Friday, July 11, 2014

How to Review a Beer

Image by Robby Davis

You don't need to be a beer snob to review beer. Below are simple guidelines to get started, along with a sample review:

Stone's Arrogant Bastard Ale
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4 (on a 5-point scale)

Appearance - Note the beer's color, carbonation, head and its retention. Is it clear or cloudy? Does it look lackluster and dull or alive and inviting?
Pours a brilliant deep copper-red with a frothy, dense quarter inch khaki head that won't dissipate.
Smell - Bring the beer to your nose. Note the beer's aromatic qualities. Malts: sweet, roasty, smoky, toasty, chocolaty, nutty, caramelly, biscuity? Hops: dank / resiny, herbal, perfumy, spicy, leafy, grassy, floral, piney, citrusy? Yeast will also create aromas. You might get fruity or flowery aromas (esters) from ales and very clean aromas from lagers, which will allow the malt and hop subtleties to pull through.
Floral, fruity hops, resin, pine, fresh cut grass leap from the glass. There's a subtle caramel malt sweetness in the background that hints of dark fruit.
Taste - Take a deep sip of the beer. Note any flavors, or interpretations of flavors, that you might discover. The descriptions will be similar to what you smell. Is the beer built-well? Is there a balance between the ingredients? Was the beer brewed with a specific dominance of character in mind? How does it fit the style?
Dank hops dominate the initial flavor, with sweet caramel malt coming in and fading mid palate, bowing to resinous bitterness that lingers through the finish. Grapefruit, catty hops, and pine emerge in subsequent sips, but the balance is decidedly resiny and bitter. The malt sweetness provides nice respite in later sips, along with dark fruit.
Mouthfeel - Take another sip and let it wander. Note how the beer feels on the palate and its body. Light, heavy, chewy, thin / watery, smooth or coarse? Was the beer flat, over-carbonated?
Body is on the full side, with moderate carbonation and slight alcohol warmth, with a big resiny bite.
Overall - Your overall impression of the beer.
Decidedly bitter, but balanced in extremes, to an extent. A glutton for punishment, the promise of sweet malt draws me back in for the bitter hop beating.

Here are beer judging sheets you can use:

Want to learn more? 

Listen to Peter Zien give some advice. Zien is the AleSmith's owner and a BJCP Grand Master level 1 beer judge, the only one in the San Diego County.

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