You’ve given your beer a good swirl and some great sniffs and you have an idea of what’s in store. Now chances are you have a virgin palate and that’s a great thing. You will be tasting a lot of beer from this point on (you’re going to keep throwing amazing beer parties right?) and with that, you’re going to come across a lot of flavors that may seem familiar. Do not be shy in calling them out! If the beer tastes like a green jolly rancher then say so! If it tastes like a cupcake or caramel or even toffee don’t be shy! There is no wrong answer when it comes to flavors of beer so don’t be afraid to say what you think it tastes like. On that note, as you drink, some flavors might come across as familiar or even foreign and you won’t know what you tasting; don’t worry this is common. By tasting more and more beer you’ll get down certain flavors as they come.
So how do you taste beer? Well after you give your beer a good sniff take a sip. You’ll want to take in just under a mouthful and swirl it around your mouth. Feel how the beer weighs on your palate. Is it heavy, soft, weak, thick, or rich? Swallow. Does the finish linger, is it fleeting, is it flavorful, is it boozy, is it dry, is it sweet?
When tasting beer you’ll want to look for the four senses your palate will pick up. Bitter, sour, salty, or sweet. Sweet is on the front of the tongue, salty on the front sides, sour on the backsides, and bitter on the back of the tongue. Each time you sip a beer you want to try to pinpoint one of these flavors, not all, just one. The first sip should be to take in the entire beer; each sip after should be to break down the flavors of the beer specifically.
You want to narrow what you perceive so you can pinpoint each flavor versus trying to take it all in at once. After you have found each flavor point, relax; now you can sit back and enjoy the beer. Don’t be afraid to talk about the beer with everyone else. Get their perspectives of what they taste and share yours. It’s a party, isn’t it?
Let’s take a moment and talk about palate cleansing. This is the key if you’re going to taste a fair amount of beer. First, keep some water on hand and sip it between beers to cleanse the flavors and start fresh. Have bread or crackers, they will reduce your palate to neutral and allow you to begin fresh. Having ginger (think the sliced ginger you get with sushi) on hand will work for cleansing as well.