Evaluating Beer

University of Atlantia Master Terafan Greydragon
2 December AS XXX terafan@greydragon.org

Why Evaluate Beer ?


"How to" evaluate beer


What is the Flavor Profile?


Use all six senses

Many of these go hand-in-hand with the flavor profile, i.e.

Appearance with sight
Aroma/Bouquet with Smell
Taste with Taste
Overall impression with Pleasure




- Head space in the bottle (Excessive headspace is an indication that air content may be high. Oxidized flavor and aroma may follow.)

- Surface deposit inside the bottle neck  (Surface deposits indicate bacterial or wild yeast contamination)

- Gushing 

- Haze  (Haze may be an indication of bacterial contamination or just protein-tannin compound)

- ‘Legs’  (Legs (when pouring a barley or doppelbock) will be indicated on the sides of the glass)

- Foam stability  (Lack of foam stability indicates old, stale, and oxidized beer)

- Head retention. (Head retention is largely a matter of preference. Generally speaking, NO HEAD or EXCESSIVE HEAD (to interfere with drinking) are equally undesirable. Brews with all barley malt and lots of hops (esp fresh) tend to have creamier heads. )

- Clarity (Some beers are not meant to be clear. If a bottle conditioned beer is being considered for clarity, it must be poured carefully to not disturb the sediment.)




Smell - (Aroma/Bouquet)

The most sensitive and telling sense is the sense of smell. However, our smell detectors quickly become anesthitized to whatever we are smelling.

The aroma should be quickly assessed. Swirl the beer in the glass so volatiles and aromatics will change from liquid to gas, carried by molecules of carbon dioxide.

Some aspects are so volatile that they disappear very quickly, esp sulfur based compounds, like DMS.

The aroma of beer can be defined as the smell of beer relative to the malt, grain, and fermentation byproducts. The most common aromas are those of malty sweetness, caramel, toffee, roasted, toasted, or chocolate. Malt contributes indirectly to may other aromas that are the result of fermentation.

The bouquet of beer can be defined as the aromatics that hops contribute to beer. The bouquet of beer will vary to a great degree. When present it can be described as flowery, spicy, pungent, etc.

Odors may be attributed to defects in the beer. Defective beer can be the result of mishandling (extreme temperature changes or agitiation), bacterial contamination, oxidation or being ‘light struck’.


Taste Perception

Where do we perceive each of the following:

  • Bitterness* - on the back of the tongue
  • Sweetness - on the tip
  • Sourness* - on the sides of the tongue
  • Saltiness - just to rear and sides of tip
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* 15-20% of Americans confuse bitter and sour. 



How does beer affect the sensation of taste

Bitterness - The degree of bitterness can be influenced by:


Sweetness - The degree of sweetness can be influenced by:


Sourness - The degree of sourness is proportional to the acidity of the beer and can be influenced by

Saltiness - The degree of saltiness is influenced by


Touch and Feel

The tactile feel of bubbles in the mouth perceptibly determines the degree of carbonation. The feel of bubbles can also vary with the ingredient used.

A big and explosive bubble feeling in the mouth is due to the use of fermentable ingredients other than barley malt. A beer made with all barley malt will tend to have a smaller bubble feeling (almost a creamy sensation) in your mouth.

The body is literally how a beer feels in your mouth, FULL or LIGHT. The unfermented sugars and dextrins contribute to the degree of fullness.

DEXTRINS -Unfermentable carbohydrates that add to body. Technically 4 or more glucose molecules linked together.



This is the most personal and subjective category, but probably the most important to consider

Your own genetic make up can have a distinct impact on this, as well as the time of day, time of year, activity level... After biking several miles, who wants a heavy rich stout, or on a cold evening are you really in the mood for a light pils?

Even if you don’t like a stout or pilsener, you can still appreciate it for what it is meant to be for others.


Maximizing Flavor Perception

- As your taste buds become used, it is harder and harder to identify light or weak flavors
- Smoking deadens your taste buds
- Greasy lips will devastate head retention
- The waxes in lipstick and Chapstick will destroy head retention
- Soap and oils left on glass will destroy head retention and ‘legs’


Evaluating Beer

My recommendation is to use the following sequence

  • Appearance
  • Examine bottle for sediment
  • Pour the beer
  • Quickly sniff the beer
  • Examine the beer in the glass

- Certain beers should have sediment, others should not. Export class should NOT have ANY sediment.
- Pour about 4-6 oz of beer to create a 3/4 in. thick head. Do not fill the glass more than 2/3 full.
- Volatile aromatics (e.g. dry hopping nose) do not linger and must be caught right after pouring. Take 2-3 quick whiffs, swirl the beer, and take several more short sniffs.
- For a period of approximately one minute, examine the beer for color, clarity, gas release and head condition and stability.
- Gas bubbles should be small, compact, and continue to be released. If the room is quiet, you can listen for the sound of foam disintegration, which should be a series of clicks, not a steady buzz
- Head condition and stability. After a one minute period, the head should have collapsed less than 50%.

  • Aroma (non-hop odors from raw materials)
  • Bouquet (odor from fermented elements)
  • Hop nose (hop aroma of beer)

Aroma - Low hopped American beers and dark lagers and brown ales will have the greater aromatic intensities.
Hop nose - Should have a distinct or neutral hop character, and you should be able to detect it.
Negative odors should not be present.

  • Take a good sip
  • Swirl and slosh around your whole mouth
  • "Swizzle" the beer.  (This means to suck in a little bit of air through the beer in your mouth)
  • Small sip to check 4 tastes
  • Check Astringency
  • Check after-taste or tail

Taste -
- A good sip is about 1 tablespoon, 15 ml. "Swizzle’ by opening your mouth and inhaling some air. This aerates the beer and excites the olfactory at the base of the nose.
- Use the small picture of the tongue to record basic tastes IN ORDER on your tongue. Sweet, salt, sour, and bitter.
- Pass a small sip along the inside of your lower lip (to check astringency).
- One more sip to evaluate the aftertaste or tail.

  • Memorableness or "come hither appeal"

General quality - Does the beer make you want to have another?
Close your eyes. How does it make you feel?


The ‘taste’ of beer




The most important thing in learning how to evaluate beer....




Papazian, Charlie, The New Complete Joy of Homebrewing, Avon Books, New York, 1991
Eckhardt, Fred, Essentials of Beer Style, Fred Eckhardt Associates, Portland, OR 1989
Jackson, Michael, Simon & Schuster Pocket Guide to Beer, Simon & Schuster, New York, 1993
Papazian, Charlie, The Home Brewer’s Companion, Avon Books, New York, 1994
Robertson, James D. The Connoisseur’s Guide to Beer, Jameson Books, Ottowa, IL
Mosher, Randy, The Brewer’s Companion, Alephenalia Publications, Seattle, WA, 1995

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