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How to review a beer.

Wow, notes and everything...

Wow, notes and everything…

I figure it’s about time to post about this.  It would be a bit boring to listen to on a podcast, so I figured a post with some helpful links was the way to go.  I’ve learned a lot with some simple internet research, and I want to help speed you along with my newly found wisdom.

Here are some main things to think about:

  • Style: Learn about different styles of beer.  Not all beers are meant to taste the same.  Some are suppose to be bitter, some more watery.  If you don’t know how the basic style is generally meant to taste, you may miss the boat when doing a review.  Check out a bit about beer styles from Wikipedia.  I may post more about some beer styles in the future.
  • Temperature: Not too hot, not too cold.  That’s right, beer can be too cold!  At least as far as a decent review goes.  If a beer is too cold, it can numb your taste buds, and hide flavors.  I’ve found an average recommended temperature for lighter, low alcohol beers is 45°F and darker, higher alcohol beers is 55°F (Canadians must do their own °F to °C conversions).
  • Glassware: Yep, what you drink out of can make a difference in the taste of what you are drinking.  So this means, for a true beer review, don’t just swig your swill out of the bottle (or dare I say can… ugh!)  Research different glassware for different styles of beer.  Here’s the Wikipedia page on beer glassware just to get you started.  Here’s another topic that might get its own post sometime.  PS  Make sure it’s clean too.
  • More than one review at a time: There may not be many serious reviewers out there, but here are a few, quick tips for multiple reviews at a time.  First, try to drink from least flavor to most flavor.  You might get a general idea from the color/darkness, but lots of hops, special spices, and strong fruits can ruin you palate for less flavorful beers, that may be darker.  Second, cleanse your palate.  It’s not just for snooty wine tasters (no offense to the winos out there, I enjoy some wine now and then too.)  If you’re serious, some water, plain white bread, and/or air popped popcorn will keep your beers from running together.  Avoid salty or greasy foods that can affect your taste.  Speaking of food, don’t review on an empty stomach as it can change your mood and perceptions as well as make it too easy to get drunk, and that won’t help anyone learn about the beer, including you.  On a smaller note, sample sizes usually don’t offer enough for a proper tasting.  Also, very smokey environments, (second hand or first hand smoke) can really screw up your taste.  Lastly, take some notes.  You’ll forget beers and get reviews and tastes confused.

Now, on to the actually review:

  • Appearance (A): Take a look at your beer before you gulp it down.  It’s pretty.  Look at color, carbonation, head and how long it stays around, clear or cloudy.  Ultimately, does it look like something you’d want to drink?
  • Smell (S): Not just a sniff, but really stick your nose in it (not the actual beer) and take a long, strong smell.  Taste and smell are closely related, so noting smell can help you notice more subtle tastes later on.  Some smells to look for; “Malts: sweet, roasty, smoky, toasty, chocolaty, nutty, caramelly, biscuity? Hops: dank / resiny, herbal, perfumy, spicy, leafy, grassy, floral, piney, citrusy? Yeast will also create aromas. You might get fruity or flowery aromas (esters) from ales and very clean aromas from lagers, which will allow the malt and hop subtleties to pull through.” – this quote is an excerpt from beeradvocate.com.  I couldn’t say it any better.
  • Taste (T): Ah, here’s the big one, the one we’ve been waiting for, so don’t just gulp it, savor this moment and really taste the beer.  Here you need to note flavors which should be simmular to the smells.  Make special note of balance of flavors (is one aspect too overpowering?), or was it brewed for certain “dominance in character?”  Perhaps most importantly, does it fit the style?  (If you don’t like a light beer, first why are you reviewing it, but if so, be open minded enough to say it’s good for the light beer style.)
  • Mouthfeel (M): This one sounds a bit weird at first.  Mostly, look for, well, feel or body!  Reviewers typically use terms such as heavy or light, thick/chewy or thin/watery, smooth or coarse.  Also look at carbonation: is too flat or over-carbonated?  Do the bubbles tickle GUI J’s uvula?  Wait, that’s a different review altogether…
  • Drinkability (D): Here’s the final, over-all vertict.  Buy or steal from a friends party?  OK, maybe a bit more detailed.  Was it easy to drink?  Did it make you want another?  I usually throw-in a value for the price too.

That’s the basics as I see them.  If you have a different take on it, leave us a comment or shoot us an email.  Send us your review on a beer and we may read it on the show.  Any one want to try some wine?

Now that we know how to do a real beer review, let’s dumb it down for GUI J and make some simple “Four Word BEER Reviews” at the Gamers Pub forums.  I just created a new sub-forum, so go there, read the rules and review away!

Footnotes: Most of my information comes from Beer Advocate (beeradvocate.com) and links provided there and www.Wikipedia.org.  If you want to get really serious about beer reviewing beer and become a professional, look into Beer Judge Certification Program (www.bjcp.org)

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