RateBeer Weekly Magazine > Craft Beer Introduction
A Guide to Rating Beer
OL JUNTANíS SIMPLE GUIDE TO RATING YOUR FIRST BEER
November 7, 2002
How to rate beer depends to some extent on why you want to rate beer. Aside from people who drink beer mainly to get drunk, most beer drinkers will usually drink beer they like. As soon as you start to do that you are effectively rating beer. Most beer drinkers tend to try a few beers and then stick to their favourites, but more and more people are now trying a wider range of styles and imports. Once youíve tasted more than about 20 different beers your ability to remember if Nottingham Pale Ale was better or worse than Robin Hoodís Bitter becomes more and more difficult. Tasting beers in a consistent way and keeping some sort of record of what you thought of those beers is fun, useful in making future purchases and to be able to recommend good beer to mates.
On RateBeer, you allocate points for specific features such as appearance, aroma, palate and flavour, as well as a score for overall impression, the components of which are left to the discretion of the individual rater. The Ratebeer database will keep track of all of your beers and the scores youíve given them.
Now we can look at ďhow to rate beerĒ. Firstly, there is no one or right way to rate beer. I will describe how I do it and you can decide for your self which parts of the rating process you might wish to try and/or use.
Firstly, I never rate a beer direct from a can or a bottle, only a clean glass. Of course having the exact glass recommended by the brewery is ideal but when I donít have one, I substitute based on style: a standard pint pub glass for lagers, stouts and ales; a ďchalice likeĒ glass for Belgian ales, and flutes or champagne glasses for lambic beers.
Make sure your beer is at the correct temperature. This does not mean ďalmost frozenĒ. People who drink near to frozen beer (e.g. many Australians) donít realize that your nose and tongue do not work well at these temperatures Ė or maybe the beer they are drinking is so bad they are doing this deliberately! Cellar temperature is often recommended, but I like to cool my beers a few degrees colder than the recommended temperature so that by the time itís in the glass and Iíve made my couple of minutes worth of initial observations itís ready to taste. Freezing your glass is not recommended as it freezes water out from the beer and can substantially alter its flavour.
Finally I like to have my bottle opener, pen and notebook handy (being a super nerdy beer rater, I also sometimes use a thermometer as well!). My preference is to rate in as quiet a situation as possible, with minimum noise and distractions. That said, rating with friends is fun because you can discuss each beer in detail and help each other to come up with words to describe the aromas and flavours.
Make sure the beer has as close as possible to the correct size head for the beer style. Ideally you should pour yourself a full serve so you can observe the proper head. This becomes a bit harder when sharing beers but you should still be able to get a good bit of foam on top of your sample.
After pouring I then look at the beer and write down as many things as I can about its visual appeal, including the colour, clarity, carbonation, and head size and longevity. Later I also note the extent and pattern of lacing on the glass. I then award a mark out of 5 for this feature. Basically the mark is awarded for how tantalizing does the beer look - how much does it say ďPick me up and drink me!Ē
Now smell the beer. The very first smell is the one you need to pay most attention to, as your nasal sensors will quickly saturate. Move the glass away from you and breathe normal air and then try again. I look for and note down any attractive, unusual or bad aromas. Hop character, malts, sweetness, fruitiness and other aromas. Swirling the glass can release some of the fainter more subtle aromas that are not evident the first time around. If you need word descriptors, see the excellent Aroma/Flavor Checklist, by ecrvich. [URL="http://www.ratebeer.com/documents/tastingform2.doc" target="_blank">Click here for a Aroma/Flavor Tasting Form[/URL]. Finally, I award a mark out of 10 for this feature.
NOW YOU CAN TASTE THE BEER!
This is a difficult one to put your finger on. Itís basically the ďfeelĒ of the beer inside your mouth and (unlike wine tasting!) as you swallow it. How does the beer feel around the front of your mouth, the back of the mouth and as you swallow it? Is it velvety smooth or harsh, mouth filling like a stout or is it thin bodied like a watery lager? Sticky or cloying like a over sweet soft drink or does it strip your mouth out like vinegar? Is it balanced, or one-dimensional? I usually concentrate on the body or fullness of the beer and any other special feature of how it feels in the mouth. I then award a mark out of 5 for this feature. The Aroma/Flavor Checklist has a number of useful terms to help you describe the palate.
This is how the beer tastes. How many different tastes and flavours can you identify? How does the initial flavour vary from the start, the middle, finish and aftertaste of the beer. Here you can describe the intensity of the bitterness, sweetness and sourness of the beer. See the Aroma/Flavor Checklist once again for useful descriptors. I award a mark out of 10 for flavour.
Finally the beer is rated overall out of 20 marks. This can be a way of balancing up other features about the beer or anything else you like or dislike about it. You might be a cost conscious beer drinker and include price. How likely are you going to want to buy this beer again? When you finish the beer, how do you feel about it?
Now is a good time to write your comments into the Ratebeer comments box. High quality writing is not a requirement. I use short sentences with some abbreviations and with just enough punctuation to keep it readable. Keep in mind that your credibility on the site is judged more by your comments and much less on your number of ratings. At least some comments are better than no comments at all. You can always edit your ratings as your skills improve or your impressions of a given beer change over time.
Anyone can submit an article to RateBeer. Send your edited, HTML formatted article to our Editor-In-Chief.
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