Hippo Manchester
August 18, 2005


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How to taste your beer

Itís more than just raising the wrist

By Mike Roy 

Spending so much time in the Beer Cellar, I  sometimes lose sight of the simple things, such as the right way to taste beer. Iíve been encouraging you to experience new and exciting beer, yet I failed to tell you how you should go about drinking it.

I know what youíre thinking ó how do I get off telling you how to drink? Youíre an adult, you know how to drink a beer. But do you really? I mean, it is more than putting the glass to your lips and pouring the beer into your mouth.

First off, you need to get rid of the bottle ó it doesnít allow for a true appreciation of the beer. I know many people think itís important to be seen with your chosen brand, itís the image of being cool, but have you ever wondered why wine isnít consumed straight from the bottle? Why on earth should beer not be treated in the same manner? Remember, a bottle is just packaging, so find yourself a clean glass and start working on a proper pour. There actually is correct way to pour a beer into a glass and itís fairly simple to learn.

Start by tilting the glass at a 45-degree angle, pouring the beer so that it hits the bottom at a moderate speed. Donít be afraid to allow some frothy head. A good head can symbolize a lot in a beer, including the cleanliness of the glass, the freshness of the ingredients and quality of the beer. Most important, it agitates the beer allowing more aromas to come out.

Checking out your beerís appearance is also a very important factor. After all how often do we put things in your body that we havenít inspected with our eyes? Look to see is the head holds up for a while or if it dissipates quickly. Good head retention is desirable. Also look at the beerís clarity ó is it brilliant, hazy, cloudy? These things can help you determine a lot about a beer without even tasting it.

Next, take a good whiff of your beer by sticking your nose as far into the glass as you can. You can gain a lot of insight from a beerís aroma. Without aroma you couldnít perceive citrus notes, toasted/roasted malt, nuts or fruit because your tongue can only detect sweet, bitter, salt and sour. So thank your nose for everything you ďtaste.Ē  In fact, a good experiment to perform is to pinch your nose while sipping on a beer and see what exactly you do taste without your olfactory receptors, the part of your nose that tells your brain what you are perceiving.

Itís also important to note that smoking reduces your ability to ďtaste,Ē so your palate will be more receptive to beer if youíre not smoking while drinking or if you quit those cancer sticks altogether.

After the aroma, itís time to taste. Yes, finally. Take a sip, but donít swallow. Swirl it around your mouth, allowing your entire palate to be covered. Notice its mouth feel (light/medium/heavy bodied) and its texture (sometimes effervescent with carbonation, oily or silky). Now swallow and enjoy slowly. Despite everything you think you may know, take your time and enjoy this, Notice the finish (or lack of it), how the beer lingers on your tongue. Now go forth and repeat until your glass is empty.

Mike Roy is the brew master at Millyís Tavern at 500 Commercial St. The Beer Cellar is a new column that will appear semi-monthly in the Hippo.