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Home Brew Forums > Home Brewing Beer > General Beer Discussion > Tasting Advice
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Old 04-22-2010, 06:46 PM   #1
ThoricourtBrewing
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Default Tasting Advice

Hello,

I'm looking for some advice on how to be a better beer taster. I am a great admirer of beer and would like to one day consider myself a true "connaiseur", but I know I need to refine my tastes. Are there ways to train your palate? I like to really savor every beer I drink, but I have a hard time explaining / detailing exactly what I'm tasting. Any advice?

Thanks,
Dan

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Old 04-22-2010, 06:53 PM   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ThoricourtBrewing View Post
Hello,

I'm looking for some advice on how to be a better beer taster. I am a great admirer of beer and would like to one day consider myself a true "connaiseur", but I know I need to refine my tastes. Are there ways to train your palate? I like to really savor every beer I drink, but I have a hard time explaining / detailing exactly what I'm tasting. Any advice?

Thanks,
Dan
Take a look at the BJCP style guide and see if you can pick out some of the characteristics appropriate for a specific style. There are commercial examples listed for each style, so you can look at those to help decide what beer to buy.

http://www.bjcp.org/stylecenter.php
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Old 04-22-2010, 07:33 PM   #3
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Step 1: "connoisseur"
Step 2: When you brew, taste your grain. Each specialty grain will taste different (and most taste excellent alone!) and you will understand where basic flavors come from. Smell your hops and understand what they do.
Step 3: When you drink, think about tastes you can associate with what you're drinking. Does that stout have a coffee/roast/chocolate flavor? Does that IPA have any malt or do you just taste hops. What do the hops taste like? Grass? Grapefruit? Is it sweet? The descriptors make sense over time. The BJCP guides are ok, but if you really want, I suggest step 3.
Step 4: Buy the book Tasting Beer. Read it when you drink. Read it cover to cover and then again. There are a great number of descriptors in that book. It is a very straightforward book that lays out a lot of good information on tasting, and is written by the guy who is running the Cicerone program. Look that up, too.
Step 5: Drink more.

Experience is key for tasting. Both grain and finished products have helped me identify flavors much easier. I've also been lucky enough to go through the sensory evaluation courses a couple of times, but those can be pricy. Informative, though.

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Old 04-22-2010, 09:03 PM   #4
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A big thing I struggled with was the vocabulary. I knew what I was tasting but didn't know how to describe it. Reading beer reviews gave me a better idea of how to express in words what I tasted.

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Old 04-22-2010, 09:22 PM   #5
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Most people who write beer reviews on, say, BA or ratebeer are really bad at it. This is necessarily true as the descriptions of a particular beer vary dramatically from reviewer to reviewer.

You accomplish much more in terms of calibration and improving vocabulary but tasting beer with someone that you have good reason to believe is skilled in tasting. This can be informal or by judging comps.

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Old 04-22-2010, 09:56 PM   #6
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Just read more. Not just beer reviews but anything. You'll expand your vocabulary 10x over if you just exersise your brain daily.

You'll start to find adjectives that fit perfectly with beer like "earthy" and "bright", rather than just "bitter" or "hoppy".

Just read and you will find your own voice. And remember, with most reviews of ANYTHING...Just because you SOUND like you know what you're talking about, doesn't mean you actually do.

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Old 04-23-2010, 01:51 PM   #7
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I second the BJCP descriptions. Read them and drink a beer with the style guidelines for that style right in front of you.

Also, Randy Mosher has a nice book called "Tasting Beer" that is one of my favorite reads. Might be helpful and probably very entertaining as well.

You may also want to look into not only reading the BJCP guidelines, but actually taking a course. It will not only be very beneficial for tasting beer, but for making it as well.

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Old 04-23-2010, 01:58 PM   #8
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+ 1 for reading "tasting beer" it is a great book and really walks through the different styles and taste profiles.

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Old 04-23-2010, 06:50 PM   #9
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Try various beers and think about what you are tasting and try to describe it. It might help to do this with others so you can discuss it. I used to be able to tell that similar beers were different, but now I can usually say how they are different.

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Old 04-23-2010, 07:07 PM   #10
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The Brewer's Association's site is also a good reference. They name the winning examples from GABF. Which is good when you can find them.

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