In my continuing quest to become the greatest beer drinker in the world, I started to blind taste test beer. I wanted to put my skills to the test to see if I could determine what style of beer I was drinking. The only way I could do that was to take the label completely out of the picture.
The process is simple. For at-home drinking, I have my girlfriend pick up beer from the liquor store and store it in the fridge in a closed black bag. When it is time to drink, she pours it for me while I am in the other room. Until that beer is finished, I will not know what it is. At a bar, it is even simpler. Without looking at the menu, I ask the server to pour me a random beer and not tell me what it is ‘til I am finished.
It first started off as a challenge but has since become a mechanism to find what I truly like and consider to be a good beer.
Everyone has their own brand. Their own brewery. Their own beer or style that they consider their favorite. How much of that is influenced by the label? By the brewery? Or by what we think a beer should taste like because it is an IPA or a Stout?
Have you ever thought a beer was better than it actually was because it was by “so and so?”
Or when you order a certain style of beer do you often assume what it is going to taste like because that’s what that style of beer should taste like?
I’ve fallen victim to it countless times myself. Often, I am surprised to realize that my thoughts and opinions have changed about a beer I’ve had before when I’ve had it again blind. Breckenridge’s Avalanche Amber comes to mind. Months ago it ended up being a chosen beer for a blind taste testing. I’ve had it several times before but never really thought much of it or American Amber Ales in general. It isn’t one of the “sexier” styles of beer.
I was blown away by how much I loved the beer when I had no idea what it was. In fact, I blind taste tested six different beers that night and declared Avalanche Amber my favorite (another beer I considered to be a favorite was also in that blind taste testing).
Take the label out of the picture, take the declared style away, remove the name of the brewery and an honest opinion comes out. There is nothing there to sway you any which way other than your enjoyment of the beverage in the glass.
Going to the lengths that I do may be a bit of a stretch. Although, at a bar you may still be able to follow my example. You just have to be willing to PAY for that random beer, even if you don’t like it. The beauty of craft beer though, is it is an affordable luxury. You’ll rarely break the bank by trying something new (just let the server know that you don’t want to open that rare $50 bottle in the cooler).
If you are finding yourself adventurous one day, try it out! At the liquor store, grab a random bottle/six-pack of beer without studying the label or the brewery that makes it. Without doing any research into that beer, pour it in a glass and try it.
That little, adventurous leap could yield some amazing results.
Steve Pasko is a Certified Cicerone® and the Beer Content Writer for Vas Foremost. Follow him on Twitter or Untappd at Gardemybiere. Email him at Gardemybiere@gmail.com or Steve@vasforemost.com