Jun 24, 2018

Beer Break

Beer Break Vol. 1, No. 14
Hosting a beer tasting

Dec. 7, 2000

Hosting a tasting provides both an opportunity to learn more about beer and a chance to try a wide range of beers you might not otherwise. Here are 10 tips to get you started:

- Taste with a purpose. A theme provides structure and a way for tasters to think about what they are sampling. This time of year the obvious theme is winter and holiday beers, but you may want to be more specific. Try beers that include spices together, or beers from the same region.


- Taste with a purpose: Part II. Once you have selected the beers, think about what order to serve them in. It is best to start with the least intense flavors and work your way up. A simple light to dark or even least hoppy to hoppiest won't show off the beers as well. Depending upon the lineup you may want to organize beers in flights, trying three similar beers together, discussing them and then taking a break before the next round.

- Get everybody on the same page. Talk about the approach to tasting before starting -- from eyeing the beer to swallowing. Make sure group members feel free to describe aromas and flavors in creative terms without fear of being mocked.

- Control the environment. You'll want a naturally and well lit room so you can see the beers' colors. Avoid noisy distractions, such as television or music. Cigarette smoke, cooking smells or perfumes will all interfere with your ability to taste.

- Take a break. Have water and bread or neutral tasting crackers available to cleanse palates between beers. Avoid anything with distinctive flavors. Save the cheeses that go with with beer and the chocolates until later or make the second half of the session a food-and-beer tasting.

- Keep the samples small. Two to four ounces is plenty to get a feel for a beer. As the tasting goes on, the cumulative effects of alcohol should not be overlooked.

- Let the beer be the star. Use the same size glassware for each round of tasting, but make sure the beer is served at the proper temperature and poured with a decent head. One way to ensure the latter is to mix a few bottles in a pitcher first.

- Limit the numbers of samples. Not only is there the alcohol consumption issue, but also taste bud fatigue and your ability to remember specific tastes from each of the beers. Five or six of particularly alcoholic or hoppy beers may be enough to confuse the palate. The most beers you should consider is 10-12.

- Provide pads for notes. Also, consider scoresheets. Some tasters may want to take home their notes, others may simply find the value of the additional structure. Actually assigning scores adds even more structure and helps guests refine their tasting skills.

- Talk about what you taste. The best tastings are both social and educational gatherings.

Tasting notes

Brewed by Greene King in England

Michael Jackson's tasting notes:

This ale has the richness of a fruit cake, and develops suggestions of straw and iron while aging in the ceiling-high tuns, typically for between one and three years.... Oaky, winey, chocolatey, sweet-and-sour, with notes of passion fruit.

Brewed by D.L. Geary Brewing Portland, Maine

A contributor to the Real Beer discussion boards writes:

It's a an IPA, roughly. Strong, but not alcoholic palette considering, very hoppy, drying hint of orange in the finish. One of my all-time favorite beers. Has the best ad slogan, too, "Only Available While The Weather Sucks."

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