Dave Richmond has combined his work with his love of beer for more than eight years with the Madrigrano families, and is now Global Brands Manager at Beer Capitol Distributing-Lake Country in Sussex. In his position, Dave is responsible for coordinating the marketing and merchandising programs for all the Global brands. The beer products featured in his blog are primarily those distributed but not limited to by Beer Capitol Distributing Lake Country.
As a self-proclaimed beer buff, one of the things I like best about beer is how many different types there are out there to try. Over the years, we’ve heard of wine tasting classes, events and parties; now all of theses trends are pertinent to beer as well. We can partially attribute this awesome trend to the influence of microbreweries, and the new exotic flavors that are being produced.
A beer tasting is something you can host easily at home. Stick with all varieties of one brand (for example, purchase a few different varieties of Capital beer like Amber, Island Wheat, etc. and explore the similarities and differences in taste) or explore one type of beer from several different brands (compare and contrast pale ales from Sierra Nevada, Great Lakes Brewing and Bells Brewing Company).
Here are a few things to keep in mind when planning an event like this:
- A variety of beers equals a variety of tastes.
- Have something on hand to cleanse the palate between beers. Light snacks or seltzer water work well.
- Provide small tasting cups to portion out samples. The point of a tasting is to get a small taste of several different flavors to compare and contrast.
- Encourage guests to write down the beers they like, including the tastes and ingredients that stood out to them.
I’ve learned that just like a wine tasting, there’s a bit of a science to beer tasting. The steps are very similar and are designed to help fully experience the beer. Here’s what to look for:
- Tasting starts even before you drink a drop. Give it a sniff- the aroma of a beer comes from a lot of factors (malt, type of hops, alcohol, and other spices and ingredients used during the brewing process). The smell has a strong influence over the taste of a beer. Try to distinguish any distinct flavors unique to that particular beer.
- Look at the color, clarity and the nature of the head. The malts used during the brewing process influence the color of the beer. Many beers are transparent, but some beers, such as hefeweizen, may be cloudy due to the presence of yeast making them translucent. A third variety is the opaque or near-opaque color that exists with stouts, porters and other dark colored styles. Also pay attention to the thickness and retention of the head when the beer is poured.
- Take a small sip and explore the taste characteristics. Malt, hops and yeast are common ingredients in beer. Try to distinguish those ingredients apart from any other flavors in the beer. Rate the strength of bitterness of a beer using the International Bitterness Units scale, which is used in North America by a number of brewers.
- Mouth feel
- Thickness, creaminess and carbonation are all factors to be evaluated when tasting a beer. Pay attention not only to how the beer tastes, but also how it feels in your mouth.
- Other ingredients
- Many beers on the market use fruits and spices as key ingredients in the brewing process. Each contributes unique flavors. Try to discern those flavors each individually and evaluate how combinations of certain spices react within each beer.