How To Savor Craft Beer
Beer is never supposed to be pretentious. When thinking about savoring a beer, many people immediately conjure images of someone snobbishly regaling others with colorful adjectives while sipping from a fancy glass with the pinky finger out. There are certainly many adjectives that can be used to describe a beer and many people are passionate about this craft, so it is likely that this can occur. Regardless of whether or not you choose to vocalize your observations, there are some steps you can follow to discover all the nuances of the beer.
After pouring a beer into a clean glass make note of:
Raise the glass in front of you and look at it. Is the beer clear or hazy? What color is it? Is there a good amount of head on it? Many styles of beer have a unique appearance, and the best way to learn is by trying them.
Gently swirl the beer in the glass to agitate it a little bit. This will help bring out the aroma. Inhale two or three times. Warm it in your hands if you need to; this will bring out the aroma (cold will mask aroma and flavor notes). The majority of the beer tasting experience is through the sense of smell, so this step is very important. What do you smell? Do you detect notes of floral, citrus, bread, caramel, toffee, coffee, etc.? Make note of the different aromas.
Yay! Now you can take a drink. With your first sip, let the beer sit in your mouth for a few seconds before swallowing. Let it hit every part of your palate, and let every taste bud enjoy the experience. As you swallow, inhale through your nose with your lips slightly parted. This will incorporate the sense of smell with taste (remember, the majority of the beer tasting experience is through smell). Take note of all the flavors you taste. Does the taste follow the aroma notes? Is it sweet? Is it bitter?
Take another sip. Again, hold it in your mouth for a few seconds and slightly swish it around. Make note of how it feels in your mouth (what we call mouthfeel). Is it heavy or thin? Is it effervescent? Does it feel creamy?
After the above steps, pause for a little bit and make note of what flavors linger. Is there a lingering bitterness or sweetness? Does it taste astringent? Are there any lingering off-flavors such as butter or wet paper? The aftertaste is often the step that determines whether we want more of that particular beer.
Drink the rest of your beer and make note of how the aroma and flavors change or become more expressive as the beer warms.
Again, beer is never supposed to be pretentious. Merriam-Webster defines savor as “to taste or smell with pleasure.” If your idea of savoring a beer is to drink it straight from the can or bottle, or if chugging a few while tailgating gives you pleasure, then you do you. Savoring a beer is a personal experience that differs from person to person. The important thing is to enjoy the beer!
-Mike Vanaman, BBCo Lead Curator