Understanding Craft Beers – Tasting 101
As we enter 2020, it’s safe to say that ‘chugging beers’ is now a redundant concept in a world of brilliantly brewed craft beers. Much like the glorious wine tasting sessions, craft beer-tasting is the way forward to enhance your experience, with a bit of knowledge. Tasting a craft beer involves taking into account its appearance, aroma, flavour & mouthfeel and how these factors overlap to influence the taste. The ideal way to appreciating your favourite craft beer is by understanding how these factors affect the taste.
We say follow the simple rules – watch, smell, sip & savour.
From the craft beer being poured to being savored, the essence lies in every stage.
Choose a pleasant evening to take yourself to your city’s best craft brewery/ brewpub. As you walk into the brewpub, ask the bartender to pour you a pint and observe where the magic begins.
Usually, the first step would be to to get started with a sampler set and move onto a pint of it. If you ask craft beer enthusiasts they would deny this practice, since it doesn’t bring out the true identity of the craft beer in a single sip. Samplers are for the uninitiated, it is highly recommended that you give a go at a full pint after reading through the description of the craft beer or ask one of the staff members at the brewpub. There are various styles and altercations to craft beer as per the brewer’s recipe and not all can suit every palate, so giving the menu a quick read will help you to look for those particular flavor profiles and understand it from a better perspective. If that’s too much of a challenge then you are welcome to try out the samplers but remember what the real enthusiasts have to say for that practice.
After a pint is poured, the first thing to do when your craft beer arrives is to sit back and adore the beauty. Check whether your craft beer is hazy or clear. How the head forms on your pint glass – a wisp of foam or a thick white head? If it’s clear do you see a steady stream of tiny bubbles rising to the surface giving an ASMR effect? (ASMR – autonomous sensory meridian response is a relaxing, often sedative sensation that begins on the scalp and moves down the body.) Observe the colour of the craft beer, is it golden or amber or dark? Capture all these minute details in your mind for future reference.
Aroma & Flavours
The taste of every craft beer is determined by these two factors – the aroma and the flavours. Much like any other food, these two are intertwined. The second step here is to check the aroma and let it tingle your senses. Did you know? Your tongue can only detect sweet, bitter, salty, sour, umami and fat as per the latest scientific research. Your nose, on the other hand, has a ton of olfactory receptors to distinguish many aromas. So when you check the aroma of the craft beer, can you relate the aroma with anything? Like sweet, spicy, floral, citrusy, piney, chocolaty, etc. or is it completely new which cannot be classified? Understand whether it is derived from the hops or the malt or the yeast or any special botanicals or spices which are working in a medley to release that beautiful bouquet of flavours. The more complex the craft beer flavours are, the better research has gone into the making of that craft beer. By this, you can learn to appreciate the brewing team’s hard work and understand the flavours better.
As simple as the word itself, mouthfeel translates to ‘feeling of the beer’ in your mouth. Elements like texture, fruity, tart, dry, fizzy and not to forget, it’s serving temperature which can influence the rest. Remember craft beers are full of flavours and having an ice-cold one will not unlock its flavor profile. Take it slow, let it warm up – this opens up its full flavour potential and makes you screaming for more. Ask yourself, how does it feel in your mouth? Is it thick or light? Is it juicy or dry? Is it packed with flavor or subtle or well balanced? Is it smooth and creamy or whizzing with carbonation? It largely depends on the style of the craft beer too. A stout on nitro is going to taste creamier as compared to a blonde that can be crisp, malty and hoppy. Different styles of craft beer are classified by the BJCP (beer judge certification program) which provides references to various styles of craft beers. Use this as a reference and not as a bible, this can help expand your understanding of craft beers.
And when you finally sip, don’t gulp, let the craft beer work its magic on your senses, savour the moment and do not be in a hurry. Understand how the craft beer changes as it warms up, how complicated the beverage is and what can pair well with it. When you follow all of the above, that’s when you hit euphoria – you understand the whole deal about tasting a craft beer!
The craft beer culture has taken the City of Joy by a storm and The GRID has had the opportunity to introduce a few of the finest craft beers. Serving a remarkable series of different craft beer styles, head over to The GRID for a delightful tasting session.