Experts in the field of beer and brewing (and your Beer of the Month Club) have agreed on 120 individual flavor elements that may be detected in any one beer. Flavor specialists who deal with more than just beer have successfully identified hundreds more. But for you and I, 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 loss 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 malt-sweetness and hop bitterness.

MOUTHFEEL – A great word in itself, it describes 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 is not 100 percent barley malt can have excessive carbonation, like an explosion of bitter carbonic 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 experience 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? (Beers from your favorite Beer of the Month Club, Clubs of America, make great first impressions! Go ahead . . . have another!)

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Tracie Burket
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