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Top 20 Tasting Tips

Did you know that there are many factors that can influence what we taste or smell in a beer? For example, seemingly unrelated things such as the time of day can even alter our senses. So here are a few tasting tips that will make your beers taste better than ever before!

  1. Drink mild, sweet beers first and rich, bitter beers last.
  2. Try not to smoke tobacco right before or during tasting.
  3. Avoid perfume or cologne.
  4. Stay clear of salty or greasy foods before and during drinking.
  5. Use a palate cleanser between beers such as French bread or saltless crackers.
  6. Drink from clean glassware.
  7. Don't freeze your beer mugs (all the time).
  8. Drink under good lighting.
  9. Use the appropriate glassware.
  10. Pour the beer aggressively enough to create a good head.
  11. Smell the beer.
  12. Use all your senses when tasting beer
  13. Be observant.
  14. Drink when your taste buds are most alert.
  15. Beers taste better when you are in good spirits and when you are healthy.
  16. Women and younger people have more sensitive sensory receptors.
  17. Don't take beer too seriously.
  18. Enjoy beers in the context they were intended.
  19. Drink in a comfortable, calm atmosphere.
  20. Keep an open mind and have a well-rounded beer diet.



  1. Drink mild, sweet beers first and rich, bitter beers last.
    This is because you don't want to over-stimulate your taste buds too early which would make them less sensitive too more delicate flavors.



  2. Try not to smoke tobacco right before or during tasting.
    Not only will the physical smoke interfere with the beautiful flavors and aromas but it will dull your senses dramatically.



  3. Avoid perfume or cologne.
    I am not calling for an anti-cologne movement in order to benefit beer culture but it is important to remember this if your are trying to fine tune your beer senses or going to a beer festival!



  4. Stay clear of salty or greasy foods before and during drinking.
    The residue on your lips can ruin the head retention of your frothy, picturesque German lager or Belgian ale. Additionally, lipstick or lip balm pose the same problems.



  5. Use a palate cleanser between beers such as French bread or saltless crackers.
    You don't want to introduce strong flavors or rough textures in your mouth because they will detract from the next beer. When in doubt, lightly chilled water is perfect.



  6. Drink from clean glassware.
    Yes, I know...you just took that glass out of the dishwasher and it's clean, right? No! Soap residues and water deposits can still build up on glassware and increase the foaming of a beer. It wouldn't be a bad idea to rinse the glass first with cold water for good measure. Additionally, the wet surface of the glass will also reduce the friction on the beer as it is poured.



  7. Don't freeze your beer mugs (all the time).
    There is absolutely nothing like the cool, crisp sensation of drinking your favorite cheap beer out of an ice cold mug on the hottest day of the summer. However, if you just paid $10 for an 11 ounce bottle of Belgian beer, you may want to be able to taste your sensory investment. The colder the beer is, the less aromatics will emerge from it. Since our sense of smell is tied into our sense of taste, this will have a huge impact in the sensory receptors of our brain. The cold temperature on our tongue will also worsen the issue because it will numb the taste buds. Therefore, drink your lagers cold (40°-45°F) and your ales cool (45°-50°F). That is unless you are trying to mute the flavor of a less than acceptable beer or one that is too strong for your liking. Now this doesn't mean that when you drink a beer you need a bottle opener and a thermometer! If your fridge is set to 40°F and you pour an ale into a room temperature glass, that beer will quickly be at the appropriate serving temperature. For lagers, try keeping those bottles towards the bottom of the fridge where it is a little bit colder. You could even store you lager glasses in the fridge which would be more ideal. However, if I was a guest in your home, I would gratefully accept a beer in whatever you served it in!



  8. Drink under good lighting.
    Lighting is very important because it has a dramatic effect on the appearance of the beer. This is critical because the 'eyes are first to feast'. Natural, warm light such as incandescents and candles make the beers colors more rich and appetizing. Lights with 'colder' color spectrums such as fluorescents conflict with the beers natural tones and make it look drab.



  9. Use the appropriate glassware.
    Sounds bizarre, right? Well consider this: have you ever been served Champagne in those wide plastic party glasses? That glass of bubbly quickly loses its sparkle and soon tastes like cheap, fizzy white wine. Now serve that in the appropriate Champagne flute and it will hold onto its carbonation much longer and be bubbly to the last sip. The important factors in glassware are surface area, depth and overall shape. Here are some general guidelines. Drink lighter, delicate beers such as Pilsners out of taller, slender glasses. This will slow the release of its delicate aromas while directing them right to your nose. Drink very aromatic and strong ales out of wine glasses or goblets to allow the aromas to freely pour out and to allow your nose to get right into the glass. Many styles of medium intensity can be appropriately served in the traditional 16oz Pint glass because it has a nice wide mouth and good proportion. Such styles that are appropriate for Pint glasses are Pale Ales, Stouts, Porters and Dark Lagers.



