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Help for a newb in beer tasting


read 713 times • 13 replies • posted 12/2/2011 1:45:25 PM

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tforrent 5:
I have been a rate beer member since before I could legally drink, but of course I never partook before 21(wink wink) and I have never been active in ratebeer whatsoever. My question is for tasting and rating beers. I like to think I have much better taste than most of my friends(miller, bud, and coors drinkers), but every time I look up random beers I try, it seems the ones I find are so-so are rated highly and the beers I love are rated only so-so. For example, I am a Shiner Bock fan because, being a Texas made beer, itís common at almost all convenience stores and on tap at most bars I go to. I was disappointed at ratebeerís dismal rating of 20 for Bock, and nearly all Shiner beers are rated below 50. Recently I tried some Deschutes Black Butte Porter(rated 97) and Inversion IPA(rated 94), but the Black Butte wasnít all that impressive to me and the Inversion leaves a terrible aftertaste(Iím drinking one as I type this). Is it just because Iím a newb in beer tasting? Or do I just have bad taste? Iíve definitely tried more beers than the average beer drinker that I know, but when I get on ratebeer Iím afraid to rate anything because I think I would skew the results worse for the rest of members here. Oh another example, my friend that is a fellow Shiner drinker introduced me to Indian Wells Lobotomy Bock and I immediately fell in love. Yet again it only received a 45 score. I would appreciate any tips/pointers that could "train" me to be more of a connoisseur.
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Leighton 13254:680
Most peoplesí tastes change when they get into craft beer. I didnít enjoy sours or íbigí beers when I first got into RateBeer, and now some are among my favorites. Just drink whatever you can get your hands on and rate it. The rating system means different things to different people, but you should never be discouraged from rating because you think you lack ítasteí. I love looking at my early rates. Some are ridiculous, but theyíre fun to read. If you went back and read your writing from first grade, itís probably pretty crude, but that doesnít mean you shouldnít have written.
12/2/2011 1:53:46 PM

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Leighton 13254:680
And with regards to some of your favorite beers getting so-so ratings, donít let it bother you. The site shows some bias towards certain styles and breweries but for the most part it isnít a big deal. Or, of course, Shiner beers could be sub-par, which it sounds like the majority of RB users believe to be the truth. (I havenít had any Shiner so canít comment on that brewery or their beers.) Thatís just the Site doing what it do.
12/2/2011 1:57:11 PM

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Noctilucus 102:1
Oh, taste is not about being better than someone, itís just something personal. There are beers that I adore more than any other, some of them getting only lukewarm reception here on RB. The only recommendation I would give is to try what you like, but occasionally venture into styles youíre not familiar with (and try the less extreme examples of a style first, usually those are the easiest to get into)

In the end itís all about enjoying what you taste, regardless of how others like/dislike those beers...
12/2/2011 2:01:08 PM

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douglas88 6808:255
Donít worry so much about the scores on RateBeer. But you should use the site to help locate interesting brews and see what you like. I suggest going to a brewpub and trying a whole bunch of styles and seeing what stands out to you.
12/2/2011 2:01:22 PM

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Benzai 9575:159
Well, in my opinion you canít discuss taste. No matter how you look at it, itís still just an opinion. Even though itís shared by a lot of people. Nevertheless:

probably youíre still too ínewí, meaning inexperienced. Probably Iím still too ínewí as well. I rate some very highly acclaimed beers poorly and vice versa. But I did notice that my taste has improved every year since I started rating. What I love in a beer now I might have disliked a couple of years ago. Your taste definitely evolves. Try more beers, try different styles, ask other people what they taste, what they think of that beer and why. Doesnít really matter who it is. Be open, youíll always learn something. Even if you learn you should never discuss anything with that guy again youíve still learned something valuable.

At least, thatís how I look at things...
12/2/2011 2:03:43 PM

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Beerona97 2397:114
Are you drinking the beers directly from the bottle?

If so, that can alter the perception of taste towards the bitter spectrum. An IPA directly out of the bottle almost always tastes metallic to me, but if you pour it into a glass, you get more floral aromas and a better overall experience.

That is the number one piece of advice I have, is to buy some pint glasses.
12/2/2011 2:08:54 PM

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cquiroga 371:11
Taste is subjective. Sounds like you have an affinity for Bocks in general-- and perhaps even for somewhat sweeter beers, more broadly. No shame in that. But as you taste more, youíll probably find that your preferences shift somewhat, and they even may change radically. Again, thereís no shame in admitting it, and pretty much every single person here has experienced it. The most important thing I would say to a new craft beer explorer is that while you are learning about the world of beer, you are probably learning even moreso about yourself and your own particular tastes. Everyone does it. Enjoy the ride.

