Beer aromas may vary from floral, fruity and spicy to sweet and caramel
Scent of a beer...
Some aromas in beer are so volatile that they may linger only for a minute. So before anything else, enjoy the scent of your beer. Its aromas may vary from floral, fruity and spicy to sweet and caramel; from burnt to herbal, bready or nutty. Floral or grassy aromas frequently derive from hops and are common in pilsners. Fruity bouquets stem from esters created in fermentation and are common in ales and stouts. Malt, especially if darkly roasted, creates a rounded, rich aroma, which is often found in brown ales, stouts, and dark lagers.
Beer is best tasted by placing the glass under the nose and gently shaking the glass to help reveal all of its ingredients. Smelling is best accomplished by quick sniffs (a long draw of air will only dry out your nose and saturate your receptors). Give it a few moments to sink in, as some aromas take a while to register.
Examine the colour, clarity and head formation of the beer
Take a closer look...
When tasting beer, it is important to take a close look at the beer. Consider the colour, for instance: is it straw, gold or amber? Or is it darker – walnut, mahogany or black? And what about the clarity of the beer? Is it brilliant, cloudy, hazy – or almost opaque? Examine the head formation: it can be rocky, creamy, tight or rather loose. Finally, assess the fizz in the beer; is it highly carbonated or not?
For an accurate, objective beer tasting, it is important to sample beers in the same type of glass. The shape of the glass can affect perception of taste, so when comparing different beers, it is important to give them equal presentation.
It is important to hold the glass in such a way that your body heat will not cause the temperature of the beer to rise. To prevent this effect, a chalice glass on a stem is the best glass to use.
Beers can vary from light bodied to rounded and mouth-filling
It’s a matter of taste...
When tasting and assessing beer, you score it on two aspects: the body and mouth feel and its flavour. As far as the body and mouth feel is concerned, notice how the beer fills your palate and the impression it leaves, which can vary from light bodied (leaves a clean finish after swallowing) to full bodied (rounded, mouth-filling, sometimes creamy-textured or oily). The four main flavours are sweet, sour, bitter and salt. In beer you will find flavours that are best described as: floral, fruity, spicy, sweet, caramel, burnt flavours, herbal, bready and nutty.
Take a sip and roll the beer around in your mouth to make sure it hits all of your taste buds. Different areas of your tongue are sensitive to different tastes; the illustration below shows the places where the taste buds are located on the tongue as well as the areas of perception for the four basic tastes.
Make sure you give special attention to the aftertaste. Also make sure to serve different beers in an identical way and at the same temperature. Temperatures that are too low can prevent certain tastes, flavours and aromas from coming out.
A beer tasting session is ideal to draw more customers on quieter nights. Select five or six beers (or more if there are experienced beer connoisseurs among the participants) and kick off with a brief background presentation. Provide variety in your presentation by addressing different topics – such as the history, brewing process, myths and ingredients.
Not only will your customers love it; your staff and your business can also benefit from a well-organized beer tasting session.