| Sampling Do's & Dont's
by Andy Janowski
With the ever escalating prices of beer at a bar or brewery tasting room it's wise to ask for a taste of a
beer before spending upwards of $8 or $9 for a glass. With so much variance within styles and new
breweries entering the marketplace simply selecting a beer blindly might turn out to be quite a gamble.
However how to ask for the sample and what to do with brings with it an obligation on the drinker to
follow the rules of correct behavior. Here are some guidelines for you to consider.
Rule 1 - Most craft beer bars will (or should) encourage people to try a "few" beers which is generally
considered two to four. More than that might be seen as poor etiquette. if you ask to try all the beers
on tap then you've lost all hope of being considered a person of manners. Having said that if the tap list
is rather short and the server is encouraging you and if the sample size is basically a splash in a small
plastic cup then the 2 to 4 guideline can be ignored.
Rule 2 - Give feedback to your server about each beer especially if they show a sincere interest in your
reaction. The bartender wants you to find a beer you like since you will then order it. Express yourself
so they might learn your taste likes and dislikes. That will enable them to make recommendations so
that you will more quickly find something you like.
Rule 3 - Don't rush. Drink slowly to savor the flavors. If you drink too quickly you'll never be able to truly
taste the beer. You're not doing anyone a favor by a rushed judgement; you won't be happy with your
eventual choice and the bar won't be happy because you won't stay to buy a few more glasses.
Rule 4 - If your sample is served too cold roll it between your hands for short time to warm it up. It's
important to remember that the flavor will change as it sits in your glass should you eventually select it.
That is a good thing but you might not like the added compleity and flavors warming brings. Apply this
rule to anything you get (even lagers) whose flavor might be masked by extreme cold.
Rule 5 - Good bartenders when not overly busy love to talk about beer as would the beer geek sitting
next to you. Don't be afraid to ask questions and then, most importantly, be prepared to listen. The more
information you have the better able you will be to make a decision about your beer. In addition that
information, such as the type of hops in the beer, can guide you on future purchases.
Rule 6 - Be polite in discussing your negative evaluations. No brewpub or bar owner wants to hear that
their beer "stinks", is "watery", or is simply "bad". Find other adjectives to help them understand the
flaws you are experiencing. Often times you'll find that the beer is perfect but it's the style you don't care
Rule 7 - The sequence you taste your beers in has a great impact on your perception of them. If you
sample several beers (or order a flight) you should always start with the lightest beer first. Generally your
last beer should be the strongest in terms of flavor and ABV. For example a double IPA should be the
last you taste unless you also have a Russian Imperial Stout waiting for you.
Rule 8 - Although this should go without saying one ironclad rule is don’t order beer tasters/samples with
no intention of getting a glass/pint.
Rule 9 - Since you're sampling beers it's good to move outside your comfort zone. Always include one
or two that are new to you. You just might find a new favorite or you'll know what not to consider in the
Rule 10 - If a place has been particularly patient with you make a point to return. It's only fair. And a bit
larger tip for the bartender who has helped you is certainly in order.
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