“It takes a lot of guts to learn in public.”
This is so true. And yet who cares…
When you’re learning about anything, a certain level of initiative is required. Take beer for example.
Beer is universal. It’s also attracted a pretty astounding amount of attention from consumers and media. The sheer number of breweries open and opening, the vast array of choices of beer on menus and in stores, and the avalanche of flavors can quickly cause overwhelm.
So what’s a drinker to do? How do you learn about beer in a comfortable and easy way that fits your style?
Rest easy, my friends. Because the idea of learning about beer is as relaxed as you wish it to be, as formal as you want to gussy up for, and the beer itself is very forgiving as a teacher.
Follow these steps and you’ll be mighty fine.
1. Close your eyes and take a deep breath. Do this 3 – 4 times before you open them and begin tasting beer. Clearing your head for any exercise is key to starting with a fresh and receptive brain.
2. Make sure the glassware you’re trying beer from is clean, “beer clean” as the industry calls it. The foam lacing needs to stick to the sides of the glass, which indicates there is no residue (oil, detergent, sanitizers) on the surface of the glass. If the foam doesn’t stick, send the glass back or rewash it if you’re doing this at home.
3. Use my concept CAMFA to guide you through the tasting: Color, Aroma, Mouthfeel, Flavor, Alcohol. More on the concept can be found here.
4. Taste 3 to 4 beers per setting if you’re really wanting to embrace the taste. More than 4 can easily fatigue your palate, especially if you’re unused to extended tasting experiences. Have a glass of water to sip on between, as well as unsalted crackers or bread to clear your tastebuds and mouth.
No matter what you try, enjoy them all for what they are. Preference is different from experimentation. Tasting naturally begets an array of flavors, some you’ll embrace and some you’ll leave alone. All the same, the purpose of tasting is to expand your mind with your palate and appreciate beer as a whole.
Doing this exercise can be more enjoyable and engaging with friends. If you do taste with friends, ask everyone to remain silent until you’ve fully experienced the beer; don’t allow comments to color what you think about it before you’ve had the opportunity to really consider your beer.
Above all – enjoy. Beer is simple, fun, and meant to be social. Like what you like, respect what others like and become the diplomat the world needs.