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Introduction to Beer Rating


By Alexis

Some of you might have noticed that beertutor.com has a beer rating system. Although fairly simple, you can make this an interesting experience by building yourself a tasting chart.

To drink beer, one doesnít need a lot. A mouth, a beer, and a few seconds will do the trick. To RATE beer, however, a more complex set of elements are required, namely a tongue, a mouth, a beer, proper glassware, appropriate time and a brain to analyze throughout the process.

Beer rating is an art in which one can spend a lot of time. It consists of analyzing the beer to find its characteristics and to associate those to your appreciation. To do so, it is a wide practice to divide the beerís properties into 5 major properties: Appearance, Aroma, Flavor, Palate, and an Overall Impression.

I suggest that you could build yourself your own rating chart by giving a score on five for every characteristic and then you can do an average of those characteristics and enter your rating on the site.

Before you taste
Before you pour your beer, special attention needs to be taken to the following. You need to make sure you are ready to taste beer. Having a cold or having just finished eating spiced chilli are conditions that might disturb your tasting skills. You need to make sure that the beer is at its recommended tasting temperature. A frozen beer will prevent the malt and hops aromas from freely flowing. Also, I recommend you pour the beer in an appropriate glass. Most beers will distribute their aromas appropriately if put in a proper glass. If you donít have the beerís original glass (which makes sense) try picking one that resembles it or look for a glass that is appropriate for this style of beer.

Now you may pour the beer, but donít drink it yet!

Appearance
In this category, you are to judge if the beer is inviting by itís looks. You have to be attentive to the head (generous, subtle, sparce, etc), to the color (yellow, amber, orange, gold, dark, etc), and to the body (opaque, transparent, muddy, hazy). The beerís appearance is an important factor to your appreciation of the product but it shouldnít be the main factor as some strong beers (particularly barley wines) are muddy and not always very inviting. Therefore, appearance does not always reflect how delicious a beer can be.

Aroma
This is perhaps the hardest part to evaluate. What does the beer smell like? It can be really hard to answer that question when youíre in a pub with a lot of smokers. Some beers have really subtle aromas and others are real brutes. If you are having a hard time smelling the beer, take a small sip and make it move throughout your mouth using your tongue. This way the aromas will reach your nose from the inside. At this point, you are to determine if the beer is malty (coffee, roast, cookie, bread, caramel, etc) and/or hoppy (grapefruit, citrus, flowery, pine, etc). You are also to check for defects in the beerís aroma such as: rotten eggs, skunk, dust, solvent, medicine, bandage, sour milk, vinegar, etc. It is also possible to detect some goodies as a lot of breweries put special ingredients nowadays such as: coriander, toffee, cassis, port, butter, vanilla, maple syrup, allspice, licorice, anise, etc. You can adjust your appreciation of the aroma as you are drinking the beer. A strong maple syrup aroma in the beginning might end up as a strong port-like delight in the finish.

Palate
At this point, you can take your first mouthful. The palate focuses on the beerís texture and general feel. As your first mouthful enters your mouth, judge the bodyís consistency (light as a pilsener or full as an imperial stout). Is the beer creamy, thin, oily, etc. You should also take a look at the carbonation: is it flat or fizzy. You should place a special attention to the beerís feel: does if feel metallic, smooth, watery, consistent, etc. In short, we could say that the palate is the point where you will ask yourself if the beer you taste is like a party in your mouth.

Flavor
At this point, you judge of the complexity of the beer. Has it got many flavors or just a few. Are the tastes well balanced or one-dimensional. How is the taste? Bitter? Sweet? Sour? How intense are those flavors? And finally, how does the beer evolve? Does the bitterness vanish right away or does it stay for a while? How is the duration? How is the finish?

Overall Impression
What general impression does the beer make on you? Was it worth your money? You can also compare your results to a beer style reference to determine conformity to the style. Sometimes, a beer will not please me until I find that it is a fine example of a style that I do not like. In those cases, I find it hard to give a bad rating because my personal taste should not diminish something that I cannot fully appreciate. Giving an overall rating will allow you to adjust your score. Sometimes a beerís appearance might be bad, itís palate, aroma and flavor will seem off but you will love it anyhow. In this case, the overall impression score will adjust this issue.

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