There are a lot of primers out there on how to taste beer. The truth is there’s not much to it. We all eat, we all drink, we all appreciate good flavors. Tasting beer is just that, appreciating its flavors.
Before I go on I should say I’m no beer expert. I’m not a certified cicerone, I never took any tasting classes or anything like that. I’m just very enthusiastic about beer, and I think it’s fun to pick apart what makes a beer great… or not so great.
So tasting a beer is not solely about the flavor, but about the entire experience. The tasting begins as soon as you crack open that bottle and start pouring.
The first thing that most people will notice about a beer, like many things they are about to consume, is its appearance. What color is it? Golden? Amber? Black? Is it clear or opaque? What’s the head like? Is it thick and foamy? Light and bubbly? Unlike most things, you can judge these books by their covers. At least to an extent. The appearance of a beer can actually tell you a lot about how it’s going to taste.
The next thing that you want to note is the beer’s aroma, or smell. You can probably guess that this will tell you even more about what the beer will taste like than the appearance. What do you smell when you take a whiff? Smoke? Coffee? Lemon? Pine? Caramel? Think about it.
Okay. You’ve noted the beer’s appearance and it’s aroma. Now for the part you’ve all been waiting for. Taste. Sip slowly, this is no time for shot-gunning. Let it linger. What flavors did you get when it hit your lips? Grapefruit? Chocolate? Banana? Oats? How did it taste going down? Was it a sweet, malty finish? Bitter? Floral? Take notes.
Another thing people often note when tasting a beer is its mouthfeel. This is exactly what it sounds like. What does the beer feel like in your mouth? Light? Heavy? Watery? Bready? Sticky? Syrupy?
Finally, what is your overall opinion of the beer? Did you like it? Hate it? Why? Was it too bitter? Too floral? Delicious?
Just a tip: if you’re drinking a good beer, it’s best to let it warm up a few degrees after it comes out of the fridge before you drink it. Letting the beer warm a bit is like letting a good wine open up after pouring. This too opens the beer up, and allows the flavors and aromas to become more pronounced.
(adapted from BeerAdvocate‘s “How to Review a Beer”)