Serious beer aficionados would advocate the use of the ‘proper’ glass for each beer style. A Pilsner glass should be used when tasting a Czech Pilsner; a Belgian bowl glass should be used for the incredible Belgian brews… you get the idea.
The appropriate glass can make a huge difference in the way the beer tastes; however, sometimes the beer ‘geek’ has to be put aside for logistical reasons. Barring Dixie cups, you may use any type of glass for your beer tasting. Clear glass is best, but clear, hard plastic will do in a pinch. If the purist in you can’t condone plastic ware, never fear: glassware can be rented. At many party rental places, you can pick them up clean and drop them off dirty – talk about a win-win situation.
If you do decide to rent, one glass that is particularly suited for beer tasting is the wine tasting glass. It allows about a three-ounce pour, which is perfect for wine or beer, and prevents guests from over-pouring. Tasting-sized stems also eliminate the ‘lone glass syndrome’: At any party you always find sad, abandoned glasses that have still have beverages in them, but are unclaimed by their person. A smaller sized glass reduces the amount of beer that can be so tragically wasted.
Okay, so we have the guests, the beer, and the glasses. Now the fun begins – it’s time to taste. Wait a minute! First you have to pour the beer into the glass.
Everyone has seen a bartender tilt the glass as they pull the beer from the tap. Why? Tilting the glass allows the beer to pour smoothly and not be overwhelmed by carbonation. Like soda pop, Champagne, or any other carbonated beverage, beer will fizz up and overflow with almost nothing in the glass. Tilting the glass, and the bottle you’re pouring from, prevents the overflow of the carbonation. For example, with Champagne the rule is to ‘pop’ the cork with the bottle at a 45 degree angle – that way it doesn’t fizz up and onto the floor. Try it the next time you open a beer, bottle of pop, or carbonated water, and you’ll be pouring like a pro.
Use the same tasting process for beer as with wine tasting to savor each step. Swirl your beer a little in the glass to bring forth the aromas (not too much – remember the carbonation), then smell the beer.
Nearly 90 % or more of what we perceive as ‘tastes’ are actually smells or aromas. The trained human nose can detect over 1000 distinctive smells, whereas the tongue has only five different sensory zones: bitter, sweet, salty, sour, and savory. Don’t believe it? Try a little experiment at home with cinnamon – by the way, a little goes a LONG way, so go lightly. Smell a little cinnamon and put a touch on your tongue. Rinse with coffee, pop, or lemon water. Now, hold your nose and do the same experiment again. Do you taste cinnamon? Or do you only detect texture and chalkiness? Certainly not cinnamon! Taking a moment to smell your food and beverages can add layers of complexity to the 'taste'.