How To Taste Your Home Brew

You brew a batch of beer and first thing you do is check it looks, and smells good… so long as you don’t see any green particles or floaties you go on and take a whiff and begin to imagine how good the beer will taste…

Then you go on to try it… mmmh! Prost!

To some people, beer is beer… tasting good beer is just making sure it tastes like beer and that is good… but there are levels on how to taste and judge beer…

Level 1. You don’t really care what you are drinking… this is the college kid who uses beer as an excuse for acting stupid doing keg stands and pretending to have a good time…

PBR will do, but when you have money you go buy the best… Dud Light…

Tasting skills at this point require you to make sure the beer is cold so it doesn’t taste like piss… and make sure that the beer is not left over beer that sat warm in a cooler the night before and then re-cooled….

Level 2. You make a trip to a micro-brewery and are overwhelmed by the different names and can only differentiate the beers by the color… I think the choice preference here is based on the level of alcohol to go on a tell your friends how strong of a beer you just drank and how they should start to grow up as well…

Ales, stouts and wheat beers start becoming a preferred choice of beer…

Tasting skills at this time just requires you determine how heavy the beer feels and how tipsy you get with just one beer…

You may even learn about hoppy beers and decide whether IPA’s are your favorite style…

Level 3 You are a beer connoisseur next to level 1 and level 2 beer drinkers, but you are still amateur among true fanatics…

There really is no need to go beyond this stage if you are just looking to taste good beer around the world and feel like knowing which styles are good to pair with food or guess what kind a beer your non-beer-connoisseur friends had while they were visiting some pub overseas…

Taste skills require you know the difference between beer styles like different ales, Porters, Browns, Stouts, Pilsners, Lagers, etc.

You may even venture into spiced or herb beer, which frankly I still can’t get myself to like any…

Last, we’ve got the real way to start tasting beer…

Level 4. Beer judges and home brewers looking to improve the flavor of their beer, need to get involved with a bit more formal beer tasting techniques…

The basics of beer tasting is that beer has two primary flavors, bitter and sweet. The sweetness of beer is tasted using the front part of the tongue, while the bitter is tasted at the back of the tongue. Therefore to truly taste beer one must actually swallow the beer to get a good feel of the bitterness (bummer)…

This is how you can tell how balanced is the beer… do you taste more sweet or more bitter?

Your preference in beer styles will be greatly determined by this simple test.

Then you can start breaking down the different aspects of beer. It’s good to taste a good beer by comparing it with another beer. Say you want to try a new stout… then get another stout and compare them side by side to get a better feel for the beer. Use white bread to clean your palate…

Aroma Of Beer

Your aroma comes from all three ingredients of beer, Hops, Malt, and Yeast. You can evaluate the aroma of beer by how hoppy and what variety of hops were used, how malty it smells and any aroma coming from the yeast. Some yeasts will give a clove-like flavor and aroma, while others may give a banana or buttery aroma. In some beers this is bad, in others it is desired…

Appearance Of Beer

The appearance of beer is measured in three different ways… the color the clarity and the foam. Color is measured using the SRM scale of 0-40+ SRM. Zero is your pale straw yellow and 35+ are your pitch black dark beers.

Clarity deals with how crystal clear the beer looks. Hefeweizens are pretty cloudy compared to pilsners or other light colored beers, and most non-dark ales…

Then there is foam… some call this head retention and how well the foam clings to the side of the glass… another measure of foam is the size of the bubbles from carbonation.

Flavor Of Beer

This is where it gets a bit hard and where you must become extremely aware of what you are pouring down your throat…

There are over 9 different things you’ll be looking for when it comes to beer.

  1. Sweetness
  2. Bitterness
  3. Caramel
  4. Roasted Grain
  5. Body
  6. Graininess
  7. Maltiness
  8. Carbonation
  9. Defects

The first two are the most important. Again, you are looking for the balance of beer. The caramel flavor in beer comes primarily from crystal malt and it’s easy to pick up that flavor (if any). Roasted grain gives beer bitterness, but it should be described to be separated from hop bitterness. You can tell there is roasted grain if you sense an acrid bitterness.

The body of beer is basically measured by how thick the beer feels. If it’s watery, then it’s a light bodied beer. If you get a full palate, then it’s a heavy or full bodied beer.

Graininess refers to flavors that don’t come from barley, such as wheat, corn, etc. Some beers that use corn will leave a dry mouth sensation which is one aspect you look for as well.

Maltiness is often confused with how sweet the beer turns out. When it comes to beer tasting, maltiness is a way to separate the actual flavor of the malt with the sweetness. There are some very malty beers like Scotch ales that are sweet, then there are some pilsners that are also very malty but not sweet at all.

Carbonation can actually be tasted but it’s mostly the sensation you get when you drink your beer. English Pale Ales are usually low carbonated and don’t have head retention like Wheat beers.

Then comes the part of looking out for off-flavors which can range from cooked vegetable flavors to metallic flavors…

Well this is more or less a basic guide to help you break down the different aspects of beer and how to taste your home brew to improve your brewing techniques

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