Wine tastings have been around probably since the Middle Ages, and maybe even in the ancient world. But the concept of a beer tasting, at least in the US, is relatively new. But as craft beer has reached a high status and esteem among US drinkers and connoisseurs, the idea of holding beer tastings is becoming more and more popular. But how exactly does one conduct a beer tasting?
First, select a particular style of beer with different examples of that style. For instance, if you choose IPA (India Pale Ale), then select several brands that brew IPAs. This way, you and your guests can compare the brands against the IPA style. Another way to do it is to highlight one particular brand of beer, and compare that brand’s various offerings, noting their differences and similarities. For example, select several bottles from a craft beer maker like Bear Republic. Either way, the basic idea is to have a standard against which to compare, contrast, and judge differences.
Second, use clean, standard, uniform glassware. The shape and cleanliness of a beer glass can affect the aroma and flavor of a beer. Be sure to use the right glass for the right beer, and be sure that all of the glasses are exactly the same. Clean and wipe them before the tasting, and use a fresh glass for each pour.
Third, taste using the proper techniques. As fun as it is to sit back with friends and drink beer freely, the purpose of a beer tasting is to analyze beer in a controlled, uniform environment. Taste in rounds, meaning that everyone present should be tasting the same beer at the same time. The actual physical technique is similar to that of wine tasting:
1. Take two sharp, quick sniffs of the bouquet.
2. Take a normal sniff of the bouquet.
3. Take one last sniff with the mouth open.
4. Slurp the beer into your mouth, allowing it to coat the entire tongue and the top of the throat. Allow it to sit while your tongue and brain register the nuances of the flavor.
5. Exhale, releasing the air in your mouth, through your nose, and swallow.
This technique allows you to perceive the full aroma and flavor profiles.
Fourth, serve the beer at room temperature (unchilled). Even if you prefer that particular beer chilled when you drink it for pleasure, chilling a beer will reduce its aroma and flavor profiles. Remember, the purpose of a tasting is to analyze a beer, so you want it to present its fullness.
Fifth, take notes. It is important to be able to recall your feelings about a beer for later use, and to compare them with the impressions of the other tasters. Write down the beer’s style, pour, aroma, flavor, mouthfeel, and structure, and any other notes you wish to add.