There are traditions and rituals around tasting beer that most people would probably be familiar with if they enjoy drinking it.
The rise of craft beer in the 21st Century has seen small and independent breweries recreate traditional styles and also begin to experiment with emerging beer flavours.
It has been seen in the surge of the IPA and DIPA, and even the IIIIPA heavily bittered with alpha acids. And the restraint in the trend of the last 12 months towards lower ABV and milder profiles, such as the XPA and session ales.
So how do you find a beer that is both reliable and sessionable?
There are four basic ingredients in beer: malted barley, yeast, water, and hops.
Hops impart different flavours and aromas in beer, and the alpha acids that cause hop bitterness will affect the flavour of the beer.
The palate is affected by the bitterness of the addition of hops as the alpha acids in the hops attack the palate, and beers can be categorised by a measure of bitterness or international bittering units (IBU).
Hops can also star in the background of a beer and the roasty or malty character of the grain will linger for longer on the front of the palate. Barleywine is about a malt experience.
Different strains of yeasts can produce clean tasting or powerful strong characteristics. Beers intentionally acidic and sour Belgium Lambic and Gueuze.
If you’re enjoying your first beer or if you are a seasoned veteran there is a craft beer etiquette when it comes to tasting so your palate is not overwhelmed and a subjective decision can be reached.
Beer tasting should be served in sampler size glassware and the order it is served is often left up to the consumer.
However, the palate should be taken on a journey from easy drinking ales like Lagers, Kolschs and Mid-Strengths, and progress towards styles with heavier profiles.
This is similar to wine tastings at cellar doors as the palate works its way from a Reisling through a Sauvignon Blanc towards a heavy Shiraz.
Sampling beer should lead from the lowest alphas to the highest alphas or the lower IBU to the highest IBU. Drinking in reverse or out of order will assault the palate and affect later samples.
It is important to note that alcohol by volume (ABV) and IBU are not interrelated.
Before tasting take a step back and agitate the glass and smell the beer before tasting.
Observe the flavours of the beer on a deeper level to appreciate the flavour.
The characteristics should be assessed is the balance of the beer, as well as the palate feel, bitterness, complexity, and length of finish.
Consumers are only scratching the surface of the variety of beer styles offered by small and independent craft breweries.
The journey is about experimenting to ultimately discover the characteristics of similar styles that will be attractive to your palate and can be presented in a variety of different ways.