You know how to drink beer, sure. But do you know how to pick up the different aromas, how to take note of mouthfeel, how to sound like an all-knowing craft beer guru? If you want more out your beer than just getting it down your gullet, follow these six simple steps…
Step 1: Pour it
First thing’s first, you need to pour it. Regardless of whether it’s in a can, a bottle or keg, the aroma and carbon dioxide need to be released to get the full experience. Pour your beer down the side of a clear glass (different glasses will suit different beer types), judging the speed by the amount of head that is forming. Generally, you should aim to have about two fingers of head after the beer is poured.
Step 2: Smell it
Smell is connected to taste, so it’s important to have a whiff of the beer before letting your taste buds do the heavy lifting. It’s best to smell the beer as soon as it has been poured, otherwise you might miss some of the aromas that dissipate quickly. To begin, give it a swirl – this releases subtle aromas and nuances from the beer. Next, have three good sniffs (two short and one long), then take note of how intense the aroma is, looking out for the strongest and weakest characteristics. A sweet aroma is often associated with the malt, whereas a sharper aroma is linked to the hops in the brew.
Step 3: Look at it
Normally we would agree that it’s best not to judge a book by its cover – but when it comes to craft beer, appearance can offer some pretty trustworthy hints. Look at the beer’s colour, and the size and consistency of the head. The colour gives you an indication of the malt used. If the malt is lightly roasted, the colour of the beer will be pale; if it’s roasted with a little more vigour, the beer will be darker. Good head retention often suggests that the beer is well-crafted and brewed with quality ingredients. Another indication of high quality is what we call “Belgian lace”, where lace-like patterns are formed on the side of your beer, while you drink it. Fancy, right?
Step 4: Have a sip
Let the first sip linger in your mouth and cover your tongue, so you can experience the characteristics of the flavours and aromas. Does the taste match the smell? Is it just like you imagined or are there a few surprises along the way? After you swallow, how long does the taste stay in your mouth? What is the texture like? Is it silky, thick or fizzy?
Step 5: Finish it
The final sip of beer can be totally different from the first. The intensity of the last mouthful is massively influenced by the way the beer was brewed. Does the finish linger or does it disappear quickly? Is the aftertaste bitter or sweet? Does it have a whole new flavour or even multiple flavours that you haven’t tasted previously?
Step 6: Reflect
Stare into your empty glass and take a moment to reminisce. What did you like about the beer? Which characteristic made the greatest impression on you? The smell? The taste? The look of it? Lastly, but most importantly, think about how the beer made you feel. Are you sad it’s over? Do you want another?