The beer essentials

By Beth Park

Beer drinking is simple, isn't it?

It's something you do instinctively - swallow and repeat as desired. But how often do you blindly guzzle rather than slowly savouring your chosen brew? A few tips on how to truly appreciate a beer may help to enhance your next beer-drinking experience - and make you think twice about simply guzzling down that chilled ale.

Glass is class

Always use squeaky clean glassware - beer is best when poured into a glass that allows you to see its colour, clarity and head. The correct glass also releases more of the beer's aroma.

The best glass for beer appreciation is actually a wine glass - oh, the bitter irony!

Warm it up

As beer warms up (6C-8C) its flavours are intensified. Some beers need to warm up more than others. Typically stouts and darks are best at 12C-16C.

Take it easy

Your palate can quickly become saturated after a few swills, so four to eight samples is plenty. Start with lighter styles and work your way towards stronger, darker beers.

Eye it Up

Check out the colour, which is mostly determined by the type of grain or malted barley used.

Pale, quick-dried malts are usually used for lighter styles of beer; dark, roasted malts are predominantly used for darker beers and stouts.

Most beers should be relatively clear with no sediment or floaties - unless you're drinking bottle-conditioned or wheat beers, or perhaps your uncle's dodgy home brew.

Get a-head

Foam is produced by a beer's CO2 and proteins from the barley, with hops, help to stabilise the head.

A one- to two-finger-width of foam provides visual appeal and "seals" the beer, enhancing its aromas.

The nose knows

Flavour is largely based on aroma and there are about 1500 different flavours in beer. To get the best whiff, swirl and sniff, moving the glass in circles. It's easiest to describe what you're smelling by associating it with something you're familiar with such as malt biscuits, an espresso coffee or freshly mown grass ...

Tickling the tastebuds

When you finally sip the beer, swill it around your mouth and over your tongue to cover your taste buds. In beer malt, sweetness is detected at the tip of the tongue, sour, fruity acidity along the sides of the tongue and hop bitterness and malt astringency at the back of the tongue.

To spit or not to spit?

Why waste a good beer by spitting it out? Unlike wine tasters, beer connoisseurs think that is a dreadful sacrilege. When it comes to enjoying good beer in moderation, the key - and most important aspect - is to sit back and enjoy.

- Herald on Sunday

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