How To Taste A Beer

So, let’s get this straight. There’s no wrong way to drink a beer, unless you pour it into your anal cavity and subsequently die from alcohol poisoning (seriously). But if you want to get a little more out of your beer than simply chugging it until the mop across the bar looks like a skinny, dreadlocked woman, there are some simple ways to better your drinking experience.

The Easy Way

Let the beer warm slightly over ice-cold and see how much the flavors come out. Certain beers need to be served at warmer temperatures (most English beers, for instance, and a lot of darker or more alcoholic beers as well) to get the most out of them. By chilling your beers to Arctic temperatures, it numbs your taste buds when it hits your tongue and settles the particles that make up scent: perfect for a cold one on a hot day, but not when you’re trying to impress a date with your beer knowledge.

Secondly, what’s it taste like? Fruity? Hoppy? Corny? Use any and all adjectives you would think to employ (particularly if they can be misconstrued in the wrong environment) and – if you enjoy that kind of style – ask for something like it the next time. So you like Stella’s very corn-flavored, high-carbonation taste? That’ll set your bartender on the right path.

The Harder Way

There are several steps here, and they are not all necessary to enjoy your beer. In the long run, if you like the taste of a beer, then it’s a good beer. But for those looking for a little more…

APPEARANCE: Hold the beer in a glass up to a light source. What color is the beer? Is it clear, cloudy, hazy, or something in between? Is there anything suspended in the beer (like bits of yeast clumps or your Aunt Matilda’s wedding ring)? Certain beers are darker than others (stouts, for instance), while others have fluffy heads, or are cloudy, or are a vortex for all hatred and evil in the world. This doesn’t really affect the taste of the beer, but if you notice that a beer has no head when it should, then it might be a sure sign that the beer is skunked. BE WARNED!

AROMA: Smell the beer. Put your nose in it (not all the way, unless you like horrible, fizzy pain in your sinuses). If the beer is at the appropriate temperature, it’ll have certain notes to it. It might be earthy, floral, citrusy, or anything else under the sun (including things too foul to mention here).

TASTE: Sugary? Sour? Bitter? Use your whole tongue. The “tongue map” you used to see in science class and in the Magic School Bus books is a crock; your whole tongue can taste every flavor (though some kinds of taste buds are located more predominantly than in other areas). A beer should be balanced: that is, if it is very hoppy, the sweetness should counterbalance it. Otherwise, it’s overly bitter or cloying. But some hopheads can’t get enough of their favorite bittering agent, while some Belgian fans are out there for the sour/sweet flavor more than anything else. It’s your call.

OVERALL IMPRESSION: Certain beers work for certain times. A heavy, super-alcoholic barley wine probably wouldn’t go well when you’re desperate for a thirst quencher. Nor will a light lager suffice when you want something with depth and character. It may not be for you at the moment, but unless you absolutely detest the thing, think about how well it would work in another situation.

The Snob Way

The Snob Way is actually very easy to describe. First, start throwing words around like “IBU’s” and “bottle conditioning” and “I would never drink any lager made outside of Germany”. No need to actually understand them: most people don’t anyway.

Secondly, sip your beer with your pinky in the air. Then, no matter how it tastes, put it down and say “Well, it’s not the worst beer I’ve tasted, but then again, I HAVE been to Belgium”.

Thirdly, make sarcastic comments to your friends about their beer choices before drinking all of their brew. This will no doubt make you seem like quite the beer aficionado, even when they’re beating the shit out of you in the alley behind your apartment building.

Find the style that’s right for you and get to work, man (or woman)! It’s a big, brew-tiful world out there and there’s no reason why you shouldn’t experience it all.

– Steele

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