With the rise in fame of mezcal and all the tastings and experiences available nowadays, shouldn’t the same be offered for beer given its steady popularity and all there is to discover within it? A true brew connoisseur may already be rolling those exotic notes of mango, pineapple, wood, or tobacco over their palate, and now you can too. Here are eight steps (and a quick experiment) we recommend to hone those taste buds so can you sip beer like a cicerone.
Beer is fun
Don’t let anyone tell you that one beer is better than another. The best one will always be the one you like the most, because, as with all things gastronomic, tastes are personal and derive from our experiences and preferences. So just have fun with it.
Choose a wide glass with a closed mouth (yes, as if it were a wine)
Having the proper shaped vessel will ensure that the aromas are “enclosed” inside the glass so that you can better perceive their fragrances. While there are specialized glasses for different styles of beer, there is nothing to worry about if you don’t have them. A good brew and the desire to experiment are your best allies.
Temperature is very important!
If it’s too cold, it’s impossible to perceive the nuances of brew because cold hides aromas. If it’s too warm, the experience can be completely different, as some flavors and fragrances get replaced by others. According to writer Michael “the Beer Hunter” Jackson, beers should be drunk at the temperature at which they were fermented. That said, lagers are best enjoyed chilled, while ales should be served at a higher temperature.
Serve your beer at a 45º tilt and try to make at least two fingers of foam
Observe your beer. Check the color, foam, and filtration (is it translucent or cloudy?). Many of the clues about the flavor, style, or profile can be gauged just from sight.
Close your eyes and smell the beer
Try to distinguish between the flavors of the malts, which are generally sweeter, piney or caramelized, the hops with their characteristic herbal or fruity notes, and the yeasts, whose aromas range from pepper and clove to banana. Let the olfactory cues be your guide as you visualize these elements in your mind.
Take a small sip
Feel the body and its flavor, the bitter or acidic nuances and the carbonation. Does it have a dry finish, a sweet one? Does its flavor linger in the mouth or disappear quickly?
Repeat it all again and have a good time
Try to taste various styles and get to know brewing schools (such as German or Belgian) so that you understand how this ancient beverage has been brewed to tickle the senses as much as to have a good time.
Cheers…here’s to enjoying every beer!
- Buy a dark ale, like a porter, stout, or brown ale (preferably craft over industrial).
- Chill it until it’s dead. Smell and taste it with a small sip and analyze your sensory perceptions.
- Allow five minutes pass (while the beer is tempering) and observe how the flavors and aromas develop as the temperature changes. Do this every five minutes until you finish it. Do you like it colder or warmer? Was there actually any change after this experiment?