Sight

Make yourself comfortable in a well-lit room. Pour your beer into a glass and take a good, long look. Describe what you see. Is it clear or cloudy? Does the foam on the head stick around or quickly dissipate? Is that foam “rocky” or “fluffy” and how would you describe its color? Does the foam leave “lace” on the glass as you sip the beer? And the bubbles? Tight and champagne-like or larger and more bulbous? Finally, color: Use as many words as you want to describe it.

Visual Descriptors

Color

honey, caramel, russet red, brown, root beer, amber, chestnut, dark red, apricot, orange, black, burnt auburn, garnet, ruby, copper, deep gold

Clarity

brilliant, hazy, cloudy, turbid, opaque, clear, crystal, bright, dull

Head

persistent, rocky, large, fluffy, dissipating, lingering, white, off white, tan, frothy, delicate

Smell

Did you know the sense of smell accounts for about 80% of flavor perception? Okay, here we go: Let your freshly-poured glass of beer breathe for a few moments. Now, give it a few brief sniffs. Swirl the glass a bit—like you’ve seen wine-buffs do—and have another whiff. Look past the obvious “smells like beer” responses. What other aromas are you getting? Maybe toasted malts, piney hops, maybe ester-and-phenol-producing yeast? Fruit? Spices?

Aroma Descriptors

Basic

grainy, sweet, corn-like, hay, straw, graham cracker, bicuity, caramel, toast, coffee, espresso, burnt, alcohol, tobacco, gunpowder, leather, pine, fresh cut grass

Dark Fruit

raisins, currant, plum, dates, prunes, figs, blackberry, blueberry

Light Fruit

banana, pineapple, apricot, pear, apple, nectarine, peach, mango, prickly pear

Citrus

lemon, lime, orange, tangerine, clementine, grapefruit, Curaçao orange peel, lemon zest

Other Acidic

metallic, vinegar, copper, cidery, champagne-like, astringent, chlorine

Spices/Yeast/Etc

white pepper, clove, anise, licorice, smoked bacon, fatty, nutty, butterscotch, vanilla, earthy, fresh bread, saddle, musty, barnyard

Taste

Now that you have visually inspected your beer and described its aroma, you can engage in tasting. Remember that tasting is about the transition of flavors from the first sip contact through the finish. Allow the beer to coat the inside of your mouth. Allow the liquid to run the full gamut of your tongue and hit all those taste bud areas, importantly, the bitterness receptors at the back of the tongue. Now, describe the length, intensity and quality of the finish.

Flavor Descriptors

Flavors

roasted, bready, bitter, sweet, spicy, fruity, chocolate, caramel, toffee, coffee, malty, tart, subtle, woodsy, earthy, sulfuric

Intensity

assertive, mild, bold, balanced, robust, intense, metallic, harsh, complex, delicate, refined, hearty

Transition

rolls into…, evolves into…, dissipates to reveal…, displays..., underlying…, suggests hints of…, fades to…

Finish

dry, fruity, sweet, alcoholic, warming, bitter, acidic, buttery, wet, quenching, lingering

Touch

One critical component of the beer tasting process is the sense of touch. Or rather, think “mouthfeel.” After taking a sip of beer, consider carefully how it feels in your mouth. Is it rich and viscous, or soft and delicate? Is it full bodied, medium bodied, or light bodied? Is the carbonation subtly sparkling or bright and prickly? Does the finish have a quenching effect, or does it dry your palate?

Feel Descriptors

Mouthfeel

smooth, silky, velvety, prickly, tingly, creamy, warming, viscous, hot, astringent, oily

Carbonation

spritzy, champagne-like, prickly, round, creamy, light, gassy, sharp, delicate

Body

full, heavy, dense, viscous, robust, medium, balanced, medium-light, light, delicate, wispy