Appreciating Beer

by Ginger Johnson | Photo © judithpavik.com

It’s time to go back to school, and this time the topic is Beer Tasting. Who knew the homework would be so delicious, so social and so enlightening? If you say “I’m not really a beer drinker,” then now’s the time to learn all the wonderful flavors beer has to offer by learning how to taste your beer. If you already enjoy beer then you’re in good company.

With more than 2,500 breweries in America right now, and hundreds in the Pacific Northwest alone, tasting beer is an appetizing pursuit to expand your mind and please your taste buds. Here’s a simple 5-step plan for your very own successful Beer Tasting 101.

1. Logistics. Pick a date, time and location. Tasting beer is best done in a relaxed and comfy atmosphere, with a low noise level. Consider your home—your friends will enjoy being invited over for a tasting. If you’ve got a great local pub, bar or retailer where tasting is possible, consider supporting them.

2. Guests. Invite a fun and flavor-loving group. People with open minds and palates are going to have a ball.

3. Menu. If the tasting party is at your home, either provide an array of beers that you bought or ask guests to bring a beer they’ve yet to try. Use small glasses and pour small servings. Food will be a wise addition to this exercise as well, both to mitigate alcohol’s effects and to enhance the beer flavors you try.

4. Discovery. Here’s a classic progression to follow for a tasting:
>> Smell. Take moderate sniffs, with your nose right in the glass, and get a nice whiff of the aroma.
>> Look. Hold your glass up to the light and examine the color. Beer color comes primarily from the grains used in brewing. Remember, color is only color.
>> Taste. Sip a moderate quantity and swish it all over your mouth before swallowing. Let the flavors linger before you open your mouth and introduce air. Flavors will burst forth.

5. Savor. Learning to enjoy beer through all of your senses is best accomplished in moderation. Besides the obvious avoidance of over consumption, your taste buds can only handle so much before palate fatigue sets in.
Beer tasters have told me time and again that they don’t like a certain type of beer. IPA is a good example for its oft-perceived over-the-top bitterness. Then, with a proper tasting, I hear “It tastes like citrus,” and an IPA fan is born.

Whatever you taste, doing it with a sense of adventure will enhance your beer quest and broaden your palate even further. For more information about appreciating beer, go online at womenenjoyingbeer.com. (Men can visit too.)