The Basics of Beer Tasting

professorowlbnw1For those new to the idea of judging beers things can get overwhelming fast. After all, when most people taste a beer they put it into two categories, good, and bad. They have no clue what someone means when they talk about estery scents and hints of caramel flavors. So I decided to write a quick rundown.


I’m personally a big fan of the good beer bad beer categories myself, so why do we need this fancy system? There are several reasons. First it helps with describing the beer to others. Have you ever recommended an IPA to a friend, but not been able to say what makes it different then other IPAs. Also it helps with pairing your food and beer together. As time goes on you’ll pick up hints of flavors that go well together. Lastly it helps you. Tasting the spread of beers is fun, but it should lead somewhere. If you’ve tried hundreds of stouts, but still can’t describe what you look for in a stout, then you should consider going deeper in your tasting.

The Categories

Most people get caught up in the fancy words that are used to describe beers and don’t pay enough attention to the categories. My rule of thumb is you should be able to describe the beer in layman’s terms on category alone, and save the gobbledygook for when your talking to someone who understands it. That’s why it’s important to know these categories and their break downs

Appearance – describe how the beer looks


Aroma – describe how the beer smells

      Aroma – Good smells
      Bouquet – Hop smells
      Odors – Bad smells

Taste – How does the beer taste?
      Mouthfeel – What does the beer feel like in your mouth?
      Flavor – Do you taste something that reminds you of caramel?
      Finish –  Does the beer have an aftertaste? Describe it.

Using these basic categories you can effectively describe a beer to anyone, even a beer judge. Also as you use these categories to break down beers you’ll find yourself discovering subtle flavors you never noticed before.

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