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How to hold a beer tasting.

For some aficionados the best thing about beer is its aroma, that indescribably rich blend of malt and hops. Others opt for its cool, refreshing flavor. For some, the peak experience comes from just looking at a beer's invigorating bubbles. Bring all these lovers of brew together and you have the constituents needed for a beer tasting party.

How do you hold a beer tasting?

Invite eight to 12 people, but no more than your space allows. Each guest should have enough room to line up the beers to sample, then to gather and talk about what they've tasted.

Plan on presenting 10 different beers, pouring two or three ounces of each type per person. Serve the beer on a white background to better observe the color of the brew. Beer should also be served chilled: 451 [degrees] F for lager beers and 50 [degrees] F for ales.

The ideal glass for beer tasting is a tall, slender Pilsner glass. But wine glasses are fine, too. If possible, set up one glass for every beer per taster. If not, arrange for tasters to rinse their glasses between samplings.

Serve breads and unsalted crackers during the tasting so your guests can clear their palate between beers. And provide each guest with paper and pencil to make notes about their impressions.

What type of beer should you serve?

It's a good idea to select one beer, other than those in the tasting group, to serve as a control. Choose the one you most enjoy. Savoring the other beers against your personal standard of pleasure gives you a solid basis for judging.

Follow a theme. For example, choose all domestically brewed beers, ranging from budget brands (Piels, Carling Black Label, Ballantine) and middle-priced brews (Budweiser, Miller High Life) to super premium beers (Lowenbrau, Michelob) and those produced by microbreweries (Anchor Steam, New Amsterdam, Samuel Adams). Or, choose all European brands such as Warzburger Hofbrau and Beck's from Germany; Heineken from Holland; Watneys and Bass Pale Ale from England; or Guinness Gold from Ireland and Carlsberg from Denmark.

Another idea is to combine European beers with other imports such as Red Stripe from Jamaica; Asahi, Kirin and Sapporo Draft from Japan; Tsingtao from China; Tecate, Corona and Dos Equis from Mexico; Club from Ghana; and Gulder and Harp from Nigeria.

Or, compare different styles of beers no matter their country of origin. Start with a crisp, simple, light beer and move on to light- to medium-bodied beers. Follow up with medium-bodied, dry beers and fuller styles. Go on to an ale (Bass Pale Ale, Whitbread Ale) which is tangier and yeastier, then try a porter beer (Samuel Smith, Anchor Porter), which is full-bodied, dark brown and bittersweet in flavor. Finish up with a stout (Guinness Stout Murphy's Stout), which is very rich, dark, fuller and more bitter than a porter.

What's the best way to taste beer?

Simply by using your senses of:

Sight. Observe the color, clarity and "beads" (small bubbles) that rise from the bottom of the glass, and the foam made at the top.

Smell. Look for the fresh, earthy quality that comes from the malted barley combined with the bitter, pronounced aroma of the hops.

Taste. Take a small sip and roll it around your mouth. Feel the lightness or fullness of the beer - the more barley, the fuller and more powerful the taste. The higher the quality of the hops used, the more flavorful the taste. Consider the aftertaste as well.

Base your overall impression of each beer on the color, aroma, taste, aftertaste and, most of all, on the total enjoyment that the sum of these parts gives you. Skoal!
COPYRIGHT 1993 Earl G. Graves Publishing Co., Inc.
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Author:Fried, Eunice
Publication:Black Enterprise
Date:Aug 1, 1993
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