Experts in the field of beer and brewing have agreed on more than 120 individual flavor elements that may be detected in any one beer. Flavor specialists who deal with more than just beer have successfully identified literally hundreds more. But for you and me, and the legions of other beer enthusiasts who aren’t experts but who just plain like beer, there are some general ways in which we can describe our impressions.

BALANCE — A sweet beer will have a hoppier bitterness, while light beers will be less hoppy. Light beer that is overly bitter, or sweet beer without a hop “bite,” are not in proper balance. Beers should be rated on the balance between their hop bitterness and malt-sweetness.

MOUTHFEEL — A great word in itself, it describes (you guess it!) how the beer actually feels in your mouth. It’s the sensation the body of the beer leaves – lightness or fullness.

CARBONATION — Take away the bubbles, and you’ve taken away the beer! Beer that’s not 100 percent barley malt can have excessive carbonation, like an explosion of bitter carbolic bite in your mouth. In a highly carbonated brew, as soon as the bubbles go flat, so does the taste. The best you can hope for are small creamy bubbles that gently tingle your mouth.

AFTERTASTE — If you feel the urge to spit after drinking a beer, that’s a very strong indication that the aftertaste is way too strong! A great beer with a bitter aftertaste is no bargain. The aftertaste should leave you wanting to take another drink.

OVERALL IMPRESSION — Did you enjoy it for its flavor, or just for its alcoholic content? Would you drink that beer again? Do you want another right now? (Your favorite Beer of the Month Club features beers that make great impressions! Of course you want another right now!!)

ASK MR. BEERHEAD: DANIEL BRIESON OF DOVER, MASSACHUSETTS ASKS: “Temperature control of beer during maturation is vital. What did they do in ‘the old days’ before refrigeration?”

Samuel Whitbread, a leader in the field of brewing porter in Britain back in 1742, was at the forefront of just that . . . controlling the temperature while the beer matured. He invested in the new technologies becoming available at that time, including steam engines, mechanical pumps, power rakes for stirring the mash and thermometers. He stored his porter in vast underground cisterns, the largest could hold 3,800 barrels! The cisterns were cooled by internal pipes through which cold water was pumped, keeping the brew cool during the hottest of summer conditions.

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Tracie Burket
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