This Scumbag

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Musician, engineer/producer and former employee at Beer Ritz in Leeds. Enthusiast of extreme metal and beer, which happily go extremely well together. Follow @BenCorkhill

Monday, 11 July 2011

Beer Tasting...?

I am, by rights, a serious beer drinker. I mean this in the sense that I, like many others, drink more often than not for the sociability, the relaxation, the temporary loss of care for life's trivial pursuits, and of course for the taste of a good beer. This hasn't always been the case - who can honestly say that taste has been the number one priority since the very beginning of their drinking careers? Of course we used to use our fake ID's to buy 24 crates of Castlemaine XXXX, and of course we used to raid our parents' drinks cabinets for some naive drunken experience the moment they turned their backs. But these experiences, for me at least, were lessons in drinking, and eventually I grew up and into the mindset of simply enjoying a nice night with friends while getting suitably intoxicated, but not hospitalised. Some people, unfortunately, have still not learnt these lessons as you well know. But I digress - this piece is about drinking beer for pleasure.

As I mentioned before, I consider myself quite a competent beer drinker. But does this mean I am good at tasting beer? I personally don't think so. Don't get me wrong, I know what makes a good beer and could happily use recommendations to steer someone with less knowledge in the right direction and, as part of my job, I do this on a regular basis. However, articulating what I am tasting has never been my forte. Some people may, at this point, accuse me of having a wooden palette (re: Zak Avery's recent online war of words with one particular 'beer elitist'); however, I simply put it down to inexperience and the fact that only recently have I started to 'taste' beer (note that I am attempting to make a clear distinction between beer drinking and beer tasting here!). Yes, I can tell you what a beer tastes like to a certain extent, but I can't specifically pick out a hint of gooseberry because I have never tasted gooseberry. Nor can I pick up on subtle hints of orange peel, as I have never thought to myself that licking an orange peel would be a reasonable thing to do. Nor can I clarify what particular hops from a particular part of wherever are used in the beer, as I haven't sat down and tasted every single hop.

I suppose my main point is that beer tasting, and articulating what I am tasting, is something which I am developing a stronger interest in. Working at Beer Ritz is certainly an enormous benefit, as my colleagues are better versed in this subject than I, and are seemingly more than happy to offer pointers on how to hone my palette to different flavours. At the end of the day, I can certainly give you my opinion and recommendations on beers, but it may take some time before I can offer a detailed analysis. So join me, if you wish, on my tasting voyage across a sea of beer on the good ship Discovery. Feel free to offer your thoughts on my beer-related posts; but bear in mind that friendly encouragement is far better received than elitist attacks. Besides, "beer is for everyone… right?"

Happy drinking!


  1. Really relevant past this.

    I totally agree with what you are saying. getting down into words what you taste, smell and experience from a beer is really hard.

    I also think it is important to use language that people can relate to when describing a beer tasting. There is nothing worse than reading a review which uses a vocabulary that is so 'out-there' in terms of reference points thus resulting in a list of unfathomable adjectives.

    Of course beer is for everyone and I tip my hat to anyone who is honest about what they have tasted and uses language that can be openly. interpreted.

    Great post

  2. Really appreciate the comment! I just read your articles about the US/UK relationship and the imitation trend - definitely two burning issues at the moment. The latter even goes on between British brewers; I mean, how many black IPA's and citra IPA's do we need at once?! ;-)

  3. well at least black IPAs can have varied hops and malt bills, citra IPAs will always taste of citra!
    I know what you mean about elitist beer writing being a turnoff, leave that stuff in the wine world!