  10. Pour the beer aggressively enough to create a good head.
    Some people pour beer too gently down the side which won't encourage all those good aromas to escape out of the glass. On the other hand, you don't want to pour so hard as to drive away all the carbonation prematurely. Since every beer has a different level of carbonation, start pouring gently and gradually get more aggressive to create a nice, rich 2-finger head every time.



  11. Smell the beer.
    Silly, right? Well consider this, the most volatile elements of the beer are in the aroma. This means that as soon as you pour your beer, the faintest and most delicate qualities escape from the liquid very quickly. Therefore, you should immediately take a full, deep smell of the beer before you even take your first sip to really take it all in.



  12. Use all your senses when tasting beer.
    As we have already mentioned, the senses of taste, smell and even sight have direct influence on what we perceive. We must also use our senses of sound and touch to complete the sensory picture. The way the gas hisses when you pop the cap off a bottle; The intoxicating sound of a beer pouring into a glass; The quietness of the foam collapsing on the surface of the beer in a silent room. These are things that can better inform us about the beer we are drinking and simply make the whole experience that much more satisfying. The sense of touch is also very important in several ways. The texture of the beer in the mouth has a great impact on its overall character. Even how it feels on the lips can give you a great deal of information because of the number of nerve endings there. Not only are our 5 senses individually important but they can be even more informative when used in unison. For example, while you have a sip of beer in your mouth, exhale and inhale through your nose to move those flavor and aroma molecules all throughout your throat and nasal cavity to get the full olfactory experience!



  13. Be observant.
    This tip is simple yet profoundly important. If you are not being observant, you are likely to miss a great deal of subtleties in the beer. Before you know it, the glass is empty and you can't remember how it tasted or if you even enjoyed it.



  14. Drink when your taste buds are most alert.
    Unfortunately, this happens to be between 11:00am and 1:00pm and most of us aren't able to fit that into our schedule in a civilized manner. The human body prefers to take in much of its calories during this time and has biologically programmed our tongues to be more sensitive during these hours. As the day goes on and as we ingest many kinds of foods, our sense of taste becomes dulled towards the evening. To correct this unfortunate scenario, I suggest requesting the late shift at work so as not to interfere with your drinking schedule.



  15. Beers taste better when you are in good spirits and when you are healthy.
    Our physical and mental state has a huge impact on our senses. If you are depressed, your sense of taste could be negatively impacted and the alcohol may worsen your mood. When we are in good physical and mental condition, the alcohol has a much better affect on our brains and our bodies are able to process it much better.



  16. Women and younger people have more sensitive sensory receptors.
    For thousands of years, women have been the primary sex to gather and prepare food for the family or tribe. Additionally, they are usually the ones who care for and nourish children. For these reasons, they have developed highly acute senses in order to perform these tasks extraordinarily well. Also, age is important because as we get older, most our senses become muted. Therefore it is not uncommon for a woman drinker to identify a hint of apricot in that Pale Ale that none of the others guys in the room can.



  17. Don't take beer too seriously.
    There are many kinds of people who drink beer including casual drinkers, aficionados and snobs. Each one of them has a different idea about what beer should be or taste like. However, the one thing they all share in common is that they drink beer to gain enjoyment. When we take beer too seriously, we begin to lose sight of its real significance and the true pleasure it can bring.



  18. Enjoy beers in the context they were intended.
    Part of the reason that there is so much diversity in beer flavors and styles is that all beers are designed to fit a certain context. For example, beers can be designed to be light and thirst-quenching for the summer. Some have been created to be rich and nourishing for periods of religious fasting. Others beers have exotic spices or ingredients that cater to certain cultures. If you enjoy a beer out of context, you are not likely to fully appreciate its merits. Only when you can appreciate how well a beer achieves it purpose can you fully understand a beers worth.



  19. Drink in a comfortable, calm atmosphere.
    In order to fully experience a beer, it is important that you are physically and mentally comfortable. When our bodies and minds are distracted, some of our more acute senses are blurred. Such distractions are loud music, crowded rooms, neon and fluorescent lights and bright colors. Think of it as the Feng Shui of beer tasting.



  20. Keep an open mind and have a well-rounded beer diet.
    There is nothing worse than approaching a new beer with a pessimistic attitude. If you think you're not going to like it...you probably won't like it. You must remember that the mind is a powerful tool and you have more control over your subconscious than you think. So try new beers with a more positive attitude looking for its good points rather than its flaws. It's also important to have variety in your beer diet in order to learn more and discover new flavors or styles. When you drink the same thing consistently, then it becomes more about the alcohol and less about the experience. Some drinkers may say,'well I am just picky and I know what I like.' To that I respond, 'is it healthy to eat peanut butter and jelly sandwiches all the time?'.



These are just some of the factors that can influence how a beer may smell or taste. Since both beer and the human body are very complex beings (yes, beer is a living thing), there could be hundreds or thousands of influences that can affect our beer drinking experience!

Have fun putting some of these tips to the test and make your next beer experience much more gratifying!
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