In one of our previous posts this blog outlined how to set up a DIY beer tasting, similar to one you could experience in our brewery. If you really want to take it up a notch, you can learn how to review a beer like a pro. It’s perfectly okay to describe your beer like a newbie – perhaps it’s “bitter” or “light,” but can you describe the aromatics? The mouthfeel? If you’d like to impress your friends during your next beer tasting, read on to learn how to review a beer like a seasoned expert.
As soon as a pint or a flight is placed in front of you, what do you notice first? The answer is likely the appearance of the beer. Even a newbie knows that not all beer looks the same. Beer can range from the palest gold to pitch black, and everything in between. Hold your glass up to the light to get a look at the different color tones. Also – can you see through your beer? If not, the beer is likely unfiltered and still contains yeast and sediment from the brewing process. How thick is your beer? How foamy? How creamy? How carbonated? Taking note of all of these factors helps you to judge the beer in front of you. It also helps you to realize how much of a range beer truly has.
Once you’ve sized up the look of your beer, you can move on to its aromatics. Taste and smell go hand in hand, and smell is a huge part of the sensual experience of food and drink. If you’ve ever seen a beer or wine connoisseur swirling their glass around, they’re not just doing this to look fancy. Swirling your beer in the glass is said to aerate it, and pull out more of the natural fragrances. Different beers have different smells – malty beers tend to have a much different aroma than hoppy ones. For example, our Black Creek Porter has been described as smelling roasty, burnt, and slightly nutty, similar to coffee. In comparison, our India Pale Ale smells citrusy, floral, and tropical, like a grapefruit. Take note of what you smell as a clue about the flavor profile you are about to experience.
After making note of look and smell, you can finally get down to the most important part: tasting the beer. First impressions are everything, so your first sip will tell you a lot about the beer you are reviewing. It’s always a good idea to cleanse your palate before you dive into the first sip – water and neutral foods such as bread can help to reset your taste buds. This is especially important if you just sampled a different beer, or if you just had a meal with overpowering flavors.
During your first sip, really savor the feel and taste of the beer on your palate. What flavor notes are you getting? Beer can be extremely complex, with multiple flavor notes and distinct aftertastes. Are the flavors similar to what you noticed during the smell? Is the beer balanced, or is it too mild or too bitter? All of these questions are things to pay attention to as you taste your beer. As you continue to sip, you can also ponder the most important question of all when it comes to a review – do you like this beer?
When I was a beer newbie, this word seemed strange to me. Mouthfeel? What is this concept and is it really that different from taste? To the seasoned beer reviewer, the answer is yes. Simply put, mouthfeel is the sensations you are experiencing as you sip the beer. For example, adjectives such as carbonated, creamy, crisp, and watery are all ways to describe how a beer feels when you drink it. This is an important part of tasting a beer, and mouthfeel makes more of a difference than you may think. For example, purists of real British style ale expect a certain mouthfeel when they sip their beer. British ales are naturally carbonated, like the beer we make at the Black Creek brewery. The mouthfeel of a British ale can make or break the perception of how authentic it truly is.
Beer reviewing may seem a little overwhelming, but it can be a very enjoyable experience. It’s very rewarding to slow down and experience a beer mindfully, and to understand the flavor notes and complexities that beer has to offer. The final impressions of a beer truly come down to your personal tastes. Was the beer enjoyable? What did you like and dislike? As we say down at the Black Creek brewery, beer is very personal. Therefore, don’t be shy about thinking of your own personal tastes as you review.
So next time you’re enjoying a flight or a pint, slow down and size up your beer. Hopefully it’ll get a good review!
Hops to you,