Beer Tasting 101

“A fine beer may be judged with only one sip, but it’s better to be thoroughly sure.”

We have downloaded the My Beer Craft application and while we were busy capturing and getting ourselves familiar with the different beer styles, we suddenly realized we don’t know how to taste beer properly.

Drinking beer and TASTING beer are two different exercises! When we drink beer we generally drink it ice cold,  that is normally below 4 degrees Celsius. When tasting beer, the beer should preferably be warmer but not hot, optimally between 10 and 15 degrees Celsius. When the beer is slightly warmer than drinking temperature it releases more of the aromas and flavors.

One should use as many of your senses as possible to truly experience the character of the beer. Use a fluted glass in order to capture the aroma better.


The Colour

According to the BJCP Color Guide, one must pour 5cm of beer into a glass, place it on a white sheet of paper or white table cloth and look through the beer vertically from above in order to compare it to the BJCP colour chart. You don’t have to get that technical, just hold your glass up to the light. What is the colour of the beer?

Words to describe the colour: straw, yellow, gold, amber, copper, brown and black

The Clarity

Is the beer clear, slightly hazy or can you not see through the beer at all?

Words to describe clarity:brilliant, hazy, cloudy, turbid, opaque, clear, crystal, bright, dull

How does the Head look?

The Head is the frothy foam on top of beer which is produced by bubbles of gas, typically carbon dioxide, rising to the surface.

The colour of the head can vary between white, ivory, cream, beige, tan and brown.

The consistency of the head can vary between flat, lacy, stingy (legs) and dense (opaque).

Words to describe the head:persistent, rocky, large, fluffy, dissipating, lingering, white, off white, tan, frothy, delicate


After the beer has had time to breathe, have a sniff or two then put your hand over the top of the glass and swirl gently. Immediately put your nose in the glass. WHAT DO YOU SMELL? Repeat the swirl process if you are not sure,

Is it malty or hoppy?  (it can’t be both!)

Malt aromas can be described as one of the following: grainy, caramel, bready, toasty, roasty, burnt, rich or dark fruit (plumb or date).

Hops aromas are described as citrusy, earthy, floral, grassy, herbal, piney, spicy and woody.

To identify off-flavors, do the ‘Drive By’ smell test – move the glass from your left cheek to your right cheek in an arc past your nose. You will quickly identify green apples, sulfur, medicinal, grassy, metallic, soapy or other skunky smells!

Words to describe the aroma: grainy, sweet, corn-like, hay, straw, graham cracker, bicuity, caramel, toast, coffee, espresso, burnt, alcohol, tobacco, gunpowder, leather, pine, fresh cut grass

Dark Fruit: raisins, currant, plum, dates, prunes, figs, blackberry, blueberry

Light Fruit: banana, pineapple, apricot, pear, apple, nectarine, peach, mango, prickly pear

Citrus: lemon, lime, orange, tangerine, Clementine, grapefruit, orange peel, lemon zest

Other Acidic: metallic, vinegar, copper, cidery, champagne-like, astringent, chlorine

Spices/Yeast/etc: white pepper, clove, anise, licorice, smoked bacon, fatty, nutty, butterscotch, vanilla, earthy, fresh bread, saddle, musty, barnyard


First take a small sip, making sure that  the liquid passes over bitterness receptor taste buds on the back of your tongue. Now identify the carbonation or fizzyness, the bitterness, or sweetness and the amount of alcohol. Is it hopsy or malty?  Also try and identify any off-flavors, similar to the off-flavored aromas above,

Flavors: roasted, bready, bitter, sweet, spicy, fruity, chocolate, caramel, toffee, coffee, malty, tart, subtle, woodsy, earthy, sulfuric
Intensity: assertive, mild, bold, balanced, robust, intense, metallic, harsh, complex, delicate, refined, hearty
Transition: rolls into…, evolves into…, dissipates to reveal…, displays…, underlying…, suggests hints of…, fades to…
Finish: dry, fruity, sweet, alcoholic, warming, bitter, acidic, buttery, wet, quenching, lingering

Now take a decent mouthful of beer. Now identify the body, the warmth, the creaminess or astringency  of the beer,

 Mouthfeel: smooth, silky, velvety, prickly, tingly, creamy, warming, viscous, hot, astringent, oily
 Carbonation: spritzy, champagne-like, prickly, round, creamy, light, gassy, sharp, delicate
Body: full, heavy, dense, viscous, robust, medium, balanced, medium-light, light, delicate, wispy


Does the beer live up the characteristics of the style – please feel free to use our style guide on the top menu as a reference since it conforms to the BJCP Style Guide 2008.

Did you enjoy the beer? Was it drinkable?

I would finish this sample, but please don’t give me more!
I would drink a pint of this but only if you buy
I would pay good money for this beer
I would drive a 1000km and walk across broken glass to get another pint

All the typing about beer tasting has left a dry taste in my mouth. We are off to the brewery to do some tasting with friends, Happy tasting!

“Let no man (or woman) thirst for a beer!”

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