Here at Everything On Tap, we are continually expanding our catalog of beer reviews. This requires great concentration and hard work on the part of our staff, as we drink beer after beer, day after day. It’s rough work, but someone has to do it. But if you have enjoyed our beer reviews, perhaps you have wondered exactly how we judge a beer, or what the categories mean. So here is a brief guide to the Everything On Tap beer review process, and a brief blurb on our qualifications.
We love beer. We really, really love beer. But a love of beer by itself is not enough to presume to be a professional beer critic. We want to assure you, our readers, that we know what we are doing. From our Editor to our Writers, we all have professional Gastronomical experience. Some of us are graduates of culinary schools, some of us are former trained bartenders, and some of us have backgrounds in writing and beer studies. So when you read a review from Everything On Tap, be assured that we consider each beer by objective, Gastronomical standards, and use our professional knowledge and experience.
Why does the appearance of the bottle really matter? Well, there are two reasons. First, beer is degraded on a molecular level by the ultraviolet light from the sun. This affects the flavor of the beer. Thus, the darker the glass of the bottle, the less flavor degradation there will be. Second, a beer label can be a work of art, and can increase the enjoyment of the beer. What is more, a proper beer label description can help others find the correct beer. Thus, when we review a beer, we describe the bottle shape, size, glass, and label.
When you pour a beer from a bottle or can, into a clean, dedicated beer glass, it offers its visual elements to the drinker. As you pour a beer, you can see its color, its head, and its action as the head dissipates. These can give you a clue as to the beer’s structure and mouthfeel: for example, a hazy beer often has a thicker mouthfeel, and a bottle-conditioned ale will have visible yeast residue. Also, a thick, foamy head that dissipates slowly can indicate medium to heavy carbonation, and also can indicate the viscosity of the mouthfeel. So when we review a beer, we describe its color, head, and residue in the beer, and the rate at which the head dissipates, including how much lacing it leaves in the glass.
The human sense of smell is inseparably linked to the sense of taste. In fact, people who for whatever reason do not have a sense of smell, also cannot taste food. So, a beer’s aroma will indicate its flavor profile as well. Also, a nice aroma profile increases the enjoyment and understanding of a good beer. Therefore, when we review a beer, we describe its aroma in detail, illustrating how the aroma begins, continues, and ends.
The flavor of a beer is, of course, its most important element, and the main reason that we drink and enjoy good craft beer. Flavor is tied to aroma, and it is distributed across the tongue’s and mouth’s areas of flavor perception: sweet, sour, salty, bitter, and umami. As you drink a beer and let it coat your tongue, there will be a first flavor sensation, then the main one, then the finish. All of these elements are very important to the enjoyment of a beer.
Mouthfeel refers to the physical, tactile sensation of the beer on your tongue and in your mouth. For example, a thick (viscous) beer will coat the mouth and produce a nice film sensation, while a crisp, light beer will roll off the tongue without any sort of other sensation. Also, on the finish, as the beer rolls down the throat, the back parts of the mouth will react to the carbonation level of the beer. These are all important to the enjoyment of a beer, as different mouthfeels will compliment different styles of beer in different ways.
The structure of a beer refers to its chemical composition, and how well it stands up to oxidation, ultraviolet light, and aging. A very well-structured beer, such as a barrel-aged ale, will have the composition to remain full-bodied, flavorful, and deep, as it changes. Contrarily, a light lager is meant to be drunk immediately as a refreshing, chilled beverage. So the structure of a beer really describes its character.