15 Jun 2018


It’s June and mid-winter is the absolute best time to brush up on those craft beer tasting skills, so that when summer rolls around, you’re ready to go. But what are the ins and outs of beer tasting? The etiquette of swirling and spitting if you will. These are important factors when you visit a craft beer festival or craft beer tasting room, you don’t want to be a complete novice. JD will have you tasting brewski like a pro, beer-speak and all.

Beer has been rocking our world since practically the dawn of man. Since roughly 7000 B.C. when the first strange concoction of bread, water and wild yeast turned out to be a bubbly, intoxicating taste sensation with a kick, brewers of this golden elixir have strived to better their brew. No matter the season or the occasion, the popularity of beer has never waned. These days you can hardly swing a cat without hitting a barrel filled to the brim with one craft beer or another. Charles Glass would no doubt be very nervous if he were still around, as beer snobbery dictates that craft beer is in and mass-produced beer is out.

According to News 10, here’s what to look out for when you’re swilling a mouthful of beer. Appearance:What does the beer look like? Is it clear or hazy? Does it have a thick white head, or a wisp of foam? Does it retain that head, and if so, should it? Aroma:What does the beer smell like? Is it sweet, spicy, floral, citrusy, chocolaty or roasted smelling. Mouthfeel:How does it feel in your mouth? Is it thick or light? Is it smooth and creamy or prickly with carbonation? Overall Impression:What’s your opinion of the beer? Did it hold up to the standard of the beer? Did some delicious element make it stand out in its category? Did a bad element make it stand out for reasons to the contrary?

Granted, you’re not going to become an overnight beer tasting sensation just because you know what to look for. It takes time and patience and plenty of practice to develop an educated beer pallet. When you have the ‘what to look for’ down pat, then be sure to learn your ‘ale’ (beer) speak. According to the folks at,there are various alternatives quite a few words in this vocabulary. Here are a few for you to chew on.

Words to describe malt flavors: Malty, biscuity, breadlike, grainy, rich, deep, roasty, cereal, cookie-like, coffeeish, caramelly, toffee-like, molasses-like, malt complexity, smoky, sweet, autumnal, burnt cream, scalded milk, oatmeal, rustic, layered.

Words to describe hop flavor and bitterness: Piney, citrusy, grapefruity, earthy, musty, spicy, sharp, bright, fresh, herbal, zippy, lemony, newly-mown lawn, aromatic, floral, springlike, brilliant, sprucelike, juniper-like, minty, pungent, elegant, grassy.

Words to describe fermentation flavors deriving from yeast: Fresh-baked bread, clovelike, bubblegum, yeasty, Belgiany, aromatic, tropical, subtle, fruity, clean, banana-like (and for some sour or extreme beers) horseblankety (yum), earthy, musty.

Words to describe conditioning (carbonation): Soft, effervescent, spritzy, sparkling, zippy, pinpoint, bubbly, gentle, low carbonation, highly carbonated.

Words to describe body & mouthfeel: Rich, full, light, slick, creamy, oily, heavy, velvety, sweet, dry, thick, thin.

Words to describe warm ethanol (alcohol) flavors from strong beer: Warm finish, heat, vodka, esters, pungent, strength.



Check out our SA Music Events page. Keep it casual and go like a pro, most beer tastings these days are pretty casual affairs, so you generally don’t need to worry about looking a certain way to fit in. That said, some tastings go for a swankier vibe, so it’s a good idea to check the event website ahead of time to get a feel for the style.

To maximise your fun, wear comfortable shoes. Have on-the-body storage. Wear something with pockets to avoid losing your phone, keys and other essentials while your hands are full. Avoid white, there is always an accident waiting to happen when an event involves drinking. Consider matching with your group. A lot of groups of friends wear matching hats or fun accessories so they can find each other in a crowd. They always seem to be having the best time.