Over the last few years, craft beer has dramatically grown in popularity in the United States. A huge range of local microbreweries are now offering full-flavored beers, each of which deserves to be savored like a fine wine. Here are some tips to help all beer drinkers appreciate beer like a pro.
1. Know How to Get the Perfect Pour
The ideal tasting experience begins with the perfect pour. First, select a suitable glass. If the beer does not come with any glass recommendations, a tulip glass is usually a good bet. For highly carbonated beers, angle the glass and pour the beer down the side to reduce the size of the head. For beers with low carbonation, keep the glass straight and pour the beer directly into its center to create more foam.
2. Take a Good Look
Craft beers have a wide range of appearances. While some are pale and clear, others are cloudy and have a large head. Take the time to note the distinctive character of the beer’s appearance before moving onto using the other senses.
3. Swirl to Prepare
Swirling beer around in the glass releases subtle scents and flavors. Note how the head responds to this motion. Some beers will retain their head, while for others the foam starts to break down.
4. Take a Sniff
The sense of smell plays a big role in how a beer tastes. It is important to carry out this step in an area where there are no other strong smells. As soon as the beer stops swirling, it is time to push the nose into the glass and take two short, sharp sniffs. Take one more inhale at a normal pace. Finally, take a final inhale with the mouth open. This is the best way to appreciate all the fragrances present in the beer. It is a good learning experience to try to articulate what smells are present and how strong or weak they are.
5. Take The First Sip
After the eyes and nose have taken in as much information as they can, it is time to finally take a sip of the beer. This should not be a huge gulp, but be sure to take in enough to coat the mouth. Allow the beer to come into contact with the lips, teeth, gums, and all parts of the tongue. This helps to ensure that all flavors in the beer — sweet, sour, and bitter — can be fully appreciated.
6. Swallow and Appreciate
After allowing the beer to linger in the mouth for a while, go ahead and swallow. Keep the mouth closed and exhale through the nose. For many beers, the aftertaste is as important as the tastes it creates while it is in the mouth, so be sure to sit and reflect for a while before taking the next sip.
7. Taste the Beer Again
On the second sip, it is time to focus on the weight of the beer. Some craft brews feel very heavy in the mouth, while others are much lighter and more refreshing. Reflect on how the beer compares to other beers in the same style. The way a beer feels while it is in your mouth is called the “mouthfeel” and it is an important feature for craft brewers.
8. Reflect and Record
Serious beer tasters take notes on their tasting experiences in a journal or notebook. This allows them to look back on the experiences they had with different craft beers, which means they can easily identify favorite brews or work out which beer to pair with a certain food or event. Another option is to talk over the tasting experience with a friend. This has the advantage of making beer tasters more skilled at communicating the way a beer tastes and smells. Getting a regular tasting buddy can make the art of beer appreciation more fun and enjoyable.
9. Know the Lingo
Some beer drinkers struggle to say what kinds of beers they like as they do not have the vocabulary to express the way various beers taste and feel. To overcome this problem, practice using the following terms:
- Balanced: The various flavors in the beer blend together so that no one overpowers the others.
- Big: Strong-tasting or with a high alcohol content.
- Round: Balanced.
- Opulent: A rich, balanced beer with good mouthfeel.
- Thin: Lacking body, flavor, or complexity.
- Lightstruck: A beer that has had too much light exposure, which makes it taste “skunky.”
- Chalky: A dry or powdery taste.
- Session beer: A low-alcohol beer, suitable for a session which involves drinking several beers.
- Finish: The flavors that are left in the mouth after swallowing, also known as aftertaste.
10. Practice Makes Perfect
By following these tips carefully, regular beer drinkers can become expert beer drinkers. The most important thing is to taste a wide range of different beers. This allows drinkers to experience and learn to recognize the differences between the various craft brews on the market. The more beers a drinker tastes, the better they are likely to become at tasting beer and articulating each brew’s strengths and weaknesses.