How to Train Yourself to be a Better Beer Taster

Tips on Training Yourself to become an Informed Beer Drinker

If you have developed an appreciation for craft beer, chances are you’re starting to distinguish flavors and textures. The added spices, the way the thickness of the beer feels against your tongue, the clear softness of the color …

But there’s more to beer tasting than just amateur appreciation of the drink. In fact, learning what to look for and how to appreciate it can take your love of beer to an entire new level. Here are a few tips on how to train yourself to be a better beer taster.

Look Before You Taste

Unless you’re tasting some special recipe where cloudiness is part of the deal, beer (even dark beer) is clear. This means that if you raise the glass, you should be able to see through it clearly and without noticing any murkiness in the liquid.

The color of the beer will tell you which type of malt has been used to make the beer. Pale ales are lighter, while stouts and porters will have a light to medium brown color.

Take Advantage of Your Sense of Smell

A sense of smell is very important in evaluating a beer, says Says Donald Welsh, an avid homebrewer and the Head of Research at the Swem Library at the College of William and Mary.  “I can tell you, when I have a cold, I can’t fully appreciate a good beer,” Welsh says.

That’s because beers are judged on both aroma and taste.  “Aromas can include, of course, hops, malt, and a variety of esters (or, chemical compounds) and other aromatics,” Welsh adds. And different kinds and amounts of hops can definitely affect the aroma.

Experienced judges can often tell you the variety of hops used just from the aroma, according to Welsh.  He adds that some beers are known as “estery” when they smell of fruits and/or flowers.  “Light struck beers can smell like a skunk and brewing problems can lead to musty or stale aromas.” Welsh adds.  “I once had a beer fermented from wild yeast which smelled slightly like a barnyard but it did not taste bad!”

Spices can definitely come through in the aroma and so can alcohol, according to Welsh.  So, sometimes, you do get a hint that a beer is higher in alcohol but that is not always the case.  “Hopefully, your beer doesn’t smell too much like a medicine or a solvent,” Welsh says.

One way to “taste” the beer using your sense of smell? Welsh recommends swirling the beer to “open it up” and release the aromas.  “Aroma seems to be rather subjective,” he adds.  “Some people will describe a beer as yeasty, grassy, or liken the aroma to apples, cardboard, asparagus, butter, canned corn, or plastic adhesive strips.”

It is, according to Welsh, what makes tasting and drinking beer so much fun.


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Diana Bocco is a writer and author who writes for Yahoo!, the Discovery Channel website, Marie Claire, Poplar Mechanics, and more. You can find more about her work on her website

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