You may have been at a winery tasting room or at a trendy new wine bar and seen the people swirling pinot noir or viognier in their glasses, trading knowing glances with the people around the table. Or you may have seen coffee buyers tasting the latest boutique bean from a tiny little espresso cup and then spit it out, then scribbling furiously into their notebooks. What are they doing and what does this have to do with beer? This is the Brew & You column, right?
At some point in every craft beer drinker’s evolution, you will face a decision of whether or not you break out the pen and paper and write down tasting notes on a beer you’re having at BoHo or Father’s Office. This can be done without losing the simple pleasure of just quaffing a quality artisan beer while watching USC or UCLA on the gridiron or becoming something even worse, the beer snob.
And why would you want to do this? Let me tell you why I do it and what makes it advantageous for me. First off, I have a memory like a sieve. So, if I want to recommend a beer to someone, I had better write it down or the exact name of the beer or brewer may be lost. Also lost would be any subtle flavors or spontaneous reactions that my taste buds register briefly at first sip.
Secondly, when you have had as many beers as I have (and I am by no means even close to being the Beer Drinker of the Year), you need a way to compare one pale ale to another or one Belgian golden vs. another. I need to have written down what the benchmark witbier is and why. That way, when I taste a new one, I can figure out the differences and truly appreciate the premier beers.
That being said, here is the down and dirty beer appreciation / judging method that I use.
First have a small notebook and a pen. Something that you can carry around that you won’t lose but not so heavy or bulky that it is a burden. Use it to jot down where you are at, the date, the beer name and brewery name and anything else you might want to recall later on. Now, before taking a sip, note the glassware it was served in and the color of the beer. If you want to really help your memory, take a photo. Third, smell. What is the first thing that your brain recognizes? Citrusy hops? Roasted coffee? Fourth, take a nice sip and swirl it around your mouth. Do the flavors match the smell? Any additional herbs or other spices? Does it have the heat of alcohol? You might find it helpful to make a list of adjectives or you can print out the one-page sheet from the RateBeer website to get you started.
OK, since practice makes perfect, I have Craftsman’s Oktoberfest beer in front of me. It is dark orange in color. I bring it up to my nose and inhale. I smell maltiness but specifically cereal. It isn’t coffee roasted but it isn’t light. It is smack dab in the middle. I take a sip and the first taste is sweetness followed by bread flavors. No spicy or hop elements. I take a few more drinks and the initial sweetness fades nicely into the bread and cereal. It tastes very similar to beers that I have had in Germany. I would rank this pretty high but since it is my first Oktoberfest of the year, I will have to wait and see how it stacks up to others.
It’s that easy! To increase the degree of difficulty, try writing down your notes while holding a tasting cup filled with your beer of choice in Descanso Gardens with the late October sun in the sky. Wait. I just made it easier for you. Now you have no excuse not to go to the next level of beer appreciation.
Find more of Sean Inman’s writing on his blog, Beer Search Party.
How to Evaluate Beer Without it Becoming a Chore
October 8, 2009 at 11:21 AM
[…] News Sources wrote an interesting post today onHere’s a quick excerptBy Sean Inman You may have been at a winery tasting room or at a trendy new wine bar and seen the people swirling pinot noir or viognier in their glasses, trading knowing glances with the people around the table. Or you may have seen coffee buyers tasting the latest boutique bean from a tiny little espresso cup and then spit it out, then scribbling furiously into their notebooks. What are they doing and what does this have to do with beer? This is the Brew & You column, right? At som […]
Oh My God! Lets BBQ » Blog Archive » How to Evaluate Beer Without it Becoming a Chore
October 8, 2009 at 10:52 AM
[…] the original post: How to Evaluate Beer Without it Becoming a Chore Filed under: Object Tags: article, beer, driven, facebook, festival, food-gps-feeds, memory, […]