Proper Tasting

bottoms_250wSTEP 1: Glass Class.

Most beer drinkers demand only one thing from their mug: that it doesn’t leak. Turns out glass selection is as critical to the tasting process as the ingredients in the beer. For instance, while a 16-ounce pint glass works for lighter-bodied beers such as pilsners, it can ruin a wheat beer or pale ale, which are better served in a goblet or wide mug. Short of that, don’t be afraid to reach for a red wine glass. “Red wine glasses allow all beers to breathe properly and therefore you can really taste what’s in the glass,” Burney says. “Try it and you’ll notice a difference.”

STEP 2: Cold Beer, Meet Warm Glass.

That plastic mug you keep in your freezer might be convenient and refreshing, but it’s also killing your beer’s flavor. “As sophisticated as beers have become, it is no longer the good-old America way of pouring ice-cold beer into an ice-cold glass,” Burney says. “It works if you’ve got beers with no flavor in them—Bud, Miller, Coors, light beers for the most part. But I want cold beers going into room-temperature glasses.” The reason: A quality beer won’t breathe if the glass is cold. As for the proper temperature for your beer, follow the brewer’s or brewmaster’s guidelines.

STEP 3: Let It Flow.

Whether pouring from a bottle or tap, the process is the same: Tilt the glass at 45 degrees, let the beer hit the side of the glass and, as it fills up, bring the glass to 90 degrees to finish the pour. Always remember, though, the style of beer you’re pouring. “If it’s a highly carbonated beer—any of the Belgian or German beers—obviously you’re going to pour it slower,” Burney says. One word of warning: If drinking unfiltered beer, there might be dead yeast at the bottom. “Don’t be scared of it,” says Burney, who recommends turning the bottle upside down a couple of times or rolling it on a table to displace the yeast before opening. “But if you see flakes in a lager or pilsner, don’t drink it!”

STEP 4: Bottom’s Up.

“What I like to do is come over the top of the beer and put my nose pretty much in the middle of the glass, trying to get the most aroma out of the middle of the glass. I’ll smell it, then taste it, then swirl it—almost like wine—and taste it again. The reason for swirling is it allows the beer to warm up just a little and it releases some of the hidden [aromas] which are hard to pick up if the beers are too cold. And I’ll taste a beer twice, maybe three times, before I make a decision. I think it’s a fair way to do it because the first shot at it is not always right. And each time you taste it, you’re picking up different notes, different sweetness in malt, and different sweetness in floral characteristics, from hops particularly. So you’re fooling yourself if you think you’ll get it all [in one taste]. You’ve got to re-taste it two or three times.”