How To Review Beer

How to Review Beer

There are a number of different tips to keep in mind before setting out to review a beer.

Respect the brewer
Behind any beer is a brewer who has feelings a pride, whose passion and livelihood might just be beer. Even if you do not enjoy the beer, try to at least have some respect and to be constructive with the criticism provided in the end.

Form your own opinion
Do not let anybody else have any effect on how you review a beer. Everybody has different opinions and, in the end, has a different experience, so make sure you are clear with your own personal experience. This means you should refrain from reading other such reviews of the beer you are about to taste for yourself.

Senses
Make sure you are reviewing a beer on a healthy bill, because flavor and aroma are heavily connected. Refrain from reviewing a beer when you just ate something of strong flavor, you have burnt your tongue, you have a cold, tasted too many beers, or are just in a bad mood altogether. Be flexible and try a beer more than once.

What to look for in a beer
Five different categories exist in which you should evaluate a beer within your review:

  1. Appearance. Look at the color, carbonation, head and retention of the beer. Does it look lackluster, alive, dull, inviting, clear or cloudy?
  2. Smell. Yes, smell the beer. Malts might smell roasty, chocolaty, sweet, smoky, nutty or toasty. Hops might smell herbal, leafy, spicy, grassy, piney, citrusy or floral. Yeast will also offer a bit of an aroma. Lagers may offer clean aromas where ales may provide either a fruity or a flowery aroma.
  3. Taste. Sip the beer deeply and taste its flavors. The interpretations of the descriptions of these flavors will probably use the same words as those which describe the smell. Is there a proper balance between all of the ingredients? How does it fit the style of the beer?
  4. Mouthfeel. Take another sip and allow it to wander throughout the mouth. How does it feel on your palate? Is it light, thin, watery, heavy, chewy, smooth or coarse? Is the beer over-carbonated or flat?
  5. Drinkability. The overall ease of consumption of the beer and the overall impression you get from the beer. Is this the kind of beer you would drink again?

Temperature
Many people actually drink their beer too cold. Beers at too cold a temperature can mask the true flavor of the beer, as well as its nuances and aromas. Try drinking a beer chilled to 40 to 50 degrees Fahrenheit for beers that are of lower alcohol level and are paler, or roughly ten degrees more for a darker beer of higher alcohol content.

Order
Many people suggest that a series of beers should be sampled from the heuristic “light to dark” method. Though this has worked for many years, today it can be a flawed method. Though malt flavors are known to intensify when increasing kilning temperatures, for the most part, color will not have anything to do when sampling a beer. It can be an indication of what you can expect when indulging in the taste, though it is mostly psychological.

Two things should be considered: hop levels and alcohol content. Keeping high alcohol and hoppy beers towards the last of the list will refrain from killing your palate too early in the taste. However, some exceptions may apply, such as with very bold and distinct ingredients, like smoked malts as present in Rauchbiers, beers with intense fruit, or Lambrics, which have wild bacteria and yeast. All of these can be light in color, thus the flaw. These such types of beers should be reserved for the end of the list as well.