How to Master the Art of Craft Beer Tasting: A Beginner’s Guide to Evaluating Flavor, Aroma, and More
Craft beer is a growing trend that has taken the world by storm. From crisp lagers to hazy IPAs, there’s a beer for every palate. But how do you know if you’re drinking a high-quality beer or not? Or maybe you have been invited to a beer tasting party but don’t know what to say. In this guide, we’ll show you how to taste and evaluate craft beer like a pro and then muddy those waters up with uniquely Hoppy Craftsmen vernacular.
Step 1: Proper Glassware
The first step to evaluating craft beer is to choose the right glassware. Different beer styles should be served in different glasses to bring out the unique aromas and flavors. Is a phrase you will hear craft beer drinkers say. But, in reality you can drink any beer out of any glass. Will choosing a glass made for that kind of beer help, sure… but it won’t make so much of a difference you are missing out on something.
Here are a few common and uncommon beer glasses we think you should know:
- Pilsner Glass: A tall, narrow glass used for serving lagers, pilsners, and light beers. Can have weird bulbous shapes and will be told “that’s a pilsner glass!” and to which you can respond “not if I put an IPA in there, it’s not!”
- Tulip Glass: A glass with a tulip shape that’s ideal for serving ales, stouts, and IPAs. The shape of the glass helps to trap the aroma and release it as you drink. This is the glass that non-craft beer drinkers see and think what a snob that dood is.
- Snifter Glass: A glass used for serving strong beers, such as barley wines and imperial stouts. The shape of the glass helps to release the aroma, making it easier to smell the beer. Or to our thinking, those beers are strong (i.e. high ABV) so give me less so I don’t get faded too quickly.
- Libbey Pub Glass: Our favorite glass for drinking beer. It typically has a cylindrical shape with a slightly wider rim and a sturdy base, designed to hold the beer securely while providing a comfortable grip. The glass usually holds around 20 ounces of liquid, providing enough space for a 16 ounce can of beer with head room to spare. Just barely…
- Teku Glass: It was created by Italian beer sommelier, Leonardo Di Vincenzo. The glass has a unique shape with a rounded bowl and stem, and a flared lip that helps to direct the beer towards the center of the tongue, where the majority of taste buds are located. This glass has fallen off popularity in recent years. Though eBay and Nate might tell you different. We are still waiting for his investigating journalism to verify.
- Stemless Wine Glass: The wide bowl of the glass allows for a comfortable grip and provides ample space for the beer to breathe, enhancing its aroma and flavor. The design of the glass eliminates the stem, which can sometimes get in the way or get knocked over, making it a convenient option for clumsy drinkers or really just drinkers. Bonus: if your significant other drinks wine, then it won’t count toward your “stop buying glassware!” limit.
- Pint/Shaker Glass: The preferred glass of bars everywhere. They aren’t good, but they can be free from vendors so take one or two.
Step 2: Look at the Beer
Before you taste the beer, take a moment to look at it. The appearance of a beer can give you important clues about the flavor and aroma. Also, gives you a chance to see if you just bought a beer for the label and didn’t quite read it correctly.
Here are a few things to look for:
- Color: The color of a beer can range from light yellow to dark brown. The color can indicate the type of malt used to make the beer and the degree of roast. Keep in mind that the color of the beer doesn’t mean body or the beer. There are heavy light beers, and very light dark beers. Looking at you Guinness.
- Clarity: The clarity of a beer can range from crystal clear to hazy. Some beer styles, such as wheat beers, are intentionally cloudy, while others should be clear. The biggest example of this is the currently, is the hazy or juicy IPA. Though how they get the cloudiness can vary which can affect the taste.
- Head: The head is the foam on top of the beer. The head should be creamy and long-lasting, and the color should match the beer. Alot, of the aroma can come from the head of the beer, so more is better here. Also, if you watch internet videos you’ve seen how much gas can be stuck in an improperly poured beer.
