“Fruity nose. Delicate hoppy aroma. Malty flavor. Perfect balance.” Yep, that could be you, wowing your buddies the next time you’re kicking back with a beer. True, it doesn’t take extensive knowledge to enjoy beer. But your appreciation will definitely go up when you know how the pros savor a brew—and how to describe the experience.
Step 1: Note the Appearance. How would you describe the color? Beers range from pale yellow or copper to deep brown and jet black. Barley malt contributes to a beer’s color, as well as adding flavor and body. Check out the foam too. How thick is it? Is it white, tan, or another color? Is it tight and creamy, or loose and airy?
Step 2: Absorb the Bouquet. Do you smell fruity notes? That would be esters, compounds that are formed during fermentation. You may also detect tangy or bitter aromas. Considered the “seasoning” of a beer, hops lend an enjoyable floral, citrus, piney or spicy scent.
Step 3: Savor the Flavor. On your first sip, enjoy the combination of foam and beer, and notice how they come together to form an initial impression of sweetness or fullness. Taste again, and notice whether the beer feels heavy or light in the mouth. A bock or porter may seem heavier, while a pale beer will feel lighter and more refreshing. Next, think about the balance. Does it have a light body and a crisp, clean taste, or a sweet, mellow, more rounded flavor? Is it dry, with bitter hop notes, or does it have more of a malty sweetness?
Step 4: Observe the Palate. Don’t forget to notice how the beer feels on the tongue. The acidity and carbon dioxide content of a beer can contribute to its sharpness, or palate-cleansing qualities. Finally, enjoy the finish. Is it fast and clean, or does it linger?
One more thing! Experienced beer tasters swallow their beer to reach the taste bud receptors all over the tongue, including the back. No spitting required!
Remember, beer is always best enjoyed in moderation, and only by those of legal drinking age.