There's almost as many beer geeks as wine nerds around these days. Sometimes when describing your beer it all seems to get a bit hard. What the hell are autumnal overtones anyway...and what are they doing in my beer?
There are lots of good online resources if you want to get serious about your beer tasting credentials. But its really not that complicated, so if you just want the basics on how to talk knowledgeably about your beer without sounding like a tool, then this is for you.
There are five main ways that you experience tasting a beer. Generally, beers are assessed on each of these five variables, roughly in order of how you experience them.
1 - Appearance: How it looks, which may include colour, clarity and what the head looks like.
2 - Aroma: How it smells, which will often be determined by what hops are added late in the boil (good), but might also include malt aromas (also good), or smells resulting from your brewing, bottling or conditioning processes (probably bad).
3 - Mouthfeel: How it feels in your mouth, this will be impacted by level of carbonation, plus how much crud makes it from your fermenter into your bottles and from your bottle into your glass.
4 - Flavour: How it tastes is obviously the biggy. There are endless ways to describe a beer's flavour, but basically it comes down to the balance of three elements.
- the bitterness you get from the hops, and sometimes also from any darkly roasted malts included in the grain bill,
- the sweetness you get from the malts, especially if there are higher quantities of unfermented sugars remaining, and
- the spiciness you get from the alcohol.
5 - Finish: The aftertaste that remains when you've swallowed can be surprisingly different from what you taste while the beer is still in your mouth. A well attenuated beer will often have a clean, dry finish that ideally leaves you wanting more.
Of course there's no right or wrong way to describe a beer - you are the only judge of what you taste. But having the basic framework to think about what you're drinking in a structured way should help you appreciate your beer even more.
And remember, autumnal overtones are for tools.
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