Beer Tasting Survival Guide

The timing couldn’t be better. Portland Beer Week is in the rear-view mirror, and I have a cold that’s so bad, I can’t tell the difference between and IPA and a tall Dr. Pepper! So, rather than publish a tasting complaining that everything tastes like Echinacea and mucus, I’m going to share some survival tips for a week of extensive drinking. I’ve gathered these tips over several decades of dedicated consumption, and they don’t fail me more than once a week. Cheers!
Eat
The less food you have in your stomach, the faster alcohol enters your bloodstream. So, start your tasting session with a light meal of complex carbs, healthy fats and protein. Or, just go for volume and eat a bucket of greasy fries. Either way, don’t hit something so spicy, salty or strongly flavored that it numbs your palate.
Hydrate
Alcohol is dehydrating, so sip water throughout your tasting sessions. I’ll have a pint of water per pint of beer, and I’ve noticed that I feel significantly more alert at the end of a tasting with this regimen. A quick drink of water between different beers cleans the palate so you can appreciate the next beverage, and frequent trips to the restroom provide an enlivening exercise!
Slow Down
Not to literally be a buzz-kill, but it’s hard to taste beer when you send it directly into your esophagus, without a brief stop on your palate. Sip, pause, drink water and contemplate. You’ll have a more complete sensory experience and you won’t get as loaded.
Take Notes
I’ll bring a small notebook to tastings. Sometimes, I take detailed notes for a story, but more often I’ll just jot down the name of a favorite beer, or a new brewery, a flavor I’ve never experienced, or a new friend.
Use All Your Senses
A huge percentage of the sense we call taste is actually smell! Take your time to enjoy the aroma of the lovely beer in front of you. See the color, the clarity and feel the temperature. Beer drinking can be a complete sensory experience if you’re willing to engage all of your senses.
Start Low, End High
If you’ve got a lot of beers to taste, and you want to be able distinguish them to the very end, you need to prepare for palate fatigue. This phenomena occurs when your palate becomes accustomed to perceiving certain flavors, and has difficulty distinguishing them. If you start your evening off with a beer that has 10 percent alcohol, and a wheelbarrow-load of hops, everything you taste after is going to taste pallid in comparison. If I have to taste a variety of beers, I’ll focus on beers that are lower in alcohol, hops and lighter in color, and move on to progressively heavier beers.
Manage Serving Sizes
Pouring at a tasting festival, I was shocked when a well-known local brewer handed me back the remainder of his 4 oz tasting sample, mumbling, “That’s gross man. I’m saving my liver for something tasty.” I’ve since seen the wisdom of his words. Why finish a pint of something you hate? Order the smallest serving possible, and if you like it, order another!

Last modified onTuesday, 15 November 2016 15:04