With the Great American Beer Festival in town and everyone talking about beer, describing a brew as "good" or just saying "I like it" no longer feels like enough. That's why an oversold crowd of sixty or so swillers packed the Rackhouse Pub for yesterday's Beer Judge School.
For those who aren't ready to debate whether "skunky" is a legitimate description of beer, here are four easy ways to become a better beer-drinker:
1) Press your tongue to the top of your palette: Don't have a great sense of taste? Can't figure out where your drinking buddies are getting those green apple notes from? Pressing your beer-soaked tongue to the roof of your mouth will allow you to taste more.
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2) Sniff your beer: According to Gwen Conley, quality assurance and brewing operations director of Port Brewing and the Lost Abbey, 80 to 90 percent of what we think of as taste is actually smell. She recommends short sniffs so that your snout doesn't get worn out as quickly. If you're presented with an especially unappetizing beer, you don't want to inhale too deeply, either.
3) And sniff your armpit: When your nose does get worn out, Conley suggests that you sniff an armpit. Your own, which has a smell that's neutral to you.
4) Use your right brain, not your left: While there's nothing empirically wrong with describing beer as "good" or "bad," what's the fun in that? Does the beer remind you of a Caribbean vacation? Is it because there are tropical fruit notes? Push yourself to really describe a beer. (And just FYI, those fruity flavors are the result of a detectable amount of ester which is produced by yeast.)