How to taste beer?


Beer tasting is a very fun thing to do. Beer has many different flavours. All basic flavours can be found in beer: sweet, sour, bitter, salt and umami. Beer is brewed with use of a recipe. The basic ingredients are water, malt, hop and yeast. In addition fruit, herbs, spices and many other ingredients can also be used when brewing beer. All these ingredients give beer even more flavour, so beer is full of flavour.

Tasting beer requires a few steps. It starts with opening the bottle or a can. When opening you’ll hear whether the beer is bubbly or flat. When it’s bubbly, you have to give the pouring some extra attention. Grab a clean glass, pour in the beer and look at the beer, the foam and the clarity when you pour the beer. What colour does the beer and foam have?

After pouring, you immediately smell the beer. What do you smell? Is it fresh, malty, sour or fruity? Dark beer will probably have a sort of burned and roasted sense. Amber-coloured beers have a malty, or bread-like aroma, but can also be very hoppy. Then you will taste the aromas of flour, fruit and sometimes grass or hay flavours. Another way to smell the aromas is to smear a little foam on the top of your hand. When you smell this, you’ll have a much better smell on the more volatile aromas from the hops.

After smelling your beer, you take a sip. Swallow this first sip quickly. Your mouth and especially your throat must get used to the sometimes bitter taste of beer. When you take the second sip you can observe the flavours from the beer better. At the third sip, you check whether you taste the same aromas as with the second sip.

During beer tasting it can be fun to make tasting notes. Write a few details of the beer first, such as the name of the beer, the brewery, the beer type or beer style, and the alcohol percentage. If you know the colour (EBC) or bitter value (EBU) (sometimes this is written on the label), and either the used malt and cereals, or the used hoppers, then you can write them down also. Also write the smell, on your hand or in your mouth, and the visual (colour, brightness and foam stability). Finally, write down the taste and the aftertaste. Count to four once with the first sip: do you only taste bitter? What is it that you actually taste? Which grain, bread, caramel, fruit or herbs do you taste? And then the aftertaste: is it short, long or intense? What do you recognize in the taste and aftertaste?

Written by Arvid Bergström

Interested in brewing your own beer? Read this article: Crafting your Own Beer at Home?