A small guide on reviewing and tasting craft beers besides the mass market

tasting craft beers

When the masses get it wrong.

Sometimes I read the reviews at Ratebeers. Most of those „reviews“ are no reviews to me. They are tweets. From my perspective you can‘t describe the character of a beer in 160 characters. It is simplay not enough. And it is not fair. Not fair for the beer and the brewer. They deserve better than that. Those 160 characters is not a review it is an impression. A review is more soroly crafted – crafted in the way a craft beer is crafted. And that is what a craft beer deserves: respect.

1. The setting

Tasting beer can‘t be done at any place or at any time. You need the right setting. First of all make sure that you have no distractive other flavours and smells around you. Reviewing a beer while eating something is definitely not the best. If you go over to Ratebeer you will find „reviews“ that are full of statements like: „Roasted malt, berries, sweetness, tobacco, chewing gum and chocolate in aroma.“. From that I get that the reviewer is either a smoker or sitting in a room in which someone was smoking. He might have eaten a chewing gum before, but he has definitely consumed the beer while eating something. 

Setting is basically everything. No distraction from the beer you are going to taste

2. One beer at a time

When I was at a beer festival some time ago I saw many people having one beer after another, while at the same time giving marks at a mobile app of a reviewing website.

Reviewing is pleasure. You don‘t swallow one after the other without a break. There is no championship in who has drunken the most beers on this planet (I know there is but reviewing is not about the most). At least you reset your taste buds between two beers or take some time off otherwise you won‘t be able to distinguish the small differences after the 3rd beer.

3. Knowing the odds

When you taste beers you should know the off-flavours that can occur in beer. And you should be able to detect the slightest amount of them. One of the off-flavours is diacetyl, it smells like butter.

I came across many breweries that served diacetyl containing beer. What the customer doesn‘t understand, know or smell can‘t be wrong. If you think of your self as professional beer taster you should be able to dected the off-flavours easily.

4. Style vs. Quality

Some beers fall in categories while others won‘t. If I‘m tasting a beer that calls itself Pils it is tasted in accordance what a Pils should be like. If that beer is still a decent beer but is more a Helles than a Pils then I review it as what it is and not what it claims to be. Decent beers can still get good reviewes with the note that it doesn‘t fit the claimed style.

5. Stay with the flavours

Back in the 1970s some chemists created flavour wheels. Those wheels basically describe what flavours can occur and how they are related to each other. There are flavour wheels especially crafted for beer. I suggest to use them. With help of those wheels statements like „caramlezid steak with chocolated fudge“ will be hopefully history. 

6. Temperature

Different beer types need different temperatures. Make sure the beer your are tasting is in the right temperature range. Otherwise the flavours they poses won‘t be able to be tasted and smelled.

Dominik Jais's picture