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Old 11-21-2012, 01:31 PM   #11
mlyday
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One of the beer magazine, I think Zymurgy has a section they call commerical calibrations or something like that. They have 3 or 4 certified judges rate the beer and give their notes as if it were being judged in a competition. It may be really helpfull to grab one of those beers and see if your can taste what they are describing.

EDIT: It is Zymurgy. If you are a member of the AHA you can see them online here:
http://www.homebrewersassociation.or...al-calibration

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Old 11-21-2012, 01:46 PM   #12
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It's a different journey for us all and extremely subjective at times...even when competing against the palate of your former/future selves. You'll find that what you enjoyed immensely in the beginning is disliked later in your craft beer journey. Evolution of flavor and quality.

The one thing I would recommend is to focus on one of the larger family of beers and get a feel for those first. By family, I mean yeast-forward, malt-forward, hop-forward.

Hop-forward beers are usually not enjoyed as much when you start out. New craft beer drinkers like the idea of the majority of these beers being pale like many Lagers they may be used to, but dislike the unfamiliar hoppy bitterness and dryness that is usually associated with them. They lack the most depth out of all three styles because in many cases, malt and yeast are somewhat ignored, with a very strong focus on the hops. Until you learn to appreciate the beauty of unbalance, and that stranglehold takes over which makes you addicted to hops, this will probably be your least favorite style starting out. They are usually American Ales.

The malt-forward style of beers is the most vague. You can have anything from stouts, brown ales, english pales, czech pilseners, etc. You can have flavors of chocolate, roasty coffee, bready malt, caramel, etc. It usually contains the sweeter beers of the three families. But that does not mean they are all sweet. There is a good chance you will enjoy a large majority of these beers, but some may take some getting used to. These are usually the most balanced beers of the bunch since they contain enough malt presence to support a moderate hop presences and unique yeast flavors.

The yeast-forward examples, usually Belgian Ales, are easily enjoyed by new craft beer drinkers. They are the most complex of the bunch, and tough to decipher what's going on at times. Other times it's very obvious with upfront pruney fruit and baking spices. They can either be extremely sweet, dry, funky, sour, complex, flavorful, annoying -- pick your poison, but the idea is that they are usually quite upfront in some regard. You have the Dubbels, Tripels, Quads, Saisons, Trappist ales, Sours, etc. I would highly recommend experimenting with these as a new beer drinker (sans the sours which may take time to appreciate). Get a bomber every two days and sit down to enjoy it.

Other than that, read more into what interests you and go from there. Participate in online beer forums. Have tasting nights with your friends. Before long, you'll be homebrewing exactly the type of beers that you enjoy.

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Old 11-21-2012, 04:04 PM   #13
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@Pappers: I actually just picked up a copy of Tasting Beer yesterday. I only got a chance to skim it so far, but what I read was really, really enlightening.

I guess I should also explain - at some point I hope to take the exam for both the certified beer server and eventually the certified cicerone certifications, so my (seemingly) slow development in regards to tasting is maddening from that standpoint as well.

Oh well - it'll come in time. What's that about "all good things" again?
If you're interested in beer and food, as a cicerone, Oliver Garrett's book The Brewmaster's Table is outstanding, I think. Garrett is the brewmaster at Brooklyn Brewing. http://www.amazon.com/Brewmasters-Ta.../dp/0060005718
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Old 11-21-2012, 04:20 PM   #14
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I know its been said above already but tasting with other people and sharing what you are tasting with other people helps a great deal to help you understand what you are tasting.

I also found it very helpful to read reviews of different beers (like the commercial calibration in zymurgy mentioned above) and read the BJCP style guides; both helped me greatly expand my vocabulary when it comes to naming and identifying flavors and aromas. Reading the reviews and guidelines really helped me define what I was tasting and put words to it.

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Old 11-21-2012, 04:24 PM   #15
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Find a store that allows for doing mixed sixers of micro brew, it's a good way to try different styles and it's often a couple bucks or more cheaper than buying an entire sixer of one micro...for example I can get a six pack of bell's two hearted for about 12 bucks...but at the same beer store they have a cooler for 9.99 mix and match....and you never know what they will stick in there...so if I'm not in the mood for something in particular or feel like expanding my horizons and not risking an entire six of something I might not like.

