6 Tips for Tasting Craft Beer

Lift glass, drink beer, right? Not quite. If you truly want to experience a beer, follow this technique:

by Jason Frye

Gus Samarco

Eyeball your beer. Different styles have different colors, carbonation and head consistency (the frothy foam on the top of your beer). Note the color and head; the texture of both.

Give it a swirl. Yes, just like those wine people do. Why? By agitating your beer with a gentle swirl, you’ll release some aromas, stimulate a little carbonation, get a look at the head formation and retention and discover a few nuanced flavor notes in the process.

Put your nose in it. Taste is about 90% smell, so giving your beer a good sniff is essential. You can stick your nose in the glass and inhale (again, like the wine folks) or you can pass the glass under your nose a time or two, sniffing all the while. The particular method doesn’t matter (much), but the act of making a mental picture of the beer before you sip it is essential. 

Sip your beer. Don’t gulp, guzzle or otherwise swallow it; let your sip wash around your mouth and touch every part of the palate. Breathe across it to release a few more scent and flavor notes, and then swallow. Note the way the beer feels in your mouth (is it silky, slippery or are the bubbles really effervescent?), how it changes from the first moment of your sip to the final swallow and how the flavor blooms in your mouth. 

Repeat. I get it, you want to drink it already, but go through this process a time or two and you’ll have a full idea of the beer you’re tasting. 

Compare your notes. Talk among your friends and share your impressions. Did you taste or smell something that others didn’t? Try it again and see if you pick it up the next time. Doing this helps you become a better taster—plus it works with everything from wine to whiskey, so you’ll be a little more suave when it comes to tasting that fancy bourbon your friend breaks out on special occasions.