How To Taste Beer

Want to learn how to taste beer like a pro? The best way to expand your birra palate is, simply put, to taste it. Just follow this step-by-step beer tasting guide to get started!

Each beer boasts unique flavours and aromas all their own, thanks to factors like malt, hops, yeast, and more. Tasting can both sharpen your palate and allow you to identify what kind of beers you prefer.

Grab a pencil and a notebook, or use this handy self-guided tasting card from our Birroteca experts. Then, choose around three to four bottles of beer, to help you compare the different qualities of each beer without overwhelming your palate. Now, you’re ready to taste!

STEP ONE: SIGHT

Hold your glass up to a white background, or put a flashlight behind your glass to judge the colour and clarity of your beer.

COLOUR: The colour of beer can range from straw yellow to black. Most of the colour of beer comes from the malt used. Even a small amount of dark, roasty grains can make a beer appear black.

CLARITY: How hazy, clear, or brilliant is the beer? Hazy beer is not only appropriate in certain styles, but often desirable. Most of the haze in beer is caused by proteins in the grain and polyphenols from the hops—not yeast!

FOAM: A big, fluffy head is often the sign of a well-made beer. Foam helps preserve aroma and keeps the beer fresh all glass long. Not all beers have foam, such as some sours and barrel-aged beers. 

STEP TWO: SMELL

Bring the glass to your nose to allow the aromas to engage your senses and prepare your palate. Bonus points if you get foam on your nose!

INTENSITY: How pronounced is the beer’s aroma? The stronger the intensity can be signs of age and oxidation. Fresh, bright aromas indicate younger beers.

THE BOUQUET: Beer will usually evoke a combination of aromas as a result of the malt, hops, and yeast used.

  • Malt refers to the type of grain and the amount the grain is roasted. It can make a beer have aromas of honey, grapes, oats, cherries, and more.
  • Hops are the flower of a type of vine that grows in various regions around the world. They can impart various aromas of strawberry, blueberry, rosemary, oak, florals, and more.
  • Yeast produces compounds called phenols and esters that contribute greatly to the character of the beer. Esters are often fruity, while phenols are usually more spicy. Think: pear, apple, raspberry, peach, lemon, and more.

STEP THREE: TASTE AND MOUTHFEEL

Now that your palate has been enticed by the inviting bouquet, it’s time to have a sip. Take note of the different flavours and palate sensations the beer provides. It’s always better to take two sips just to be sure.

CARBONATION:Different levels of carbonation are appropriate for different styles of beer. Generally, beer that is dryer is better suited to higher carbonation to help fill out the body of the beer and add effervescence and more texture. Thicker beer is better with a lower carbonation that helps create a creamy or slick texture.

BODY:How light or full-bodied is your beer? The type of grain, amount of residual sugar, and level of carbonation can give different textures to beer, including: thick, creamy, slick, fluffy, frothy, prickly, or watery.

WARMTH:Was the alcohol noticeable? When a beer is described as warm or hot, it indicates how much the alcohol notes stand out.

glass of birroteca beer

Ready to get started with tasting beer at home? Head to Eataly Toronto to pick up craft beers from Indie Alehouse with your takeout order, or have it delivered to your door with food delivery. Salute!