A good excerpt - bold changes my own to make it relevant to homebrewing.
The first stage, flavor detection, involves the receptors on your tongue (the taste buds) and in your nasal cavity (the olfactory epithelium) interacting with the molecules presented in the beer and in its aroma. When these molecules contact the receptors a pattern of electrical signals is then sent to memory areas of your brain. During the second stage, flavor recognition, your brain looks for a match between the flavor you are currently experiencing and one you have experienced in the past (stored in memory). In the final stage, flavor identification, the language areas of the brain spring into action and generate a label for the flavor you are experiencing. For example, “That tastes like bitter chocolate”, is a label for a flavor memory. A person can create such a label based on their prior consumption of bitter chocolate. It is fairly common for us to have difficulty with flavor identification because most of us do not have a good vocabulary for describing flavors and do not have a lot of practice at doing it. This can lead to a “tip of the tongue phenomenon”: the feeling that you know you have tasted a particular flavor before but just can’t get the name out.
Differences in sensitivity at each of these three stages can account for variations in the ability to pick up flavors in a beer from drinker to drinker. Research in this area has shown that some people are much more sensitive to the molecules present in things we consume.
Some salient points from the articles:
- Practice, practice, practice
- Drink slower, taste better
- Be more adventurous in your eating habits. This helps to build up a bank of flavor memories that you can draw upon when describing the various flavors and aromas that you are experiencing when sampling a beer (or libation of any sort).
I'm going to try the Super-Taster Test outlined in the first article; I'm curious to see where I fall with regards to tastebud density and how that may contribute to my preferences to one style of beer over another. A super-taster's heightened sensitivity to bitterness will likely turn them away from IPAs and IIPAs (just my attempt at hack science