Take the beer out of the refrigerator at least 20 minutes prior to tasting. If the beer is too cold, you won't be able to appreciate the flavours and aromas of the beer.
Try to break the tasting into two distinct sessions. This will give your guests a bit of a break (and help them to regain their sensory abilities). You may also want to have some paper and pens handy if your guests are interested in writing down their observations. Give them the following four headings:
Pouring the beer
- Pour directly into the bottom of the cup
- Pour to about half
- Try to ensure there is foam
Beer has many different characteristics. The following is a guide to what you should notice when tasting a beer.
Colour. Observe the colour of the beer (pale/light golden/ golden/ amber/ reddish/ brown/ black etc.) This gives a good indication of what kind of malts have been used and some of the flavours and aromas you should expect.
Smell. The secret here is to get your nose to the back of the glass or cup. This will bring out all the aromas. If you are having trouble with aromas, swirl the beer a little to generate some foam and try again. Start to think about what kind of aromas you are picking up. Is it fruity? Is it flowery? Grassy or hay? Do you smell caramel or butterscotch? Chocolate or coffee?
Taste. The first sip should be a slow process. Allow it to rest on your tongue and envelop your mouth. Once you've swallowed, think about what flavours you found and how it felt in your mouth. Was it clean with very little aftertaste? Or did it coat your mouth? Was the bitterness there at the start and then disappear at the end? Or was it there throughout the tasting?
Now take a second taste. The first sip did a good job of preparing your mouth but the second sip should allow you to notice some softer, more intricate flavours.
Share your thoughts
Share your thoughts and comments with your guests and ask them for their thoughts. This is the important part! We all have different palates and our experiences may be similar but never identical.
At this point, try not to indicate whether you actually liked the beer. Remember that favouring a particular brand is purely personal and subjective.
Try the next beer or pair with food
Follow this process for every beer you sample. For something a little different, try adding some cheeses to the event. Get a broad range of cheeses including some sharp cheeses. Not sure what cheeses to pick? We can help you out with that.