Here we try to give you a few rough guidelines to approaching the tasting of beer. At the foot of this article will find an example of a beer tasting score sheet, this can be fun to do, but try not to get too over reliant on this method for appreciating or rating beers.
One of the beauties of beer is it’s total diversity in flavour, and as a result, different people’s opinions of a beer can vary dramatically. Very rarely these day’s do you get a bad beer, just those that may not entirely suit your palate. So feel free to go ahead and use the information below, to help you get your head around tasting beer, but please don’t take it too seriously!
Always use CLEAN, detergent and debris free glassware.
Refrigerate beer a few hours prior to serving (or remove some beers from the fridge to allow them to come to a more suitable warmer temperature).
Chill your beers at least 24hrs before drinking to allow the CO² to stabilize at the cooler temperature (pouring from a bottle that has been quickly taken down to temp in a freezer can considerably affect the pouring quality).
The Australian climate, since the invention of refrigeration, has always leant towards ice cold beers. This can be great as an automatic thirst quencher, but by chilling a beer too cold, you can limit it’s ability to release all of its fuller flavours and taste. The optimum temperatures for enjoying beers varies on the style, here are a few recommendations:
Lager Style Beers 4˚c ; Ale Style Beers 7-8˚c; Strong Ales 8-10˚c
OK, so you’ve got your beer from the fridge, and your glass is gleaming, next comes the pour. The simple principle is the same whether pouring by draught or from the bottle.
Don’t be afraid of the beer! You want to create a decent head of foam.
Initially, slightly tilt the glass towards the source (to guage the liveliness of the beer, and begin a brisk pour straight to the bottom of the glass, running into the base , via the lowest part of the glass interior. As the beer and foam rise, continue to pour at a diminishing rate, aiming to pour below the foam line, whilst straightening the glass and slowing the pour.
Remember that if you’re pouring from a bottle, that it doesn’t all have to fit in the glass, you can hold some back to refresh the beer.
The first opportunity for your senses to get involved come next. Hold your beer up to the light to begin to assess it’s appearance. Does the beer have a well formed head? Are it’s colours and clarity true to it’s style? Is there something unique about it’s appearance?
But most importantly, Does it look good enough to drink???
The beer’s aroma is the second sensory trigger. What do you pick up on the first smell? Do you notice any hoppy odours? Do the malty characteristics shine through? By looking at the ‘Beer Wheel’ you will see the plethora of descriptives you could attribute to beers.
The first aroma is known as the dominant scent. As the beer settles, and you lightly swill the beer around the glass, the secondary scents will begin to come through. These tend to be more subtle, and can highlight some of the fruity, floral and spicy smells associated with the hop plants involvement. The final, residual scent can leave you with some of the slightly off the wall flavours, such as grassiness or nuttiness. The aroma’s will dissipate somewhat, as you drink down the glass.
In the first couple of taste’s of a beer, you should be looking to assess it’s mouthfeel and flavour.
Swirl the beer around your mouth, giving it chance to wash over the taste buds. How does it feel in the mouth? Is it warming? Is there heavy carbonation?
Don’t forget to swallow the beer!
And finally, how do the flavours feel after ingestion? Are you left with a sweet , bitter or malty after taste? How long do the flavours linger for?
Does it make you want to go for another?
This is surely the question all brewers want answered with a resounding YES! The moreish quality of the beer has to be at the top of the list when drinking and assessing alike.
Choosing the right glassware
When selecting glassware, it is salient to remember that different beers do favour different glass styles, for example:
A Tall flute, showcases a Pilsner style beer best. The design helps enhance colour & clarity, and stimulates the beer’s carbonation, thus creating a fuller head (foam), in turn, helping to preserve the subtle hop aromas.
For their Trappist style beers, the Belgians often like to use glasses styled similar to a Brandy balloon, it also works equally well with rich stouts and porters. It allows the beer to settle in the glass; warm quicker; releasing it’s CO² and also the deeper richer flavours. As with red wine, swilling the beer around the glass also helps to release further hidden depths.