So far I've only had a couple bottles of something that I could say I wouldn't have again.

But I've also discovered a bunch of new breweries that I might not have if their beer was in the 12-15 dollar a six.

And I've also gotten turned on by a few beers in styles I never thought I'd try...Like Vienna Lagers....I've never been a fan of the fizzy yellow type of lagers, but damn those brown, malty Vienna ones are fantastic.

If you have a Trader Joe's in your town they usually allow for mixed sixer filling as well. And those are 5.99, and the majority of the "TJ's" labeled beers are brewed by Gordon Biersch.


Usually if it is a beer I have never tried or even a new style then i will sit down with the beer and google and do some reading on the beer or the style.

Usually beer advocate will have the beer reviewed, and also a lot of the micro breweries have info on their website, sometimes the actual recipe or at least ingredient info.

Another good resource is the BJCP style guide, it gives a lot of info on the beer, the history of it, the numbers range for OG, FG, IBU's, etc. As well as a list of commercial representations of the beers. BJCP 2008 Style Guidelines - Index

Then if I am planning to brew something, I usually google to see if there are any clone recipes for the beer online.

Sometimes I will do a themed sixer, like all IPAs or Ambers or stouts, and get six different beers of the same style. It is a good way to see how different breweries tackle the same style...then if I mamnage to find info on the online, or even clone recipes I can see what ingredients are similar between recipes, and what is it that gives a certain version something special...i did that with vienna lagers, and learned a lot about the style.

And as to learning how to "taste," this is a really gread Basic Brewing Podcast on that subject.

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May 1, 2008 - Beer Eye for the Wine Guy
Gary Vaynerchuk of Wine Library TV brings the thunder to BBR and gives us his perspectives on the art of tasting as he samples homebrew.

Click to Listen
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Old 11-21-2012, 04:27 PM   #16
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@mlyday: Thanks for suggesting Zymurgy - I think I may ask for a membership to the AMA for Xmas.

@bobbrews: Excellent advice, thanks. Any advice on a few good bombers to start with?

@Pappers_: I have Mr. Garrett's book on my Amazon wishlist as of a few days ago. The Oxford Companion to Beer should be arriving in a few days - that coupled with Tasting Beer should keep me out of trouble for awhile.

@WhiteDog87: I'll certainly be looking for more folks to drink with. As it is now, I have a few friends into beer, but we rarely have a chance to get together. My wife will try some stuff, but she's still super, super selective so it's hard to get a "tasting buddy" for the things I want to try out, lol.

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Old 11-21-2012, 04:32 PM   #17
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Excellent advice, thanks. Any advice on a few good bombers to start with?
Go to beeradvocate.com and log in. Browse the beer styles section. Open a bunch of tabs at the top of your browser for each of the Belgian styles... Dubbel, Tripel, Quad, BSDA, BSPA, Saison, Biere de Garde, etc. - Sort by review count. Those will be the easier beers to find. Print the first page and head to your bottle shop. Pick up those beers with the highest overall ratings. Go home, open your beer, write a review. Revisit the beer in 6 months and re-read your review
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Old 11-21-2012, 04:35 PM   #18
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@Revvy: There's a fantastic beer store Called the Perfect Pour right down the road from me. They offer mixed sixes, but how they do it is they let you just pick individual beers off the shelves, even if it means busting open an case or pulling one from a six-pack. I did it once, and ended up paying almost $25. Needless to say, I can't afford to keep that up. It is how I discovered Back in Black though, so it wasn't a total loss.

RE: Trader Joe's - Unfortunately, Maryland is one of those "no liquor or beer sales in grocery stores" states. I've been curious as hell to try their 2-buck chuck, but no go.

I do check Beer Advocate a fair bit though - in fact, I'll be reviewing Anderson Valley's Winter Solstice later this afternoon once I get a leg up on my Thanksgiving cooking prep list.

Thanks for the link to the podcast - I'll check it out tonight.

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