It's a tough job but someone's gotta do it. Our brewers taste every batch of Samuel Adams® beer to make sure you'll never have to endure a sub-par Sam. Do you think you have what it takes to be a professional beer taster? There’s only one way to find out.
Step 1: Appearance
There's more to beer than just its appearance, but the color, clarity, and foam of the beer do provide some clues as to the taste profile. First, look at the color of the beer. Is it golden, amber, brown, or ebony? The shade can indicate the roasted malt character of the beer. This gives you a hint of what you're about to taste, but you might be surprised.
Second, notice the beer's clarity. Most beers are filtered to give the beer a brilliant clarity that reveals the true color of the beer. However, not all beers are perfectly clear. Wheat beers are known for their intentionally cloudy appearance. That appearance is the result of not fully filtering the beer which leaves suspended wheat proteins for a heavier veil.
Third, notice the head of foam. Is it thick or thin? White or tan? Lingering or quick to fall? The foam is an indicator of the quality of the ingredients. A thick, long lasting head of foam shows that the beer has a lot of protein which comes from the malted grains. At Samuel Adams, we don't use adjuncts that would take away from the foam or the flavor of the beer.
Step 2: Aroma
Next, gently swirl the beer in your glass to release a little of the hop aroma through the carbonation, and inhale the aromas.
Smell is an essential, if sometimes forgotten, element of taste. What flavors can you detect just from the aroma of the beer? Can you smell the hops with aromas of floral, grass, herbs, or citrus? Or do you smell more of the malt with the aromas of caramel, biscuit, or dark chocolate?
There may also be an indication of the spices used in the beer such as the winter spices of cinnamon and ginger or the citrus of orange and lemon. Now let's get to the good stuff and see if those aromas carry over to the flavor of the beer.
Step 3: Taste
Ah... the moment of truth. Do all of those aromas deliver in the taste of the beer itself? There is such a wide array of flavors that can be found in beer. Each layer of flavor should be apparent and in balance.
As the beer crosses your palate the first taste on the front of your tongue should be the malt sweetness. That malt character can take on flavors from roasted caramel, toffee, and nutty flavors to dark chocolate, and coffee.
That sweetness and smoothness should be balanced by the spice and bitterness of the hops. The hops offer a range of aromatic spice from earthy and piney to floral and citrusy.
The tastes of the malt, hops, and other spices are also combined with the wide spectrum of flavors imparted by the yeast and fermentation character. These elements give the beer its unique character and depth of flavor depending on the variety of yeast and process that's used. Some yeasts can give a crisp dry finish, others can give a fruity character. For other more exotic styles, the beer will get its spicy, sour, or tropical fruit flavors from their special yeasts.
Step 4: Body
Next, experience the body and mouthfeel of the beer. As the beer crosses the middle of your tongue how does it feel? Is it thin or chewy? The level of effervescence in the beer combines with the residual sugars and alcohol to give an impression that can be from crisp and light to rich and dense.
Step 5: Finish
The last part of tasting is the finish of the beer. As the beer flows past your tongue to the back of your throat what impression is left behind? Does it have a dry, bitter, or sweet taste at the end? The taste can fade quickly or have a lingering flavor of sweetness or bitterness. The last and final key to evaluating the beer is simple. Does it leave you wanting another sip? If the answer is yes, then that means it is a good beer!