Savor the flavor

How to make great beer even better
By JOSH SMITH  |  May 5, 2010

KEY COMBO Master the perfect pour in the proper glass.

Whether you only occasionally hoist a craft beer or carry a notepad to rate beer everywhere you go, we can all become better beer drinkers by following a few simple guidelines.

PAY ATTENTION TO YOUR BEER, ESPECIALLY THE FOUR MAIN COMPONENTS OF APPEARANCE, AROMA, TASTE, AND MOUTHFEEL. You can tell a lot about a beer before it even touches your lips by observing its color, carbonation, foamy head, and lace. Trying to then put your finger on a beer’s aroma requires both creativity and practice. The payoff is successfully identifying the note of “buttered popcorn” or “children’s cough syrup” present in a smell — it’s a great feeling!

Now drink the beer! Look for sweetness, bitterness, and sourness in the taste, as well as those four staple ingredients of malts, hops, yeast, and water. This, of course, is the most important quality you’ll consider. And when drinking the beer, try to judge how it feels in your mouth. Is it thin or thick, smooth or sticky?

Beer is rated on these four components, as well as your overall impression of the beer. Here you account for what you think is most important; I look for the beer to be true to style, balanced and drinkable, and a decent value. I will hold off on the scoring system for another day before you too start taking notes while at the bar!
USE A GLASS, IDEALLY A PROPER ONE. If you are going to try any one of these suggestions, let it be this one. Using a glass makes good beer better, with all but one category that beer is rated on (mouthfeel) directly affected by pouring beer into a glass. To raise the bar: you shouldn’t just use any old glass. Proper glassware (whether it is mugs, tulips, pint glasses, snifters, or so on) is a lot of fun and adds greatly to the experience of drinking craft beer.

In Belgium, most beers have their own glass and some brewers go so far as to design the glass before the beer! You don’t have to be this obsessive; just go to Crate & Barrel or your local liquor store to pick up the proper glassware for your favorite style. You won’t regret it.
POUR YOUR BEER TO MAXIMUM EFFECT. To start you need one of those aforementioned glasses — and a clean one at that! Next, hold the glass at a 45-degree angle and pour into the center. About halfway through, return the glass to 90 degrees and continue pouring into the center. That’s it.

Now we aren’t following proper technique for the technique’s sake, but to produce an appropriate sized head for the beer. Roughly one-inch is ideal for releasing the aromatics of the beer and holding much of the beer’s flavor. And if you have to pour more vigorously throughout to get a one-inch head, so be it!

So, Scenario #1: Bartender serves your beer with a huge, overflowing head or, worse still, a rim pour with no head at all. What do you do? I hesitate to give this advice, but a bartender really should know how to properly pour a beer. Send it back; just try to do it nicely.

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