Here at TheCru.ie we love all things alcohol. Caoimhe is our Beer Specialist and really wants to help everyone love beer as much as she does. This is her guide on how to taste beer.
Tasting beer is about much more than a simple “open up and swallow.” In order to fully understand and enjoy the beer you’re tasting (and drinking), there are a number of simple strategies to employ, as well as some general tips and tricks for getting the most out of your brew.
Whether you’re drinking canned, bottled, or draft beer, it’s imperative that you pour it into a glass. While a standard mixing glass, or pint glass, will do the job, we really recommend choosing your glass based on the style of beer you’re drinking. If you’re unsure about what kind of glass to use, our Glassware Guide is a great resource.
Once you’ve poured your beer, give it a good look. Note the colour as well as the size and consistency of the head.
Gently give the glass a swirl. Let the beer move around in the glass a bit. This will pull out all of the subtle aromas and nuances. It also tests head retention
Right after the swirl, take two sharp, quick sniffs of the bouquet, then take a normal sniff. Take one last sniff with your mouth open. Make sure you’re in an area without any extraneous, overpowering odours, as that will affect the experience. Take in all of the aromas. Note those that are strong, weak, not strong enough, etc. Try to articulate what you’re experiencing.
Now, the moment you’ve been waiting for. Doesn’t it taste better when you’ve waited a bit? You had a number of teasers, and now you can indulge – just don’t go chugging it!
Take small sips and resist swallowing right away. Let the beer linger, coating your tongue and the top of your throat. Allow it to sit while you register the flavours. Exhale, releasing the air in your mouth through your nose, and swallow.
In order to properly experience your beer and relay that experience to others, it’s helpful to understand tasting terminology. Below, you’ll find some of the most commonly used terms and phrases.
- Bouquet: The smells and aromas perceived in a beer. Some people use the words “aroma” and/or “nose” synonymously with “bouquet.”
- Balanced: A balanced beer is one that incorporates all of the main components in a manner where no single component stands out or overpowers another.
- Big: A “big” beer is one with a lot of flavour or alcohol.
- Chalky: The word “chalky” is used when a beer tastes powdery, dry, and/or dusty.
- Finish: Flavors left in your mouth immediately after swallowing.
- Head: The frothy foam on top of a beer is produced by bubbles of gas (most commonly carbon dioxide).
- Lightstruck: A term referring to beer that’s had too much exposure to light, causing what many refer to as a “skunky” flavour.
- Mouthfeel: Just as it sounds, “mouthfeel” refers to the feel of a beer while in your mouth.
- Opulent: A rich, balanced beer with a nice texture and mouthfeel.
- Round: A balanced beer.
- Sessionable: A beer is referred to as “sessionable” when it has low alcohol by volume (ABV), and a smooth flavour. It’s the kind of beer you can drink slowly over a period of several hours (a session) without getting drunk.
- Thin: Lacking in body, complexity, and/or flavour.