Craft beer is nearly ubiquitous. From the early 1970s until now, the craft beer industry has been slowly growing. Now, even large macrobrewers are attempting to entice the craft beer drinker market. The monster beer maker InBev recently purchased GooseIsland Beer, a Chicago original. Blue Moon (owned by Anheuser Busch) is attempting to capitalize by releasing unusual and new craft brews as well. The question remains, do you know how to taste and enjoy a craft beer? Wine aficionados have been doing it for centuries. It has only been a recent development that craft beer is now considered worthy enough to pair with haute cuisine. So let's make sure you know what to do and look for.
Ever wonder why wine drinkers spend so much time looking at their wine, rather than drinking it? There is beauty is a well crafted brew. Subtle notes of straw, burgundy or even chocolate, depending on the type of beer. Before you can admire the sheer beauty of your mouthwatering brew, pour it out of the bottle or can, please. And into the correct glassware. Just as wine drinkers have specific glasswear, so do beer conneseiurs. Pilsner is meant to go in a tall, thin glass, to shoot the powerful aroma directly to your nose. A deep Scotch Ale or Barelywine is meant for a wide mouthed snifter or tulip glass, to warm in your hand and slowly release it's complex aroma. So pour your beer into the right place. Now watch for the "head," which is the foam. You want a 3/4 inch head. Guinness managed to capitalize pretty well on this concept. High alcohol beers won't have much head and thats ok. But notice it. Is it fluffly, like a bubble bath with large bubbles? Tiny little bubbles like champage? Thick and creamy or as light as a cloud. Every beer is differnt.
Now hold your glass up to the light and observe the color. These can range from nearly clear to dark as night, with huge variation in between.
Once the beer is at the optimum temperature (a good bartender will know) give your glass a swirl and stick your sniffer right down the glass. A double IPA will smack you with hoppy notes of citrus, pine, flowers and candy. A chocolate stout may smell like deep dark chocolate and toasted coffee. Some beers smell nothing like they taste and a few are nearly identical. The correct glassware is even more important here, as many glasses are shaped to push the aroma of the beer directly to your nose.
Ah, you've finally come to the moment you've been waiting for. Tip the glass toward your lips and let the beer roll over your tongue. Is it spicy, sweet, or nutty? Does it make you pucker up like a lemon would or is it cloyingly sweet like candy? Can you taste the hops, the malt or barely? It is important to note mouthfeel on the beer. That is, literally, how it makes your mouth feel. Does the carbonation prick your tongue or is the beer slick, like oil. Does it leave a residue over your mouth?
After you have moved the beer around your mouth, swallow it and note the finish. Does the taste change at all on the back of your palate? Note how long the flavor remains in your mouth after you've swallowed. The taste change and flavor length are known as the finish. But by all means, you aren't finished. Keep drinking that wonderful beer (in moderation, of course)!
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