Don't just glug-glug: how to taste beer like a connoisseur

Beer Culture manager Tshepo Tloubatla shares a step-by-step guide to tasting beer like a pro

28 April 2019 - 00:06 By Tshepo Tloubatla
Tshepo Tloubatla sips his beer like a pro.
Tshepo Tloubatla sips his beer like a pro.
Image: SAB

1. CLEANSE YOUR PALATE

Anything you consume prior to tasting beer can influence the taste so cleanse or refresh your mouth.

2. OBSERVE THE COLOUR

Observe your beer carefully. The colour will represent what type of brew it is - pilsners are a pale straw colour while American and English ales have a golden hue, porters and stouts are amber brown and black.

If you are going to taste several beers, it is better to taste from light to dark. This will help you focus on the developing flavour intensity and characteristics of the beer style.

3. A QUICK WHIFF OF THE AROMA

Move the glass past your nose once or twice - this is known as "the drive by". Your sense of smell will give you clues about the type of beer you are tasting.

Always sniff before the first sip. You should be able to pick up roast notes typical of malts; or pine, citrus, pepper, and grass from the hops; or perhaps hints of yeast.

4. GIVE IT A SWIRL

Swirl the glass gently - this releases volatiles trapped and concentrated in the glass. Swirling knocks some CO² out of the solution, causing it to foam slightly. Allowing the beer to mix with the air provides the drinker with a stronger scent of the various aromatic components such as hops and malt.

If you are going
to taste several
beers, it is better
to taste from
light to dark
Beer Culture manager Tshepo Tloubatla

5. A DEEP SNIFF

Take another deep sniff. This whiff should differ from the previous one as now you'll be able to get hints of the aroma: malts should smell of honey, biscuit, caramel or baked-bread flavours, but can contain hints of roasted coffee or, in the case of stouts, a hint of dark chocolate.

Hop aromas are generally citrusy, floral, or perhaps grassy in nature. Yeast aromas will be fruity or sulphurous in nature.

6. THE LONG-AWAITED SIP

Take a small sip, enough to run across your entire tongue, then let it slowly roll over your tongue for a few seconds before you swallow and breathe out gently. You'll taste both broad and subtle flavours.

Broad flavours range from sweet, salty, acidy, or simply bitter, while subtler flavours can range from cloves, fruit, caramel, coffee, nuts, chocolate, oak and many more.

7. BE BOLD

The key is being knowledgeable about beer in general. You'll learn the key differences between an ale and a lager.


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