Beer has come a long way. It’s no longer about grabbing any cold beer and sharing it with your best buds. Drinking crafted beer, and beer tasting in itself has evolved into an experience — an exBEERiance if you will. Intricate details, a bouquet of flavour and the science of taste all make beer tasting something almost MAGICAL.
Beer tasting can also aid you to learn more about the drink and let you get to know your favourites. But before you order a round of tasters and start chugging down the brews, it’s not only helpful to get to know the right way to do beer tasting but is interesting as well.
Maybe you are new to the world of beer drinking or perhaps you’ve never considered there may be more to each sip you take. There are some specifics that might elevate your beer drinking experience, especially when tasting.
Ideally tasting should be done in glasses with an in-curved rim and lots of space above the liquid in the glass for the aromas to collect in. No matter the type of glass it should be no more than 1/3 full, and should also be clear so you can really see the beer.
Our natural instinct when eating or drinking something to consider how something looks. Most beers are designed to look appealing. But how do we describe a beer’s appearance? Is it clear or hazy? Does it have a thick white head or just a wisp of foam? Colour, clarity and foam all play an important role in a beer’s appearance.
After drinkers have feasted their eyes on a beverage, the scent is the second sense that hits. The smell is actually where brewers can really entice you into a beer. Can you sniff scents of sweetness or floral flavours? Is there a whiff of chocolate or spice? It is important to keep in mind that temperature and the amount of time that passed since opening the bottle can influence the aroma and bouquet. Overall, the aroma is based on hops, esters, malt and aromatics — we will explain these more in detail below.
Feel, more commonly referred to as mouthfeel, describes the body, carbonation and palate sensations of the beer. Is it thick or light? Is it smooth and creamy or prickly with carbonation? Essentially, it means how the beer feels in your mouth. Factors such as fermentation can affect a beer’s mouthfeel.
Taste is probably the most obvious quality that comes to mind when you think of assessing beer. There are six types of flavours that you can distinguish when you taste beers: sweet, sour, salty, bitter, umami and fatty. While the flavour may be similar to the aroma, it concentrates on the beer’s finish and aftertaste as well as elements such as balance and bitterness.
The experience of taste lasts long after a sip has been swallowed. This is why swallowing is an integral part of the beer tasting process. and it can also change during this time. This lingering perception is an important element in beer because this is what a beer leaves you with. Did some delicious element make it stand out in its category? On the other hand, did a bad element make it stand out? Does it leave you wanting more?
While understanding what to look for in a beer is a great starting point, you probably aren’t going to be able to head down to your local craft brewery and pinpoint every flavour and aroma in your chosen pint. It takes time and patience to develop an educated palate. Another thing that could unlock your beer tasting experience to the full is knowing more about the ingredients in a craft beer.
Floral, fruit, piney, earthy, herby and even spicy are words that can describe the variety hops brings to craft brewing. Hops also add bitterness, which contrasts with the sweet flavours of the malt.
It’s relatively unknown but yeast does add flavour to beer. Ale yeast, which ferments at much higher temperatures, gives off a lot more flavours than lager yeast. These include slightly fruity notes.
Beer is mostly water, minerals dissolve in water, and thus it can be expected that it adds some flavour to the beverage. In the past you had to work with the water you had, however, brewers can now adjust their water to suit the style of beer that they’re brewing. If a beer of a certain style just doesn’t seem right the water used might be too hard or too soft for the style.
There’re other ingredients and methods such as different grains, fruits, yeasts, oak fermentation, and barrel-ageing which are going to affect the flavours of beers and pull them away from the mainstream products we’re used to.
Now that you are familiar with what to look for in terms of the sights, smells and sensations of beer, you’ll want to be able to discuss it with your fellow enthusiasts. After all, half of the fun is unearthing an amazing beer and chatting up your discovery to your mates.
How do I describe malt flavours while beer tasting?
Malty, biscuity, breadlike, grainy, rich, deep, roasty, cereal, cookie-like, coffeeish, caramelly, toffee-like, molasses-like, malt complexity, smoky, sweet, autumnal, burnt cream, scalded milk, oatmeal, rustic, layered.
How do I describe hop flavours and bitterness while beer tasting?
Piney, citrusy, grapefruity, earthy, musty, spicy, sharp, bright, fresh, herbal, zippy, lemony, newly-mown lawn, aromatic, floral, springlike, brilliant, minty, pungent, elegant, grassy.
How do I describe the fermentation flavours from yeast while beer tasting?
Freshly-baked bread, clove-like, bubblegum, yeasty, aromatic, tropical, subtle, fruity, clean
How do I describe carbonation (conditioning) while beer tasting?
Soft, effervescent, spritsy, sparkling, zippy, pinpoint, bubbly, gentle, low carbonation, highly carbonated.
How do I describe mouthfeel while beer tasting?
Rich, full, light, slick, creamy, oily, heavy, velvety, sweet, dry, thick, thin.
How do I describe alcoholic flavours from strong beer while beer tasting?
Warm finish, heat, vodka, esters, pungent, strength.
When judging and tasting beer, you can approach the general process in various ways. To really appreciate the beer you ordered, don’t just chug your glass. The three aspects below are a few beer tasting 101 tips that will help you get ready to try a craft beer.
No matter the type of beer you are drinking you want to have it in a glass. It is good to expect different glassware styles depending on the type of beer you are drinking, though — as long as there is enough room in the glass for the craft beer aroma to collect and accumulate.
After noting and appreciating the appearance of your beer, it’s time to give the liquid a swirl. a gentle swirl, especially in warmer air, allows you to release all the flavours and aromas of your brew and test the head retention.
Before your first sip, take a few short sniffs or one deep sniff to experience the beer’s aroma. An environment with lots of other scents vying for your attention is not ideal for fully enjoying your beer’s scent. After the sniff, it is finally time to try your beer.
The order of tasting your beer is imperative to enjoying the different flavours present in your drink. Choosing beers that have bold and aromatic flavours will overpower your taste buds and make the rest of the experience boring. The best way to do so is to warm up your taste buds with light varieties that have a simple palate and soft hints of bitter or sweet flavours.
Try your hand at judging beer by ordering one of our beer tasting trays for only R85. You’ll receive 6 x 100 ml glasses of each craft beer on tap to sample what is on offer for that weekend. Be sure to pair your favourite beer with something from our Classroom Café menu. Our delicious meals and beers are prepared and crafted by our student chefs from 1000 Hills Chef School.
If you’re looking for something fun to do in the comfort of your own home, why not host your own beer tasting evening?
There are slight differences from other events you might host. For one, a tasting party is usually for a smaller crowd. Who you invite needs to be friends that enjoy a good brew, so that whittles down your guest list. It’s an event that naturally encourages conversation, which is perfect if you’re feeling social.
There is so much that goes into craft beer. Here are our five types of beer we suggest including in your tasting occasion — you can find them at these stockists.
Amber Ale: The Cheerleader — A deep coppery-coloured beer with a balanced flavour of malt and hops.
India Pale Ale: The Graduate — A rich brew with hints of passion fruit and litchi, grapefruit and spicy notes.
Belgian Ale: The FES — Strong and dark with a hint of caramel and toffee.
Gold Star Pilsner: The Dean — A pilsner with an ale style that is clear, crisp and refreshing.
American Pale Ale: The Quarterback — A fruity flavour balanced by centennial hops.
Take the tasting one step further and make it a pairing session of beers married with their perfect food match. For ideas on how to pair food and beer, read more here. Finger snacks and light tapas allow everyone to try a variety of food pairings. Additional snacks that always go down well when sipping on some brewskis are pretzels, nuts and potato chips.