Do you feel left out at parties when the resident beer geek starts sharing his wisdom using terms like SRM, IBU, and specific gravity? He describes a beer using words like toffee notes, summit hops, and yeasty. The crowd hangs on his every word. Ladies love him and guys want to be him. He has beer acumen… ale charisma… lager chutzpa. He’s got it. You want it. Or, ultimately, you just want to be able to speak “more edumacatedly” about beer. Your pastime has developed from fun, to a hobby, and now to an obsession.
Tasting, enjoying, and describing beer is like studying any art form. You can’t pick the concert violinist who’s slightly off pitch out of the entire orchestra unless you’ve got a trained ear. A sculpture museum just isn’t fun, unless you know a little something about sculpture and the process. Even a baseball game requires some basic foreknowledge if you plan to fully enjoy it.
Do not fret my friends. Follow this easy step guide to beer knowledge freedom.
Step 1: Drink with people who know and love beer!
Beer buddies who are serious about beer will get you further than any self directed study. Host a beer tasting party. Usually they’ll bring new and exciting beers to try and everyone is focused on the task at hand. Once someone tries a beer and says they taste banana bread, you are much more likely to pick up that flavor. Eventually your brain makes the connections. Next time you taste that flavor, you are more likely to recognize it. Yeah, it’s called learning.
Step 2: Think before you drink!
This isn’t an ad against drunk driving (although I am against that.) What I mean is you can’t just slam down the beer like a college frat boy. Yes, beer should be enjoyed and not feel like homework. But if you want to learn about it you need to put in some effort on the front end. Read the freaking label. What does the brewer say about the beer? Do they list the different hops or malts involved? What’s the alcohol content? Where is the brewery and what style is this? Learning these basics will help you a long way on your quest.
Step 3: Read about beer!
I subscribe to at least one beer magazine at a time. Currently I’m reading “Draft” magazine and I really like it. They give you insights and sneak peaks into upcoming products, and what’s hot now. I also enjoy reading about the brewing process as I attempt my home brews. This gives you the more technical aspect of beer. I also highly recommend you join and continue to read a blog. BeerforwardKC for instance. And how about following the blog and posting the occasional comment instead of just voyeuring all the time? Just sayin.
Step 4: Put the CAT to use.
This acronym helps you break down the components of a beer. There are layers upon layers within these categories, but this is where you want to begin. Whenever you describe a beer, describe these three components of the beer: Color, Aroma, and Taste. And don’t just mail it in. Uhh.. yellow, smells like beer and taste likes beer. That’s not gonna cut it anymore. Time to grow up. Use more distinct descriptors, like you would when writing poetry. Huh!? Yeah, I said poetry. This is an art form after all and you’ll sound smarter.
Color words can be like – honey, caramel, russet red, root beer, amber, chestnut, deep red, apricot, orange, burnt auburn, garnet, ruby, copper wire, and deep gold.
Aroma could be described as - grainy, corn-like, hay, straw, graham cracker, biscuity, caramel, toast, espresso, burnt, tobacco, gunpowder, leather, pine, or fresh cut grass.
Taste expresses itself as - roasted, bready, bitter herb, candy sweet, spicy, fruity, chocolate, caramel, toffee, coffee bean, malty, tart, subtle, woodsy, earthy, warming, hearty, or even sulfuric.
Voila! You’re now the guy everybody texts when they’re at the beer store and want to impress someone. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
“Don’t Hassel the Hops” –David Hasselhopp