Archive for the ‘ An Amateur Beer Review ’ Category

An Amateur Beer Review-Part II

Initially An Amateur Beer Review Part II was going to be titled What Not To Do During A Beer Review.

Well when I tried to write out a list of things that you should not do when reviewing a beer, I decided that it would be easier to just make a list of tips that you will help you conduct a proper beer review. So now Part II of this segment will be titled Tips for Reviewing Beer.

To make this seem somewhat official, I came up with 10 tips that will help you review a beer well. Many of these tips are made up from mistakes and lessons that I have learned from reviewing beer. If you stick to this guide, you will hopefully avoid some of the amateur mistakes that I made when I started reviewing beer.

Now crack open a beer. I hope you learn something.

This picture is from a review of Flying Dog’s In-Heat Wheat Hefeweizen I conducted earlier this summer. I wish I would have known these tips before reviewing this beer.

2)Tips for Reviewing Beer:

(1)Do not go into a review blind.

Before conducting any review, do some background research on the beer. What brewery brewed this beer? Where is the brewery located? Does this beer have a unique story behind it? Does the name of the beer have some sort of special meaning? Is the Abv (Alcohol by volume) high or low? What is the beer’s style and are there any unique ingredients used in this beer?

While this  may all seem simple, you will be surprised how easy it is to dive into a review without knowing a single thing about a beer. The “pre-review” takes about 5 minutes and is a great place to get started.

(2)If you are reviewing multiple beers in a session, make sure you review them in the right order.

If you do not review multiple beers in the right order, then you will misread characteristics of the beer. The best way to order beers is based on hoppiness (IBU’s) and alcohol content (Abv). The beers with the lowest IBU’s and/or Abv should be consumed first. This will help you avoid having lingering aftertastes from intense beers appear when reviewing beers with a sweet or mild flavor.

(3)Be wary of how many beers you try to review in a session.

Number 2 and 3 kind of overlap. While it is important to be ambitious and hard working during a review session, reviewing too many beers can hurt your individual reviews. This becomes especially true when reviewing beers with high Abv. Drinking many beers in a session can hinder your focus and accuracy during a beer review.

Along with this I want to note that if you do decide to review more than one beer in a session, make sure you rinse with water when you decide to move on to the next beer. This will help cleanse your palate from any flavors that may still remain from the previous beer.

(4)Be careful conducting a review off of a sampler.

While some beer review guides tell you to avoid reviewing samples all together, I slightly disagree. I just want to express that you should approach any review of a sampler (or tasting for that matter) with EXTREME CAUTION! When reviewing a sampler remember that a sample is just a sample. It is not a full beer.

So, when writing about a sample or sampler you should tone down your review. Write a couple of sentences about each beer in the sample to give your reader an idea of what they will get if they try this beer. While it may not be as in depth as a complete review of one beer, a sample review will still give readers a sense of what they will get if they order this beer.

To see this illustrated I will provide a link for a sampler review I did at The Brew Kettle in Strongsville, OH. I think this is a pretty fair example of how a article about a sampler should be written. For more click here.

Samplers can be fun, but you must be careful how you review them!

(5)Never, ever guess ingredients used in a beer!

This was a lesson I learned at a meeting with SNOB (Society of Northeast Ohio Brewers). Early on I built a comfort zone where I began to think every beer was using pale malt or cascade hops. Truth is unless you know for sure what ingredients a brewer used in a beer, do not guess!

If you do not know what ingredients a beer uses, then just describe what you see, smell, taste, and feel. You can still write a great review without knowing every ingredient used in the beer.

(6)Keep in mind what this beer is trying to be.

You will probably figure this out in the “pre-review”. Is the beer trying to be innovative or traditional? Is the beer meant to be bland or is it meant to overwhelm with flavor? What is the beer’s identity? These are all important to know as you review.

(7)Keep in mind how well this beer fits into its proclaimed style.

This will help quite a bit with number 6. Understanding what style your beer is proclaimed to be and if your beer fits that style will help you write a better review. It will also help you understand the beer’s identity.

For style guidelines visit the Beer Judge Certification Program Style Guidlines. This set of style guidelines are used by judges of many national competitions. It will also help you get an idea of what to look for with certain beer styles.

(8)Keep your bias under control.

First you need to know your bias. What beers do you prefer?

Then you need to do your best to keep this out of your beer review. Unfortunately, this is hard to do.

My best advice is if you follow all of the other tips, you will have just enough to appreciate a beer to the point where your bias is at the least subdued. Just do your best and you will be just fine.

(9)Remind readers who will enjoy this beer.

It is ok if you do not like the beer you are reviewing. Just remember that all beer drinkers are not the same and drinkers will feel differently about a beer. If you take a few lines to be optimistic and tell your readers what profile of drinker will enjoy the beer you review, readers will get much more out of your review.

(10)Take your time! Enjoy your beer!

Be patient. Drink slowly and enjoy your beer. And take copious amounts of notes. The more you have the easier it will be to write a review later.

Most of all, enjoy the beer you are drinking. All beers are made with a purpose. Never forget that.

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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.