5 Qualities to Look for When Rating a Beer

A, S, T, M, and O


Remember in writing it is suggested to answer the questions who, when, where, why, and what? When a writer answers those questions, the writing makes a point, the writing becomes clear and understandable.

When reviewing a beer, an opinion is formed and that translation of opinion to a description of a beer can get skewed based on preferences to style and taste.  The following five qualities help to round out your description. The qualities form a clear opinion of the beer and even though you as the reviewer may not like the overall hoppiness in a certain beer, your review leaves behind your distaste for hops and lets others judge for themselves based on your accurate description of that beer vs. an opinionated description of that beer or ale.  The five areas for a proper beer review get used by brewers and beer judges alike.  They are;

  • Appearance
  • Smell
  • Taste
  • Mouthfeel
  • Overall


Make note of what the beer looks like. Is it bubbly like a champagne and pour crisply into the glass or does it pour out thickly and lay flat in the glass? What color is it? Amber, red and rich or golden, pale and light? Dark and rich or unfiltered and cloudy? Write down your thoughts on the beer's color and character before moving on to the next quality.


Bring up the beer glass to your nose and inhale the fragrance then set the beer down. Without thinking, quickly write down your first opinion of the smell. Go back to the glass again, pick it up and smell it again. This time let the perfume and aromas of the beer linger in your nostrils and try to detect the lighter scents and undertones of the beer. A beer like wine takes on essences of the ingredients as well as the container it was brewed in like an oak barrel for instance. See how many smells and aromas that can be distinguished and write them down. Does the beer smell fruity? If it does than what kind of fruit does it smell like? Apple, peach, pear, plum, grape, etc.? Do you sense a floral, piney, citrus or grassy essence? Are there hints of coffee, chocolate, smoke, caramel or burnt sugars? Do you smell the yeast qualities? A smell of dough or bread or a nutty aroma?


Taste the beer and again write down your first opinion. Go back and taste it again. Does the taste of the beer fall in to line with the smell and the style of the beer. What is your hint of flavor and what flavor pops up after you have swallowed the beer? Are the ingredients well-balanced or does one ingredient dominate the taste of the beer? 


Basically this is the appearance but in the mouth. Is the beer bubbly and crisp? Is it thick and flat? Take another sip and let it linger. Write down your impressions. Is it watery or thin? How does it feel in the mouth?


You get to form your opinion here. Write down your overall thought about the beer. It is important to note that you should not form an opinion of the beer if you do not like that style or the beer was tainted in someway. If you do not like milk stouts as a rule then you should not be reviewing a milk stout. Review a style you like. If the beer came from a bad batch or was skunky let the brewer know but do not review the beer, move on to another style. 

Beers in the Sun
Credit: Adactio

Prepare for the Review

The proper review of a beer can be tainted by many elements. The temperature of a beer and even the glass that a beer is poured into will affect the nuances and flavors of a beer. It is important to keep educating yourself about beer; its styles, ingredients, brewing process, serving suggestions and food accompaniments are just a few areas to start in the education process. 

For a proper review try to abide by these guidelines:

  • Temperature - do not drink a beer if it ice-cold. Proper temperature is between 40 - 50 degrees farenheit.
  • Proper glassware - a pilsner glass should be used for an amber lager while a pint glass is proper for an American IPA. Study glassware for beer before reviewing a beer.
  • Order - lightest to darkest generally works. The exception happens when you consider the volume of hops in a beer and the alcohol content. Save an overtly hopped beer or one with high alcohol content for last on your review list.
  • Your state of being - do not review a beer if you are intoxicated or if you had a cigarette recently. Intoxication impairs your judgement so a fair review is impossible while smoking deadens the sense of smell also making a fair review impossible. Wait two hours after finishing a cigarette to review a beer.
  • Cleanse your palate - drinking water or eating some crackers between beers helps to cleanse the palate and freshen it for your next beer review. 

Always take notes when reviewing a beer. Train yourself to learn more about beers and broaden your scope of choices when it comes to tasting beers and always remember A, S, T, M and O.