An Amateur Beer Review-Part I

Thanks to a suggestion by my friend Jonathan Lim (if you write the 100th. comment he will get you free netflix…so comment), I have decided to do a series of posts explaining the process of how to review a beer.

Reviewing any beer is an art form. It may seem easy to the naked eye, but the truth is that reviewing a beer takes plenty of practice, patience, and focus. Many beers have subtle qualities that make it very easy to get confused during a review. I feel as though I have only built a comfort level on my ability to review a beer well within the past month (This blog started in Feb. 2010…so yeah, it takes a lot of practice).

With that being said, I want to remind everyone that these segments will be a crash course in beer reviewing. While I have built a solid knowledge base for beer, there are still many things that I have to learn.

To keep this easy, An Amateur Beer Review will be split into the following three parts:

1) How to review a beer.

2)What not to do during a beer review

3)A walk-through beer review with Stoudt’s Brewing Company’s Oktoberfest.

I hope An Amateur Beer Review serves to be a helpful segment. I will do my best to include mistakes that I have made in the past as well as suggestions that will help you get started as a beer reviewer.

Your Amateur Beer Enthusiast working on a review of He’Brew Genesis Ale. Check out the review for an example beer review.

1)How to review a beer:

When I became interested in beer reviewing, I used Beer Advocate as my guide. Beer Advocate is a great way to start building a foundation for beer. Not only do they break down how to taste a beer, they also provide in-depth information on reviewing a beer, beer styles, and history about beer. I also feel that Beer Advocate is a welcoming resource to those who are a bit intimidated by beer experts.

Another great place for beer education is Great Brewers. I recently discovered this resource and it has proven to help my beer writing. In terms of beer education, Great Brewers gets a little more detailed and dives into the science behind beer. For reviewing, Great Brewers gives you examples on what qualities to look for in a beer and words to describe a beer. This proves to be immensely helpful, as writing about beer as a beginner is very challenging.

Alright. Enough introduction. Here are the five areas you want to explore during a beer review:

Appearance: How does the beer look? Is the color gold, straw, tan, amber, copper, brown, black, orange, ruby? Can you see the carbonation in the beer or does it look think and viscous (this means syrupy)? Does the beer have a large amount of foam that dissipates quickly or lingers for some time? Does foam stick to the sides after dissipating? What is the head’s (interchangeable with foam) color?

Smell:While this number is disputed, smell accounts for about 80%-95% of how a drinker will perceive the taste. When you go to smell a beer, give it a few quick sniffs. Then swirl it in you glass to bring out the aromas. What do you smell? Does the malt used have nutty, bready, toasted, roasted, caramel, coffee, chocolate, toffee, or biscuity qualities? Are the hops giving off citrus, pine, earthy, floral, grassy, perfumy, or spiced aromas. Can you pick up fruit hints in the flavor? Can you smell certain spices or a yeast smell? Continue to smell your beer throughout the drinking session to see if any aromas come out as the beer warms?

Taste: It is important to note there is a right way to taste a beer. Take a sip and let the beer sit on you palate for a bit. Swirl it in your glass and taste again. Also note how the beer tastes as it warms since many flavors tend to be masked when beer is served a very cold temperatures. When it comes to taste, a good tip of advice is that the words you used to describe the smell will probably be the words you use to describe the flavor. Is the flavor subdued, bold, intense, inoffensive, overwhelming, hearty, robust? Does the beer have a dry, fruity, clean, spicy, acidic, bitter, or wet finish? Do certain flavors appear in the front, end, or sides of the sip?

Mouthfeel: One of the toughest things to do as a new beer reviewer is to not clump mouthfeel and taste together. How does the beer feel when it sits on your palate? It is thick and viscous, or is it liquidy and wet? Is the mouthfeel tingly, creamy, warming, oily, smooth? Does the beer have a large amount of carbonation or is the carbonation more moderate? Is the carbonation pleasant and bubbly, or prickly and sharp?

Drink: This is where you make a conclusion about the beer. How was the overall consumption of the beer? Would you drink another? You should also make remarks here about other beers that are similar and how well the beer fits into its style.

Well there you have it! I will make a page for this section just so people can reference it in the future.

Please comment if you have any questions about how to review a beer. I would be happy answer any questions people have.

Stay tuned for An Amateur Beer Review Part II where I will lay out what not to do when reviewing a beer.

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  1. Great post James! I’ve been reading and re-reading this post every time I’ve drank a beer. It’s nice to have a kind of check-list to go by when evaluating a beer. More often than not I’ve forgotten different facets of beer reviewing…you’ve provided an excellent overview for newcomers.

    Ahh beer…may it never disappear. And that rhymes by the way.

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