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Are you good enough for your beer?


There’s a new study out by Penn State researchers that purports a person’s ability to perceive subtle nuances in wine is based more on physiology than training. This kind of study makes the rounds every few years, and by the time the findings are ready for public consumption, the information’s typically framed like this: If wine appreciation’s based largely on physiology, and you’re not a proven high-functioning taster, will you appreciate expensive wine? In other words, maybe you should just stick to the boxed stuff.

People are, naturally, born with varying abilities to taste certain flavors, but with beer lovers, education’s the emphasis—and for us, education’s still relatively inexpensive, even with world-class beer. What’s the best way to train your palate to identify between a Munich Helles and a Dortmunder export? Drink. What’s the easiest way to develop a preference for hop varieties? Drink. What’s the best way to prepare for the BJCP or Cicerone tasting exams? Drink. It’s not a question of whether we’re worthy enough to enjoy the next bottle of beer; it’s a question of whether we’ve finished enjoying the first one.

Of course, this study was done by scientists, and they do have a tendency to be sciencey.


Chris Staten is DRAFT’s beer editor. Follow him on Twitter at @DRAFTbeereditor and email him at

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  • Ben on Beer says:

    This is some of the best advice yet on beer tasting. Some beers are too good for some people, but anyone who takes the time to appreciate how beer is made will certainly notice the variety and complexity of craft beer. We’re all good enough if we want to be!

  • Charlotte Beer says:

    I agree, but with one addendum. Definitely drink and form an opinion, but after doing so get online to see what others are saying about said beer or beer styles.

    Do this not to validate your own opinion, but to see how your experience matches up with others. Perhaps their is a flavor, component or nuance to a beer that you can’t express, but after reading it in someone else’s review you find that to be true. Later, it may be easier to pick out that nuance in other beers.



  • Jagdishsingh says:

    I think most people who itnocnue to drink macrobrews haven’t yet experienced craft brews in a serious way. So I hope that the decreasing price differential will push more drinkers over to the craft section ..because they’ll never go back.

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