We all know that guy. He has a beard, a random brewery T-shirt on, and looks over the menu like Santa Claus does his naughty list. When he finally orders a beer, instead of simply drinking the beer, he goes through a “process.”
First, the color must be inspected. He will hold it up to any light that he can get to see what the beer truly looks like. Next, his nose takes a cannonball right into the glass. Leave your table manners at home, folks. This individual doesn’t just take a quick sniff and leave, no. If this were a police line-up where the suspect had to be identified by aroma only, this guy would be the expert.
Finally, after coming up with a nose-full of foam, the bearded wonder takes a drink. Naturally, he doesn’t just take a drink. You would think he was rinsing his mouth out with mouthwash as you watch him take his first sip. The humanity!
Sadly, this guy in the story is me (hence the bearded wonder).
Is there a reason for my madness?!?!
Yes. Yes. Yes. AND YES!
On the surface, we all know it is just beer. It is meant to be enjoyed. It is important to always remember this as it is the thing I stress the most to people I drink with. If you are enjoying what is inside the bottle/glass/can, then who cares?
But if you allow yourself to dig a little bit deeper, you will experience a beverage with the deepest and widest array of flavors on the planet (Sorry wine, but it’s true!).
How do I do this, you ask?
I am glad you asked. People enjoy a good list. Engrave this one in your memory, folks. You’ll thank me on your wedding day…
1) Let your beer warm up for 10 to 15 minutes.
If you are drinking a beer on draft or cask, you can ignore this. Most beers on draft are already being served at the proper temperature (or at least they should be). If you are grabbing a beer out of a cooler or fridge, then let your beer warm up before drinking it.
Cold temperatures lower our perception of flavor, aroma, and body while enhancing bitterness, carbonation, and dryness (the scientific reason why we need to drink macro adjunct lagers ice cold). You will miss out out on a multitude of flavors and aromas if you don’t find the right balance in temperature. Some flavors won’t even make an appearance until the beer is warmer than 40F.
Try this out: take one bottle of beer out of the fridge and leave another in. Pour them out at the same time an hour later and notice the difference.
2) Pour your beer into a glass
When beer is poured out into a glass, several things happen. The first and most important is that you are able to smell the beer. (Number 3 will explain why that is important.)
The other thing that happens involves the carbonation. When poured out into a glass, some of the carbonation in the beer is released, in turn releasing the aroma of the beer and creating foam (head). Foam is also important because it gives the beer a thicker and smoother texture.
Just remember! Some beer is packaged with yeast. Pour carefully as most prefer the yeast be kept out of their glass.
Try this out: Pour one beer into a glass and leave an identical beer still in the can or bottle. Drink out of the bottle first and note the flavors. Now, drink out of the glass and notice the difference.
3) Smell before you drink
Suggestion number two is closely related to suggestion three.
Ever wonder why food tastes different when you have a cold? It’s because you can’t smell anything and your sense of smell is closely linked to your perception of flavor. Our taste buds on our tongue can only sense five things: sweetness, saltiness, bitterness, sourness, and umami (often referred to as “savoriness”). Meanwhile, our sense of smell can detect about 10,000 different types of aromas.
What we perceive as flavor is a combination of our sense of smell and our sense of taste, with our sense of smell doing most of the heavy lifting.
Try this out: Plug your nose and take a sip of a beer. Note what you taste. Now swallow that beer, release your nose and breathe in. I won’t spoil the ending here but trust me, you’ll be amazed at the difference.
4) Hold it in
If you just guzzle your beer straight down, you are missing out!
Think of beer as a gobstopper with layers and layers of different flavors beyond its surface. If you bite into the gobstopper immediately, you will not only lose a tooth or two, but you will miss out on the other flavors that Mr. Wonka intended for you to have.
When you hold the beer in for just a little bit longer and let it coat the entire inside of your mouth, you’ll notice changes in flavor abound. Different flavors will come out as that liquid hits different parts of your mouth. Additionally, you will be able to discern the beer’s mouthfeel and texture.
Try this out: Take a quick sip of beer and note the flavors. Now, take a drink and hold it in your mouth for five seconds. It’s surprising how much difference just a little time can make.
5) Drink water
We have all heard and said it before, drink water to help stay sober. This is of the upmost importance for alcohol distribution within your body, but in this instance, I am talking about something different.
If you are drinking different beers in a session, cleanse your palate before each beer with some water. This will help settle out your taste buds before your next beer. It is especially important if you are jumping around the spectrum, say an IPA to a belgian beer. If you jump right into that belgian beer after drinking an IPA, those first couple of sips may still have a lingering bitterness from that IPA and give you the wrong impression of the new beer.
Drinking some water in between that will refresh your palate and have you ready for your next adventure in a glass!
Try this out: Drink water in between different beers! Didn’t I just say that?!
This is a little bit more advanced, but trust me when I say it’ll help.
When drinking multiple beers in a session, always go light to strong. Example: Hefeweizen before a dopplebock. Blonde ale before an IPA. Amber ale before a porter or stout.
A stronger beer is packed with intense flavors that can quickly overtake your palate. If you try following up a stronger beer with a lighter beer, the delicate flavors are going to be overwhelmed by what is still lingering from before.
And that is it!
Nothing too hard, right?! Five easy ways to enjoy drinking that craft beer just a little bit more.
Why not give it a try?
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.