In preparation for SF Beer Week’s Opening Celebration this Friday night, we did a little research on the best tips to get the most out of your beer tasting experience. We learned that you should use all senses to complete the sensory picture. The way the gas hisses when you pop the cap off a bottle, the intoxicating sound of a beer pouring into a glass, the quietness of the foam collapsing on the surface of the beer in a silent room… These better inform us about the beer we are drinking and simply put, make the whole experience more satisfying.
Drink mild, sweet beers first and rich, bitter beers last.
This is because you don’t want to over-stimulate your taste buds too early which would make them less sensitive too more delicate flavors.
Use a palate cleanser between beers such as bread or saltless crackers.
You don’t want to introduce strong flavors or rough textures in your mouth because they will detract from the next beer. When in doubt, lightly chilled water is perfect.
Use all your senses when tasting beer.
Not only are our 5 senses individually important but they can be even more informative when used in unison:
Appearance – We eat with our eyes before our mouths, and sight has a direct influence on what we perceive. A brew that appears golden, bubbly and has an inch of white foam will generate one expectation. A glass of dark brown with a creamy brown two-inch head will create another. What shade of beer are you drawn to?
Aroma – Consider this, the most volatile elements of the beer are in the aroma. This means that as soon as you pour your beer, the faintest and most delicate qualities escape from the liquid very quickly. Therefore, you should immediately take a full, deep smell of the beer before you even take your first sip to really take it all in. Hops are added as a means of offsetting the sweetness of malt, they also serve to produce aromas that add to the total, imparting floral, spicy or citrusy odors. Malts likewise influence the aroma. Roasted as part of the process of breaking down the grain buds to produce malt sugars, they can be light and grainy or dark and chocolatey or even burnt.
Mouthfeel - The sense of touch is also very important in several ways. The texture of the beer in the mouth has a great impact on its overall character. Even how it feels on the lips can give you a great deal of information because of the number of nerve endings there. Carbon dioxide bubbles interact with receptors on the tongue and influence whether the brew feels thick or light, creamy or thin. Brews run the gamut from metallic to astringent to warm and gentle. Some are lighter like a golden lager others are full-bodied.
Flavor – While you have a sip of beer in your mouth, exhale and inhale through your nose to move those flavor and aroma molecules all throughout your throat and nasal cavity to get the full olfactory experience! Flavors can be sweet, sour, salty or bitter in line with the four traditional divisions of different parts of the tongue to which they are most sensitive. They go well beyond these categories, and tasters can experience flavors described as clove-like, some butterscotchy, others coffee-like, or chlorinated, grassy, ‘alcoholic’ or even metallic.
Aftertaste - After swallowing, flavor and aroma combine to produce an aftertaste which is often distinctly different — even though caused by — the taste of the brew. Sweet caramel, grassy, soapy or oily, bitterness, spicy and many other qualities are all part of the experience of aftertaste. The intensity of those qualities is part of the aftertaste, often heavily influenced by the amount of alcohol in the brew.
Keep an open mind and have a well-rounded beer diet.
There is nothing worse than approaching a new beer with a pessimistic attitude. If you think you’re not going to like it…you probably won’t like it. So try new beers with a more positive attitude looking for its good points rather than its flaws. It’s important to have variety in your beer diet in order to learn more and discover new flavors or styles.
If you don’t have your tickets to the Opening Celebration, get them quick! This event has a reputation of selling out. Tickets are available here: https://sf-beer-week-2013-opening-celebration.eventbrite.com/.
Be sure to tag photos/posts at the Opening Celebration with #sfbeerweek!