Day 57

Niagara College tasting lab

Niagara College tasting lab

After half a term of theory about taste, plus lessons on colour and several weeks of categorizing aromas of hops, barley, spices and yeast esters, we arrived at Sensory Evaluation to find tasting glasses waiting for us. This could only mean one thing: we’re finally going to taste beer at 8:30 in the morning. Now the hard work begins: to learn and memorize  the main styles of beer–what they look, smell, taste and feel like.

First up though, Roger Mittag took up the mid-term exam. There were a lot of sheepish looks, since the class as a whole (including your trusty correspondent) did not do very well. Oh yes, I passed, but it’s not a mark I’m proud of. With that out of the way, and a few stern looks from Roger, it was on to the tasting.

Perhaps a word about the tasting lab. Originally designed for wine tasting, obviously this space works just as well for tasting beer–no food odours, no noise, good neutral light (those white disks on the tables shine light up through your glass), and sinks for rinsing out glasses (and, in an emergency, spitting out a mouthful. Unlike wine tasting where every mouthful gets spit out, you only spit out beer when something really bad happens, like you find a bottle where the bottling-line dude forgot to rinse out the sanitizer. Beer tasters usually swallow, since the finish is one of the most important aspects of the beer experience.)

So today we started with eleven lagers representative of the major international styles: North American light lager, North American lager, German Helles, European pilsner, Vienna lager, Amber lager, Marzen, Dark lager, Black lager (Schwarzbier), Bock/Doppelbock and Rauchbier (smoked beer)

All of this was accompanied by copious notes about appearance, head retention, aroma, shades of colour, mouthfeel, impact, and finish. At the end of the term, almost half of our final mark will be based on blind tastings, where we will categorize an unknown beer by its style, and then defend why we placed the beer into that category. So the completeness of our tasting notes about each style is paramount.

We started very quietly and studiously and probably took way too long on the first three styles , which don’t have a lot of colour, aroma or flavour. By the end of the class, we had to rush a bit through the last three styles, which are far more complex.

Needless to say, although we were only pouring very small samples, perhaps an ounce per sample, the class atmosphere was decidedly less studious by the end.

Next week, it’s on to ales. I probably should practice a bit in the meantime. Where did I put my bottle opener?

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2 Comments on “Day 57”


  1. I’ll help you out a bit with the ale tasting practice as long as two of your categories are Mild Brown and Uncategorized.


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