Help for a newb in beer tasting

Reads 816 • Replies 13 • Started Friday, December 2, 2011 1:45:25 PM CT

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beers 5 º 13:45 Fri 12/2/2011

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, it’s common at almost all convenience stores and on tap at most bars I go to. I was disappointed at ratebeer’s 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 wasn’t all that impressive to me and the Inversion leaves a terrible aftertaste(I’m drinking one as I type this). Is it just because I’m a newb in beer tasting? Or do I just have bad taste? I’ve definitely tried more beers than the average beer drinker that I know, but when I get on ratebeer I’m 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.

beers 22021 º places 1043 º 13:53 Fri 12/2/2011

Most peoples’ tastes change when they get into craft beer. I didn’t enjoy sours or ’big’ 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 ’taste’. I love looking at my early rates. Some are ridiculous, but they’re fun to read. If you went back and read your writing from first grade, it’s probably pretty crude, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have written.

beers 22021 º places 1043 º 13:57 Fri 12/2/2011

And with regards to some of your favorite beers getting so-so ratings, don’t let it bother you. The site shows some bias towards certain styles and breweries but for the most part it isn’t 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 haven’t had any Shiner so can’t comment on that brewery or their beers.) That’s just the Site doing what it do.

beers 107 º places 2 º 14:01 Fri 12/2/2011

Oh, taste is not about being better than someone, it’s 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 you’re not familiar with (and try the less extreme examples of a style first, usually those are the easiest to get into)

In the end it’s all about enjoying what you taste, regardless of how others like/dislike those beers...

beers 9570 º places 335 º 14:01 Fri 12/2/2011

Don’t 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.

beers 16520 º places 275 º 14:03 Fri 12/2/2011

Well, in my opinion you can’t discuss taste. No matter how you look at it, it’s still just an opinion. Even though it’s shared by a lot of people. Nevertheless:

probably you’re still too ’new’, meaning inexperienced. Probably I’m still too ’new’ 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. Doesn’t really matter who it is. Be open, you’ll always learn something. Even if you learn you should never discuss anything with that guy again you’ve still learned something valuable.

At least, that’s how I look at things...

beers 2399 º places 114 º 14:08 Fri 12/2/2011

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.

beers 371 º places 11 º 14:12 Fri 12/2/2011

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, you’ll probably find that your preferences shift somewhat, and they even may change radically. Again, there’s 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, I’d 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. That’s 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 it’s also important to keep the scores here in perspective; while they may represent a statistical consensus of some sort, I think you’ll notice that basically no individual person here would actually agree with them in full.

beers 1570 º places 62 º 14:30 Fri 12/2/2011

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 isn’t. That isn’t 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 it’s 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 you’ll never care for at all. But the point is that you won’t really know until you’ve immersed yourself more in every one to the point where you have a better handle on what you’re 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 it’s 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 you’re drinking.

Once you gain a footing with styles you’ll see it’s almost meaningless to say you enjoy Shiner Bock but don’t enjoy Deschutes Inversion. You may just like Bocks and not like IPA’s (or at least that’s the case right now since you’re not accustomed to the bitterness). With limited experience it’s and apples to oranges comparison, a sweeping commentary on style rather than the individual beers themselves.

Also don’t 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 you’ll obviously have a very stunted perception of the aroma from the bottle. You probably won’t 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, you’ll develop quickly.

So that’s 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.

beers 1570 º places 62 º 14:35 Fri 12/2/2011

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 you’ll enjoy talking about the esoteric points of beer tasting as much as I seem to. Now I’ve worked up an appetite so it’s time to actually start drinking.

beers 5 º 14:58 Fri 12/2/2011

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 couldn’t 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 Spec’s(only locations in Texas, our alcohol "supermarket"), which has more beers than anywhere else around here. I’ve gone crazy with trying new beers recently, so much so that a clerk there jokingly called me an alcoholic(I am! haha).