFEEL: How does the beer feel in your mouth? Full, medium or light body beers feel different in the mouth. Full body beers feel...full or heavy, while light? You guessed it, are lighter and crisper in the mouth. Something like a nice cold juice.
Last but not least, judge the TASTE.
This step involves sipping, but not swallowing (plenty of jokes to be had here). Allow the beer to explore your tastebuds, here you will note the FLAVOR and FINISH.
FLAVOR: What does the beer taste like? Can you taste the earthy notes of the malt? What about the bitter bite of hops? Or maybe a sweetness from an underattenuated beer?
FINISH: After you swallow, the beer lingers in your mouth. What do you taste at this point? A bitter or smooth finish? Perhaps a coffee or caramel note?
The key to tasting beer is to remember there is no right answer. Taste is subjective. You are entitled to your opinion, and most importantly, tasting and drinking what you like is always the goal!