I believe that, like me, many people drink beer in one go without really appreciating its taste. So, where should we start when it comes to tasting craft beer? Today, let me introduce you to three aspects to focus on.
The head of the beer refers to the foam on top. When beer is poured into a glass, does it have a rich foam? What is the shape and durability of the foam? The foam in beer is formed by the reaction of protein in malt with hops and yeast. Different types of beer produce different forms of foam. Some beers have fizzy and quickly dissipating foam, while others have delicate, white foam resembling a thick layer of cream. Some foams are large and small, with an uneven surface. Additionally, when drinking, observe whether the foam can cling to the glass and leave a beautiful lacing along the sides.
(2) Color and Clarity
Depending on the type, beer can range in color from light yellow to amber to dark black. However, compared to other beers of the same type you have tried before, is the color lighter or darker? Besides color, what about the clarity of the beer? Is it clear and transparent, slightly hazy, or turbid? Generally, Pilsner beers should be clear, while unfiltered German wheat beers (Hefeweizen) tend to be hazy. Moreover, some beers may have minimal sediment at room temperature, which increases when chilled.
(1) Smelling the Aromas
The aroma of beer generally comes from three sources: malt, hops, and yeast.
Malt brings aromas such as sweetness, biscuits, caramel, chocolate, black fruits (black plum, raisins, figs, etc.), nuts, baking, and smoky notes.
Hops contribute aromas including bitterness, citrus fruits (grapefruit, lemon, orange), earthiness, flowers, grass, herbs, pine, resin, spices, and more.
Yeast adds aromas like sourness, esters (pleasant floral, fruity, or spicy scents), stable-like notes, and others.
The mentioned aromas are generally pleasant or acceptable. However, are there any unpleasant aromas to detect? Unpleasant aromas can include metallic, skunk, or oxidized notes.
Additionally, when smelling the beer, consider the intensity of the aromas. Are they light, medium, or strong?
Smelling the beer is a common practice when tasting high-end beverages (such as fine wines or single-origin coffees). Even if you can’t fully discern the intricate scents, simply performing this action will garner admiration from fellow craft beer enthusiasts.
When tasting beer, try to identify the flavors that correspond to the aromas you smelled. Pay attention to the flavors contributed by malt, hops, and yeast. Do these flavors harmonize and create a balanced taste?
The body of beer refers to the sensation it creates on the palate and can range from light to medium to heavy.
The carbonation in beer contributes to its taste. As carbon dioxide is released from the beer in your mouth, it interacts with the heat and stimulates the sensory cells, resulting in a tingling sensation. If a beer lacks sufficient carbonation, it may feel flat, while high carbonation provides a refreshing and invigorating experience.
When the mouthfeel and taste of beer combine, what kind of sensations does it create? Is it creamy, silky smooth, or sticky?
After swallowing the beer, pay attention to the lingering taste and sensations. Does it leave a dry sensation (not necessarily bitterness, but certainly not sweetness), a moist feeling (with residual sweetness or other flavors that require cleansing the palate with water or other beverages), or a warming sensation (caused by high alcohol content)?