South Africans are a beer-loving nation. We have more than 100 different styles of beer
to choose from. Here are a few great tips on how to taste beer like a pro.
The SAB has prepared a step-by-step guide on how to become a connoisseur beer taster by observing the colour, inhaling the aroma, releasing the volatiles (swirling) and, finally, taking a sip of a beer.
Cleanse your palate
Cleanse or refresh your mouth with water.
Observe the colour
The colour will represent what type of brew it is – pilsners are a pale straw, while American and English ales have a golden hue. Porters and stouts are amber brown and black. If you are going to taste several different beers, it is better to taste from light to dark.
Get a quick whiff of the aroma
Move the glass past your nose once or twice – this action is known as “the drive-by”. Your
nostrils and taste buds work together, so your sense of smell will give you vital clues about
the type of beer you taste. You should be able to pick up roast notes typical of malts; or pine, citrus, pepper and fresh-cut grass from the hops; or perhaps even hints of yeast. This is when you would detect undesirable aromas, which are called off flavours. The most common one is a sulphur-type flavour which can be tasted in beers which have been exposed to too much light.
Give it a swirl
Swirl the glass gently – this releases the volatiles, which are trapped and concentrated in the glass. Swirling knocks some of the CO2 out of the solution, causing it to foam slightly. Allowing the beer to mix with the air provides the drinker with a stronger scent of the various aromatic components, such as hops and malt.
Take a another deep sniff
This whiff should differ from the previous one, as now you’ll be able to get hints of the aroma:
• Malts: should smell honey, biscuit, caramel or baked bread flavours, but can contain hints
of roasted coffee or in the case of stouts, a hint of dark chocolate.
• Hop aromas: these are generally citrusy, floral or perhaps grassy in nature.
• Yeast aromas: these will be fruity or sulphurous in nature.
And taste …
Take a small sip, enough for it to run across your entire tongue, and then let it slowly roll
over your tongue for a few seconds before you swallow and breathe out gently. At this point you’ll taste both broad and subtle flavours, the former being what you mainly taste
while the latter will be a hint of a flavour. Broad flavours range from sweet or salty to acidy
or simply bitter, while subtler flavours can range from cloves, fruit, caramel, coffee, nuts,
chocolate, oak and many more.