3. Go back for a deep sniff
Once you’ve had a good swirl, remove your hand from the top of the glass and raise to your nose. Take a deep sniff and you’ll notice more lively aromas this time.
Some of the aromas you may notice, depending on the beer, could include:
- Malt aromas: these can range from grains and corn to roasted coffee or dark chocolate (stouts).
- Hop aromas: generally citrusy, floral, or grassy.
- Yeast aromas: fruity or sulfurous
Much of your experience of the taste of your beer is influenced by its smell. So cover and swirl again if needs be, to fully experience those aromas.
4. Take a sip
Finally take a big sip and enjoy the sensations in your mouth for a few seconds. Let your palate explore the flavours and texture as you let the beer roll over your tongue.
Try to identify the broad flavours: Do you experience sweetness, saltiness, acids or general bitterness?
Then assess the more subtle notes that come through and try to identify them. You may taste cloves, fruit, caramel, coffee, molasses, biscuits, nuts, chocolate, oak … the range is extensive!
There are a few flavours that, should you taste them, are a cause for concern. One such flavour is sour which is indicative of a bacterial contamination. Generally, if your beer tastes sour, papery or metallic, then it’s likely spoiled. You’ll need to know what beer you’re drinking in order to make this judgment though as some beers, like Belgian Lambics, are intentionally sour.
Also note the mouthfeel. Your mouth has many touch receptors, and will thus be sensitive to the subtleties in texture of the liquid. Carbonation too has an effect, stimulating a slight pain response in your nerves, which feels quite nice in your mouth.
5. Reflect on your beer and enjoy it!
By paying more attention to the beers you drink, you’ll begin to get a better understanding of your own preferences around flavour and style. The more beer styles and brands you explore, the more complexities and nuances you’ll uncover.
Why not invite your friends round to enjoy a beer sampling session together?