Step 3: Smell the Beer
Now it’s time to smell the beer. The aroma of a beer can give you important clues about the flavor and help you identify different aromas. If you are looking for more adjectives to describe your beer, we have lots of shows were we spew out our 4th grade vocabulary words.
Here are a few things to look for:
- Malt: The aroma of malt can be sweet, bready, or toasty. Not too often will you hear us talk about malt. I mean we are the “Hoppy” Craftsmen right!
- Hops: Hops add bitterness and aroma to beer. The aroma of hops can range from floral to citrusy to piney. Some of our favorites include, “damn that’s good, whoa this is pineapple in a glass, and super dank”.
- Yeast: Yeast can add fruity and spicy aromas to beer. The only time we think to attribute aromas to the yeast is when we are drinking some funky farmhouse style beers.
- Other Aromas: Some beer styles can have unique aromas, such as coffee, chocolate, or fruit.
The only time we think to attribute aromas to the yeast is when we are drinking some funky farmhouse style beers.Me in the previous paragraph
Step 4: Taste the Beer
Now it’s time to taste the beer. The flavor of a beer can be complex, with many different elements contributing to the taste. Again, this is where we deploy our highly skilled vocabulary and dig deep for this real hard hitting adjectives.
Whoa! That’s a Juice Bomb!– all the Hazy Boiz
Here are a few things to look for:
- Bitterness: Bitterness is the characteristic of beer that balances the sweetness of the malt. Bitterness can range from mild to intense. Which to some, intense might seem like the top of the scale. But, there is an even higher limit that we like to call “How much enamel did I just lose?! Damn that’s good!”
- Sweetness: The sweetness of a beer comes from the malt. The sweetness can range from mild to intense. We use “that’s too malty, way to much malt, and where is the malt?” a lot of the time as well.
- Body: Body refers to the mouthfeel of a beer. A beer can have a light body or a full body, depending on the ingredients and brewing process. This being a good thing can depend solely on the climate you are in currently. Sometimes and light refreshing beer hits, other times a dark full bodied stout warms the soul.
- Finish: The finish of a beer refers to the aftertaste. A beer can have a dry finish or a sweet finish, depending on the ingredients and brewing process. This is where a lot of beers become not so good. They start great but lose you in the finish.
Step 5: Consider the Context
When evaluating a beer, it’s important to consider the context.
Here are a few things to keep in mind.
- Style: The style of a beer can give you important clues about what to expect in terms of flavor, aroma, and bitterness. Familiarize yourself with the characteristics of different beer styles so you can better understand what you’re drinking.
- Location: The location where you’re drinking the beer can also impact your experience. Drinking a beer in a noisy bar, for example, can make it harder to taste and evaluate the beer compared to drinking it in a quiet environment.
- Food: Food can also impact the way you taste and evaluate beer. Pairing a beer with a meal can bring out different flavors and aromas in the beer. Working on a food pairing blog post as we speak.
- Personal Preference: Finally, it’s important to remember that taste is subjective. What you like may not be what someone else likes. Don’t be afraid to try different beers and trust your own tastes and preferences. This is one thing that we have learn over the 90 plus episodes we have done. Your 5 star IPA is not mine and vice versa. When you find a beer you like, try to figure out why you liked it. Was it the type of hops they used? If so, look for other beers that use those hop combos.
Tasting and evaluating craft beer can seem intimidating, but with a little bit of knowledge and practice, anyone can do it. I mean we have whole shows were we do this. It probably wasn’t the worst 45mins of you life. Right?! By looking at the appearance, smelling the aroma, tasting the flavor, and considering the context, you can gain a deeper appreciation for the beer you’re drinking and discover new favorites. So, grab any glass you have, except that shaker glass, and start your beer tasting journey today! Feel free to join us on social media mostly Instagram and share what glass you use to drink craft beer from. Or better yet grab one and listen to a show, we have a ton to choose from!