August 18, 2005
taste your beer
more than just raising the wrist
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
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.