To truly experience all that beer has to offer, a taster should thoroughly engage his or her senses.
After pouring a beer into a glass in a well lit room, take a good, long look at the libation, and describe what you see. Is it cloudy or clear? Does the head foam linger or dissipate quickly? What color is the head foam, and is it rocky or fluffy? Does it leave a lacing on the glass? Are the bubbles tight and champagne-like or large and bulbous? What words best describe the color of the beer?
- Color: honey, caramel, russet red, brown, root beer, amber, chestnut, dark red, apricot, orange, black, burnt auburn, garnet, ruby, copper, deep gold
- Clarity: brilliant, hazy, cloudy, turbid, opaque, clear, crystal, bright, dull
- Head: persistent, rocky, large, fluffy, dissipating, lingering, white, off white, tan, frothy, delicate
Once your glass of beer has had a moment to breathe, give it a few short sniffs. Swirl the glass a bit and smell it again. What aromas become apparent? Look beyond the obvious smell of beer, and think about ingredients such as roasted malts, floral hops, and ester- and phenol-producing yeast, and what aromas they can contribute to the beer. The sense of smell accounts for nearly 80% of flavor perception.
- Basic: grainy, sweet, corn-like, hay, straw, graham cracker, bicuity, caramel, toast, coffee, espresso, burnt, alcohol, tobacco, gunpowder, leather, pine, fresh cut grass
- Dark Fruit: raisins, currant, plum, dates, prunes, figs, blackberry, blueberry
- Light Fruit: banana, pineapple, apricot, pear, apple, nectarine, peach, mango, prickly pear
- Citrus: lemon, lime, orange, tangerine, clementine, grapefruit, Curaçao orange peel, lemon zest
- Other Acidic: metallic, vinegar, copper, cidery, champagne-like, astringent, chlorine
- Spices/Yeast/etc: white pepper, clove, anise, licorice, smoked bacon, fatty, nutty, butterscotch, vanilla, earthy, fresh bread, saddle, musty, barnyard
Now that you have visually inspected your beer and described its aroma, you can engage in tasting. Allow the beer to coat the inside of your mouth, and if appropriate, swallow so that liquid passes over bitterness receptor taste buds on the back of your tongue. Think about the transition of flavors from first sip through the finish. Describe the length, intensity, and quality of the finish.
- Flavors: roasted, bready, bitter, sweet, spicy, fruity, chocolate, caramel, toffee, coffee, malty, tart, subtle, woodsy, earthy, sulfuric
- Intensity: assertive, mild, bold, balanced, robust, intense, metallic, harsh, complex, delicate, refined, hearty
- Transition: rolls into…, evolves into…, dissipates to reveal…, displays..., underlying…, suggests hints of…, fades to…
- Finish: dry, fruity, sweet, alcoholic, warming, bitter, acidic, buttery, wet, quenching, lingering
One critical component of the beer tasting process is the sense of touch. After ingesting a sip of beer, think carefully about how it feels in your mouth. Is it rich and viscous, or soft and delicate? Is it full bodied, medium bodied, or light bodied? Is the carbonation subtly sparkling or bright and prickly? Does the finish have a quenching effect, or does it tend to dry the palate?
- Mouthfeel: smooth, silky, velvety, prickly, tingly, creamy, warming, viscous, hot, astringent, oily
- Carbonation: spritzy, champagne-like, prickly, round, creamy, light, gassy, sharp, delicate
- Body: full, heavy, dense, viscous, robust, medium, balanced, medium-light, light, delicate, wispy