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The Beer Tasting Guide

Judging Beers
Judging the taste of real ale doesn't require any special ability; all that is required is an open mind, an interest in beer and a keenness to share your ideas with others.

Tasting conditions
Find a pub that generally serves a decent pint of ale, always use a standard pint or half pint glass. Avoid sitting in a smokey part of the pub as this can often hinder the ability to discern between different aromas.

Beer Temperature
There is a lot of rubbish talked about beer temperature. As a self-professed expert I recommend that the beer should be at 13 degrees Centigrade. Never judge beer below 11 degrees as the temperature masks aroma and flavour. I have often found that a cold pint will improve its aroma and flavour if you keep you hands around the glass for a few minutes.

If you are trying to review a few beers in one session don't dive in at the deep end with an 8% abv. The likely hood is that you just won't taste a light beer after this. Always work your way up in strength, as this is normally an indication of the amount of fermentable material in the beer.

How many beers
This is a tricky one. With a fresh palate you should be able to sample at least 3 to 4 ales at a time. Don't order pint after pint or imagine you can tell me how good scruttocks old illegible was after 10 pints. Sample half pints at a time. I often buy 2 or 3 halves and test for aroma before drinking anything. If you are drinking pints only bother rating the first couple as it all begins to become more confusing. This is especially true at beer festivals. If you do stumble across a fabulous pint go back and review it the next day.

I always take a bit of paper with me although I sometimes forget my pen. You need to make notes on each of the beers you have tried. Make sure you list the Brewery, the beers name and the ABV before you start. I normally give a brief description of colour first as this gives a good indication of the types of malt used. Don't be put off with slightly cloudy beer, as this is often no indication of how good the beer actually is. Swill the beer around your glass to relesae the aroma, next let the beer flow over your tounge, try to detect all the bitter, sweet, salt and fruity acid tones. I like to set some standards. Greene King's Abbott Ale for instance I give a 6 out of 10. For a 5% ale it should have plenty of aroma and taste and to be fair it does. However there are light ales of just 3.5 that absolutely burst with aroma and flavour, which deserve a higher score. There are other ales with very low aromas and taste that deserve much lower scores. I don't believe we should give 10 out of 10 for anything as this is a beer we once had but unfortunately is was never quite as good the second time around. Be objective; remember not to score a beer badly just because of its style. I find that with experience you can judge bitters, milds, porters etc on an equal footing.

As a reviewer you have artistic license to say what you think about a beer. Don't be afraid of using flowery terminology in your descriptions. I will not tolerate unneccessary offensive language but other that that you can say what you like. Your status will improve as you review more beers starting as a pint and working your way to other classified catagories.

Hopefully this guide will help you when writing your reviews. I think the important thing is to try to enjoy every pint.

Nick Pugh