Bar Tending & Beerspectives
by Matt Martinkovic
Brewsearch & Development -
Many of you have written about the shift in my column over the past few months.  I'm grateful
that every e-mail I received loved the fact that I'm now talking  solely about beer and not
promoting any  events.  We're all here at BeerNexus  for one reason and that's to learn more
about our favorite drink - beer.  So I'm going to continue to write about everything I learned in
all my years as a professional in the business. Thanks for all the support!  So now, let's go.

Today there are countless "imperial" beers in the marketplace. The term "imperial"  was
originally used to describe beers made specifically for the crowned, imperial courts of Europe.

The usage derives from Henry Thrale's Russian Imperial Stout brewed in the 1700s.  By
the 1980s, Americans became enthralled with Samuel Smith's Imperial Stout which came
in at a moderate 7.0% ABV but had bigger, bolder flavors than anything beer drinkers
were used to stateside.  Because of this, American brewers began to craft their own
beers by boosting the alcohol level and, often, hop bitterness of existing styles then
stamped it with the modifier of "imperial."  

Adding a layer of confusion is the term "double," which is used synonymously with
"imperial."  It should always be considered that these beers may, at times, only show
shades of their original style.  At other times, they may be better classified as
another beer altogether, as nomenclature becomes blurred.  

No matter the case, with no style being exempt from imperialization, these beers
can feature positive notes that are boosted by higher alcohol and should be
consumed in careful moderation. And when drinking in moderation you might want to refer to
this guide on how to actually taste your beer.  There's more to it than just swallowing.

That there are 6 main flavor categories when it comes to tasting beer? Sweet, Sour, Salty,
Bitter, Fat, and Umami (savory) combine to make up the essential flavor map of your
tongue. The front of your tongue is equally sensitive to all tastes while bitterness shines
through on the very back of your tongue and sourness on the sides.

With each of the flavor categories hitting on different areas of the tongue and
enlivening your papillae (the small bumps you see when you stick your tongue out)
each beer can present a whirlwind of flavor on your palate thanks in part to it's
partner in tasting - the olfactory system.

Being able to perceive over 10,000 different aromas, the olfactory system combines
with the gustatory system of the tongue to create flavor, many of which become a
sensation or memory that we can recall upon tasting it in the proper setting.

This is why, much like wine, it is imperative to smell your beer before sipping it.  Aroma is vital
to truly understanding the flavor profile of a beer that brewers worked tirelessly to create.

Look. Smell. Sip. Breathe. Repeat.

================

Cheers,
Matt
Please continue to support my friends at
The  Northside Lounge
Nik's Wunderbar - Whitehouse Station NJ
Matt Martinkovic is not only a recognized beer authority but a well known ecological writer whose
work has appeared in the The American Midland Naturalist (University of Notre Dame) among other
industry publications.  He also has been an agricultural consultant on, of course, the growing of hops.
Imperials / Tasting
To all my readers and friends, I want to thank you for all your support during my time at Nik's
Wunderbar and at the Northside Lounge.  I'm moving back to the enviromental/ecological field so
the next time you see me at a pub it will likely be on a stool next to you.  I'll continue to write my
column here on BeerNexus giving you my take on what's happening in the beer world with my
insights derived from many years in the industry.  Cheers!