Take Beer Tasting Notes [Beer Newbie Mission #2]

by Billy Broas

Nerd Taking Notes
Note: This is the 2nd post in a 5-part series called Beer Newbie Missions,a guide on how to like beer.

After Mission #1 you should now have a good place to buy craft beers with a staff that will help you make the right choice.

Now that finding beer is no longer a problem, it is time to start appreciating it. And we are going to do that by taking notes.

Why Take Beer Notes?

Getting your thoughts on paper (or computer) is the best way to learn more about beer. The reason is that it forces you to think about what you are drinking as opposed to playing the “how fast can I get it to my bladder” game (fun on occasion, but not what we’re after).

Don’t worry, if this sounds like a high school homework assignment, be assured that we’re not talking about a 5,000 word essay. The goal is just to get your thoughts down, whether that be a few words on the back of a napkin or a few lengthy paragraphs.

If you’re like me and want a framework to guide you, then I strongly suggest you sign up for the BillyBrew newsletter and from which you’ll immediately get my beer tasting guide. It walks you through how to do a beer review and most importantly, gives you 121 “beer words” you can use to describe your beer.

Take Action

Using the beers listed below as a test subjects, write down what you think about them. Here are the characteristics you should evaluate:

  • Appearance – The color, both of the beer and the head. Also describe the foam. Is it big or small? Tan or white?
  • Aroma – The smell of the beer. Try to identify hop, malt, and yeast smells.
  • Taste - Usually similar to the smell. Can you pick out the ingredients? What foods do they remind you of?
  • Mouthfeel – Thick and chewy or thin and light? Too carbonated?
  • Overall Impression – How did you like it? Would you drink another?

I know at first everything can taste the same and you might think, “Well it just tastes like beer”, but that will change. Again, the beer descriptor words in the tasting guide really help with that.

Resources

Beer Review/Ratings Websites
These websites have reviews and ratings from thousands of users. See what other people have to say about a beer or look up the top rated beers in the world.

Other BillyBrew Resources

  • How to Review Beer – A post where I walk you through reviewing the Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA.
  • A Great Way to Keep Track of your Beer Reviews – This is a video I did for another beer blogger about the tool I use to record my reviews. After using half a dozen different ways (including the beer rating websites) I’ve finally found one I’m 100% happy with.

Beers to Buy

How did the beers in Mission #1 work out? Not too extreme, right?

The beers to buy in Mission #2 are slightly more flavorful, but still shouldn’t be a problem for newbies to handle. We are going to drink a stout, brown ale, and red or amber ale. These are all more malt-heavy beers that bring more variety and intensity of flavors than you are probably used to. The stouts in particular have a roasted, coffee-like flavor that some people love but for others takes some getting used to.

If these beers are a breeze and you’re itching to go bigger, then just wait until Mission #3. We’re going to take off the training wheels and start getting into the land of the bold.

You are progressing nicely. We might just make a good beer drinker out of you yet!

Check in by leaving a comment below once you finish Mission #2.

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Jimmie the Mum April 2, 2010 at 10:54 am

I had the dogfish, Brooklyn Brown Ale and the fat Tire. People look at me strangly when I pull a piece of paper out and say “Do you have so & so”?

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allevamento lumache December 31, 2010 at 2:55 pm

Great post. I became fan of your blog. Going to check it every day. Lumache

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Bry July 23, 2013 at 11:36 pm

Just finished this mission. I strayed a bit from your recommended list. I wasn’t too keen on the stouts, the bitter coffee taste was a bit much for me, which was a disappointment because they smelled fantastic. I really did enjoy goose island’s nut brown ale though. The amber ales were good but nothing like the goose island.

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Josh September 18, 2013 at 9:19 am

Hey Bry you should give the stouts another try but do something a bit different with them. I work in a craft beer store and something I tell people at tastings for stouts is to take a sip of the beer and then take a bite of a medium dark to dark chocolate (around 60% cocoa is best) and then take another sip after you have swallowed the chocolate and let your mouth sit for a second, you will now taste a lot of the milky chocolate flavors the beer offers and less of the bitter coffee. You will get a whole new experience from your beer that you didn’t get in that first taste. Food really changes the flavor of a beer, if your goal is to rate a beer do this after and add it to your overall impression as a side note since its not a part of what the brewer intended. Food really brings out different favors in beer and may help you find flavors in it you didn’t get before.

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