Wayne Fullmer : The science behind the taste of your beer

When you drink a beer and no matter what type of beer that you drink. There are three steps to the tasting process that exist.

  1. Sight
  2. Smell
  3. Touch

Obviously, the sight of the beer is one that everybody comments on when they first drink a beer. Whether that be a Schwarzbier, a dark lager from Germany or a Irish Red Ale. It is a major factor that people judge beer, when they drink it.
When people smell the beer that they want to drink you can even figure out what type of hops that was used in the beer if you know what you are looking for in the drink. For example if you smell a pine flavor and grapefruit smell in your beer then you most likely have a beer that uses American aroma hops such as Cascade or Simcoe.
However, if you have a beer that smells spicy, earthy and floral then you most like have a beer that uses European hops such as Hallertau, Saaz or Tettnang. When you taste your beer the final step in the tasting process is the touch of the beer when it hits your tongue.
When your beer does hit your tongue there are five basic tastes that can be detected.

  1. Sweet
  2. Salty
  3. Sour
  4. Bitter
  5. Umami

Though you will rarely taste a extremely sweet beer, they are out in brewing world. The brewer has worked to put a slight sweet taste to the beer to give the beer a good balance to the overall flavor of the beer. The same goes with Salty, it is very rare to see a beer that emphasizes salt; however, yes they are out in the beer world.
The next two basic tastes are well known to the beer world Sour and Bitter and probably rate articles of their own. Umami is a new term to the culinary and food world, first wrote about in 1996 and it is still really being argued if it really exists or not (See the video above). Bitterness is the sense that people are the most sensitive to and it is the most difficult quality in beer to deal with according to experts when you are pairing beer with food.
So, what are some good beer and food pairings – Try pairing a slow roasted chicken with a Oktoberfest or a Vienna Lager and try pairing a Penne Alfredo with a Belgian Pale Ale. One thing that you do have to worry about when you pair beer and food is the flavor that can be found in both of them.
Such as,

  • Chocolate
  • Nutty
  • Toasted
  • Fruity
  • Caramel

When you pair beer and food and you have to much of one of the above qualities, then your flavor is most likely going to change. So before you say you do not like a particular beer then it is best to avoid soda, coffee, tea and cigarettes about 15 minutes before you give your final opinion on the beer. Enjoy and drink safe.

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