There’s only one rule that counts, really: if you like the taste, get on with it and have another.
But sometimes it’s nice to be able to talk about it, to discuss the taste, to pontificate, even… Well, perhaps not the latter – let’s leave that to the real Real Ale buffs, but to have an opinion. The more you know about something, the more you can like it.
Taste is always a matter of taste, but there are ways of examining the taste of your beer that will help you understand it a little better. So first off, always taste from a glass (Not from a bottle, not from a can. And never direct from the tap!)
If you want to know more about what glass to choose for which beer, we've written all about which beer glass to choose. But you can’t go wrong with a goblet. And make sure you look closely at your beer – nothing to do with taste, of course, but it’ll help you associate flavour with look and that can be helpful when choosing beer in future.
Don’t fill your glass, you need enough room to swirl the beer (like wine). This gives the subtleties in the beer room to breathe – and it’s also a good measure of how well the head of the beer stands up to movement (it shouldn’t really change).
Now get sniffy – two sniffs: waft the glass under your chin and take in the aromas and then stick your nose right in and have a proper go – a couple of short, quick sniffs should do the trick.
You’re looking to identify as many different aromas as possible. If you really want to show off, you can call the aroma the bouquet or the nose – but that’s straying a wee bit far into wine territory as far as we’re concerned.
Now for the big sniff – stick your nose in and take a long sniff: you’ll feel the sensation filling your head, it’s almost like finding a new way to drink beer – and your pint will last forever this way!
You don’t necessarily need to be able to assign names to flavour profiles (although you will probably be able to identify a few), just recognise that there are different ones. Smell is around 70% of taste – and so it’s important to be able to distinguish what you pick up before you drink it.
Have a swig
Well, we say ‘drink it’ but we mean ‘taste it’. Yes, you’re going to drink it, but think about tasting rather than drinking – don’t chug it down in one, take small sips and let the liquid wander around your mouth so you get a proper feel for it. Try and breathe out as you do.
The rest is really up to you. Whether you want to try to pick out individual flavours and note them down or just build a memory of the taste. You won’t drink all beer like this, but trying it out on a handful of different types will help you learn what you like and what you don’t – and that means you can make more informed choices as you continue to explore.
Ultimately, you like what you like. And that’s just as it should be. You can do courses on beer tasting and even get qualifications should you feel the need.