With a world of styles and flavours to choose from, beer tasting can be great fun. There are around 3000 different beers on sale in Britain from home and abroad. Why not try something other than a 'pint of the usual'?
Different to tasting wine, isn't it?
Actually it isn't. Just as tasting wine uses all your senses, so appreciating great beer requires ears, eyes, nose and mouth. Ears? Just think of that 'schh' as the bottle top comes off or the hiss and gurgle as a widget can is opened.
Does it have legs?
Beer should look good. Ales and lagers should be clear and bright; stouts are dark with a thick creamy head. Even 'cloudy' beers such as wheat beers should be lively and enticing and not flat and dull.
Think of red and dark ales being like red wines, lagers like whites. Pale ales and bitters are best served coolish (up to 12°C), lagers and wheat beers should be lightly chilled.
Work your nose!
Few of us take any time sniffing our glass of beer but the idea that this sort of behaviour should be restricted to strange men with beards and sandals is like saying the only people who like wine have cut glass accents and wear pin-striped suits!
Steady on ...!
If you don't give your beer a sniff then, how can you pick out the sweet, toasty, malty nose of a Scottish heavy; the citrus hoppiness of an IPA or the cloves and
bananas leaping out of a wheat beer? Drinking beer straight from the bottle robs you of great sensations. Pouring a glass half full first and taking deep inhalations
of the noble elixir will tell you, this is something you want to drink.
Swallow, don't spit
After your first mouthful, you will notice all the flavours. The sweetness at the front of the mouth and the drying bitterness from the hops at the back as the beer slips down your throat to a satisfying 'finish'. Each style has its own character: the sweet and sour attack of a great Belgian fruit beer, the hoppy surge of the IPA, the roasty richness of a creamy porter, the perfumed bite of a traditional Pilsener. You'll soon find that beer is as diverse as wine. In fact wine is hard pressed to match the diversity of beer flavours.