How to Taste Beer
Jim Attacap

There are thousands of quality beers regularly brewed in the US.   With such an
amazing range of different beer styles, ranging from classic American IPA to barley
wines and stouts it’s no wonder that tasting beer has become every bit as
sophisticated as tasting wine.  However the good news is you don’t have to be an
expert to experience these great tastes.  Just follow some of the tips below and you'll
soon be on your way to a memorable tasting experience.

Tasting beer is just like tasting wine, but forget about spitting it out. The first step is
to make sure the beer you are tasting is served at the right temperature. Too cold
and your beer loses many of its complex flavours. Served too warm, it can develop
some you don’t want.  Light beers are best served at approximately 7 to 8 degrees
Centigrade, dark beers are served at 11 to 12 degrees, and very strong beers at 15
to 16 degrees.

Use your eyes!

Beer should look good. It should be colourful and bright.  If it is meant to have a
significant head of froth, this should be thick and creamy.  Yes,  it is true that some
beers, particularly from the south of England, are not brewed to be served with
creamy heads.   There are other brews, such as wheat beers, that may even be
cloudy.   These, like their clear brothers, should look attractive and not dull or flat in
appearance. Generally though, when you look at your beer it should be bright and
clear and your glass should not contain any sediment.

Use your nose!

The best way to sniff your beer is with a glass which is half-empty. This enables you
to give it a quick swirl, place your hand over the glass to hold in the lovely aromas.  
Next,  dive in and take a nice deep breath. You will soon learn to recognize key
features such as hoppiness from a classic pale ale, the burnt chocolate flavours of a
stout, or the banana nose of a wheat beer.

Now the taste!

As you take your first taste of the beer you’ll notice the sweetness from the malts at
the front of your mouth.   Dry bitter flavours from the hops will dominate the back of
your mouth as you swallow. The final taste sensation,  the ‘finish’, is often a unique
experience that blends many of the tastes from beginning and mid-sip.

Just like wine, beers have their own unique characteristics and complexities that arise
from the style, the ingredients and the recipe. Tasting beer is every bit as satisfying
as tasting wine.  Beer can be enjoyed on its own, but it is also exceptionally good with
food, so don’t think for a moment that the dining table should be reserved for wine!
Experiment and you’ll soon become skilled in matching different beers to different
food dishes.

It is a good idea to try different types of beer, to compare them and thus enhance
your satisfaction and knowledge.   Finally, it's wise to note that your evaluation of a
beer is often influenced not only by the main items listed above, but the glass and
the environment. - SPECIAL REPORT
How to Taste Beer