How you arrange beers for a tasting + How to taste and evaluate beer!

By hopskullbeerguide
October 09, 2019
Hi fellow beer lovers! One thing I often get asked about is how I arrange, taste and evaluate the beers I drink. Therefor I’ve sat down and written some hopefully helpful words and created some beer tasting tools for you to use! – This article is written for all you who want to learn some useful steps to arrange a beer tasting, become a beer tasting pro and of course learn to create magical experiences for friends and family! Lets just dive straight in, and start with my guide on how to arrange a beer tasting!
How you arrange beers for a tasting:
Creating a particular drinking order for a beer tasting may seem like a little to serious and nerdy but it is a really great idea to do so, as the correct drinking order most definitely will have an effect on the impression you will get from each beer.
If you line them up wrong you might end up hating a beer that is actual really great!
Always start out by find every detail available about the beers you are arranging. The most important details are ABV, IBU, beer style and all additional notes regarding the beer – which adjunct are used?, is the beer spicy, clean or savory?
Why arrange low to high ABV?
Beers with a high amount of ABV are likely to be warming on the tongue, and could end up make your tongue feel numb. All the high ABV beers are best suited at the end of the tasting.
Why arrange low to high IBU?
Well The higher IBU, the more they are likely to leave a lingering flavor on the tongue, will affect the beer you drink next.
Why arrange after beer styles?
This step is really important! You have to make sure to organize the beer styles, if you have more then one beer in a particular style, drink them “back to back”! Start the drinking order by arranging beers you know to be light in both ABV and IBU + think about the Adjuncts, some could be smarter to move towards the end of the tasting – cinnamon is for myself, one I really want further towards the end than near the start.
Think about how you arrange, don’t dive straight in and drink a Barrel aged Stout, followed up by a pale ale just to end the tasting with a crisp Saison. You will end up ruining the whole experience, and that would be rather sad for you and the beers!
Now that I’ve shared the quick 101 of arranging beers for at tasting, lets go over the next important part on your route to the higher beer tasting league!
How to taste and evaluate beer!
Passionate craft brewers seek to create the best as possible experiences for beer consumers! Therefore knowing how to appreciate their work at the best possible way is preferred! - It all starts with some easy steps of pouring, smelling, looking, tasting and evaluating.
Step 1: Pour the beer
Pour the beer into a clean glass. Any glass will do, but a wine glass or even cognac glass is preferable. If there’s a high amount of carbonation, tilt the glass to make sure the head of the beer isn’t too large. If there’s low carbonation, pour the beer straight into the center of the glass to agitate the beer enough to give it a head of foam. One to two finger size head is what you wish fore.
Step 2: Stick your nose in it and take a whiff
Swirl the beer around in the glass and put your nose right in there. Inhale several times. If you’re have a stout, barley wine or Belgian style you could warm it up in your hands to release more aromas. If you don’t get enough smell, you could try to put your palm over the top of the glass and swirl for a few seconds, trapping the aromas in the glass. Then smell – some times it’s a good idea to only use one nostril when a whiff.
Step 3: Look at the appearance
Hold your glass up to a light and tilt it a little. Check out the color, whether it’s clear or hazy, and how much of a head stays on the top of the beer. You can expect different looks for different styles, and the only way to know them all is to practice.
Step 4: Smell it again
Swirl it up again and stick your nose back in it. The beer will be more agitated and warmer after the first three steps.
Step 5: Dive in and taste it!
Finally it’s time to take a really big sip! You have to take in just enough to coat your mouth - you got to let all the beer hit your lips, gums, teeth, and all around your tongue. When you swallow that sip, keep your mouth closed and exhale through your nose. Take note of the flavors you notice and the aftertaste.
The main tastes, which are detectable, are:
  • Sweet: brain thinks energy
  • Salty: brain thinks ions
  • Sour: brain things spoiled (sour milk) or good (orange juice) or toxic
  • Bitter: brain thinks toxic (poisonous plants) but this innate reaction can be overcome (beer bitterness/coffee roast)
  • Umami: brain thinks protein (savory richness: what an aged steak delivers that a fresh cut does not; think parmesan cheese or soy sauce)
Step 6: Taste it once more
Take one more sip, this time focusing on the mouthfeel of the beer.
Step 7: Enjoy and time to evaluate
This is where you simply “Relax. Take a deep breath. Smell the beer again, and taste it again”. Pause to consider whatever flavors you get, how’s the mouthfeel and so on! – Remember to take notes - maybe tick the beer in on untappd, or you could take the moment to share your experience with others around you!
Learning how to describe and evaluate a beer is a huge factor in being able to communicate; with others about the aromas and flavors you are experiencing as you taste the beer.
Before ending this article, I want to share with you a little simplified Beer Tasting sheet, which I’ve made - Perfect for everyone from beginners to full-blooded Hopheads.
And a special treat for you guys, I’ve included my own take on a ”Hop Wheel” and ”Beer Flavor wheel” – both great tools to use when figuring out hop flavor characteristics, and beer flavors.
Both the beer tasting sheet, hop wheel and beer flavor wheel is full of vocabulary/beer lingo which helps you know what to look for, smell and taste wise as you evaluate your beer.
Just follow the link and you’ll find the printable tasting sheet + ”Hop Wheel” and ”Beer Flavor wheel”
Only one thing left to say….. Go grab your favorite beer and start tasting! – For simplicity, I know Mikkeller sells a few different bundles, which are perfect starters if you want to throw down a beer tasting for friends and family!
Tasting wheel
Tasting wheel 2
Till next time, yours truly - HopSkull