But to give you some pragmatic advice of how you might want to use this site to help you hone your palate and find beers you will enjoy, Iíd say you should try to explore more beers in the vein of what you already enjoy so you can start to pick up on their subtle differences and nuances. Go through the listings by style and look for other American Dark Lagers that are available in your area. Then maybe venture out into other types of beers that present somewhat similar, malt-centric flavor profiles, like Doppelbocks, maybe Scottish Ales, and even perhaps Dunkels, Brown Ales, English Milds, Porters, Scotch Ales, or Barley Wines. If you explore several dozen (or more) beers in some of those styles, you may find a greater curiosity and/or appreciation for all of the unique features of a much wider variety of classic styles. Thatís when the real fun starts.

There are a great variety of unique styles out there across the whole spectrum of flavor, and as you become more seasoned with trying a greater number of them-- not to mention more confident in your own tastes-- part of the fun of this hobby is calling out those beers where your preferences differ dramatically from the accepted consensus from the database here. And itís also important to keep the scores here in perspective; while they may represent a statistical consensus of some sort, I think youíll notice that basically no individual person here would actually agree with them in full.
12/2/2011 2:12:31 PM

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fredandboboflo 1570:62
First point, with regard to ratings in general, it should be noted that this is a consumer site frequented by people who want to frequent it, and as a group, they have certain preferences. Therefore, there is no guarantee that a beer rated 100 is actually a well-made beer, and there is no guarantee that a beer rated much lower isnít. That isnít to say the ratings are completely useless, far from it, but just something to think about as you use them.

Moving on. When most people have their first Bud as a teenager, they think itís disgustingly bitter. Many of them go on to enjoy Bud. Many other beers are far more bitter than Bud, and it can take time to adjust to them, and then the beers even more bitter still. Obviously there is more to beer than just bitterness, and there are many things your nose and tongue will slowly adapt to and learn about, but bitterness is the most obvious. You may never have a favorite style that is very bitter, and there will probably be at least a few styles youíll never care for at all. But the point is that you wonít really know until youíve immersed yourself more in every one to the point where you have a better handle on what youíre tasting.

So if you already enjoy beer, and are interested in more, the best thing you can do is keep trying, and most importantly, RE-trying whatever beers and styles you can get your hands on. Secondary to that, briefly look at a few ratings here either during or after you drink a beer to see how other people are describing it, the notes they pick out, and WHY folks may or may not like it. Is it maybe just not their style? Or do they think that itís a poorly made example of the style? Also for new styles read the style description to get a basic sense of the idea behind the beer youíre drinking.

Once you gain a footing with styles youíll see itís almost meaningless to say you enjoy Shiner Bock but donít enjoy Deschutes Inversion. You may just like Bocks and not like IPAís (or at least thatís the case right now since youíre not accustomed to the bitterness). With limited experience itís and apples to oranges comparison, a sweeping commentary on style rather than the individual beers themselves.

Also donít know your drinking habits, but just in case, it should always be pointed out that in your beer journey you should always be drinking beers out of a glass and not from the bottle. All the individual flavor notes you see in the ratings are aromas, and youíll obviously have a very stunted perception of the aroma from the bottle. You probably wonít be able to pick out all the notes people list for a little while, but if you take time to smell every beer, and get an idea of what others are sensing, youíll develop quickly.

So thatís an enormous wall of text to say that the only way to become a "better connoisseur" is to just keep at it and learn as much as possible, both through reading and tasting.
12/2/2011 2:30:47 PM

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fredandboboflo 1570:62
Apparently much of my commentary was already covered during the absurdly long period of time I was constructing it...oh well. Maybe one day soon youíll enjoy talking about the esoteric points of beer tasting as much as I seem to. Now Iíve worked up an appetite so itís time to actually start drinking.
12/2/2011 2:35:35 PM

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tforrent 5:
Whoa! I really appreciate the immediate and detailed responses. Yes Curly, I usually drink straight from bottle, and I had a feeling that was one of my problems. I will definitely go get some pint glasses after this. Bitterness is one of the things that throws me off as far as beer and wine goes. I think I tend towards slightly sweeter beers because I enjoy having a sweet aftertaste sitting in my mouth while waiting for the next sip. I can absolutely understand the acquiring of taste for beer. I remember in high school when I couldnít stand the taste of beer and all I drank was vodka. Granted my first beer was Keystone which definitely made a bad impression. The local legend is that the county I lived in is the largest consumer of Keystone. Sad, I know. Recently I started going to a liquor store that opened up in my city called Specís(only locations in Texas, our alcohol "supermarket"), which has more beers than anywhere else around here. Iíve gone crazy with trying new beers recently, so much so that a clerk there jokingly called me an alcoholic(I am! haha).
12/2/2011 2:58:19 PM

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