Properly tasting craft beer can be an art
Craft beer is recognized for its uniqueness and taste, but how do you really taste beer?
It is necessary to understand the process of tasting beer so that we can truly enjoy and cherish the drink.
A few good reasons to understand the process of beer tasting:
- To recognize beers on their own merits or against an epitome of a particular style.
- Choosing beer for a restaurant or a private dinner party.
- To identify the ingredients and their respective balance in the beer, revealing the complexities available due to variations in recipes and procedures in the brewing process.
- And of course, you just like beer!
Sensation is a mix of stimulation and perception. At one end, sensory nerves fire when stimulated, and at the other end, thoughts, memories and image emerge.
An approach for tasting beer.
Often a beer is characterized using its appearance, aroma and taste/finish. These characteristics can each be controlled and changed depending upon the ingredients and measures used in the brewing process. If you truly want to understand beer then you need a basic understanding of the entire brewing process which includes malting, fermentation and the earthy character of malt and bitter quality of the hop.
A very important point to consider while enjoying a good beer is to have it at the precise temperature. The subtleties and aroma will be concealed in a beer that is too cold.
Sweet – sweetness will always be present in beer to some extent, and it can become a major player depending upon a few rich styles like scotch ale, doppelbock, and mild stout, wherein a considerable amount of residual sugar is present. Sweetness is present in most beers as a balancing element and it may be overshadowed by hops, roasted malt or occasionally acidity.
Sour – Beer is moderately acidic drink, normally with a pH of 4.0 to 4.5 but with the exception of certain sour beers. This characteristic of beer plays as a supporting role rather that a starring role. A good place to really pay attention to acidity is in fruit beers wherein the key factor to take into consideration is the brightness of fruit character.
Salty- In beer, salt does not commonly play a role, but when it is present, it is either from mineral rich water or added intentionally to make its flavours richer and bigger.
Bitter – Studies indicate that the cellular processes that trigger a bitter signal are fairly complex, and because of this, bitter-sensing taste buds are slower to act in response. You may have experienced this while you enjoyed a bitter beer. The first taste sensation is likely to be a mix of sweetness and acidity, but after a beat the bitterness kicks in and builds to a crescendo. Another interesting fact about bitterness is that it takes longer to leave the palate, sometimes lingering for several minutes. Refer to the post on hopped beer to know more about its history and significance.
Umami – This is rather a unique kind of flavor it starts to become noticeable in beer after prolonged aging. First, a rich meatiness may show itself, and with enough time, flavor notes reminiscent of soy sauce might show up. This flavor is an important player in beer and food pairing.
Aroma: This characteristic plays a key role while deciding the favorite beer; you need to take your own time with each sniff as the perception of smell gets dulled after four sniffs. This is the reason why we recommend drinking our Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ale in a Snifter glass. The diagram depicts the features of using a snifter glass while having a beer.
Why the Snifter Glass
The scent of beer can be divided into three parts: aroma, bouquet, and odor.
Aroma: It is determined by the malt, grain and any fermentation by-products. You can capture the volatile aromas immediately after the pour.
Bouquet: It is determined by hops single-handedly. Their aroma is best noticed right after a beer has been poured.
Odor: These are developed as a result of defects in the beer.
Apart from aroma and flavor, Mouth-feel plays a vital role. It is caused by the residual proteins and dextrins in the beer. Each style of beer is characterized by an appropriate amount of body to be expected. Body is classified as light, medium, or full.
The following diagram gives a good idea about the beer flavor wheel.
Beer Flavor Wheel
Source: wikipedia, Tasting beer by Randy Mosher and alabev.com