7 steps to enjoying the perfect pint.
- Use clean glassware. (What kind? See DRAFT’s Glassware Guide, here.) Glasses should be free of soap, lipstick, food oils, and anything else that may taint a beer’s flavor. If you’re served a dirty glass, speak up: A good bartender will happily provide a fresh pour.
- Make sure your glass (and your beer!) isn’t too cold. Always decline a frosted or chilled glass; the frozen bits and condensation will water down your beer. And a good brew should be chilled to between 42 and 55 degrees Fahrenheit—colder than that, and beer’s flavors become masked.
- Pour your beer properly, or ensure your bartender does. (Click here to learn the art of the pour.)
- Ogle the big, beautiful beer in front of you. What color is it? Is the liquid shiny and clear, or opaque and freckled with sediment? Is the head big, small, puffy or flat? Your note-taking should begin here if you’re reviewing a beer; even if you’re not, mentally noting a beer’s visual aesthetics allows you to learn to distinguish beer styles just by looking.
- Swirling and sniffing’s not just for wine lovers; agitating beer in your glass releases aromatic nuances and rouses a beer’s carbonation. Take a few quick sniffs of the aroma—mimic a dog’s sniffing, which keeps the smell in the nose longer, rather than breathing in a big whiff. A beer’s bouquet is a good precursor to the taste; see if your expectations are met in the flavor.
- Finally, take a sip—but not too quickly! Swirl a medium-sized swallow around in your mouth for a moment; notice the beer’s mouthfeel, bitterness, sweetness, alcohol level and any flavors (coffee, coriander) or taste qualities (tart, acidic). Observe how the flavor transitions from the tip of the tongue, through the middle of the mouth, and down your throat. Watch for aftertastes, too.
- Tell a friend! You don’t need to nerdily jot down notes in a journal for every beer you taste (but you can). But making clear notes—on paper, or just in your head—will help you clarify what you taste and smell, and make it easier to share your tasting with others (like on DRAFTmag.com’s reviews).