Drinking Beer Like a Pro
Many a fine craft enthusiast has asked themselves whether or not they’re judging a beer correctly. While the ultimate goal is to enjoy yourself, you may have wondered if the beer you’re drinking is up to snuff or if your own judgement makes sense.
Let’s take a page from the pros and up our craft tasting game.
Tools of the Trade
Most judging events last the better part of a morning and afternoon, involving dozens of different beers. Preparing to handle that kind of onslaught is no joke. While you won’t necessarily be trying to taste this many, the techniques used to stay sharp and soldier through the ranks of bottles can come in hand.
A Clean Slate
Two important elements come into play when judging taste. One is the container you’re using to keep the brew at hand when judging and the other is your very own tongue.
Judging events will often use plastic cups when pouring beer. Since they’ve never been filled with any other beer or random cola they won’t have residual material in them to foul the taste of the beer being judged. But single use plastic is never anyone’s favourite. If you’re at home, make sure to thoroughly wash a glass between beer — remembering to rinse it with clean water after washing so no soap residue remains.
Cleansing your palate between tastes is a necessity to truly judge the flavour. A million recommendations exist — soda crackers, ginger, a rinse of high-proof spirits
— but almost everyone agrees on one simple measure: water. Have a bottle of flat water (not sparkling) and rinse the mouth between beers.
Going into a tasting requires a judge to examine their biases and their stamina. We’ve all got a favourite beer we love to promote, but more often we have a dreaded stinker we want to destroy with all our heart. And when you get tired, those tendencies can be hard to manage.
Have a look at the beers you’ll be tasting and familiarize yourself with their character. That’s the basis you should be judging them on: do they deliver on their promise. A commonly mentioned faux-pas brewers run into in competition is putting their beers under the wrong category. That’s not a concern when you’re at home, but it should be something to consider. It might be a beer worth putting on your “drink more” list, but did it achieve the high quality of the style?
Know your limitations — if you aren’t interested in or don’t have the energy to taste more than a few beers in a night, don’t plow through them for the hell of it. Take your time, enjoy what you’ve got in the cellar, there’s always tomorrow. Fatigue is responsible for more errors in judgement than all other sources combined. It won’t matter at home, but why waste good lager?
If you’re at an event and want to scream… well… you got yourself into this mess. We wish you good luck.
Tasting is a Journey
Tasting is, in the end, about discovering the ingenuity of local and world craft brewers, discovering great beers that open up your mind and palate, and enjoying the labours of great brewing. If nothing else try tasting with an open mind and have a sip on those beers you’d normally avoid. They may just surprise you.