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Do flights fairly reflect a beers quality?

Discussion in 'Beer Talk' started by wesbray, Jan 31, 2013.


Do flights fairly reflect a beers quality?

  1. Yes

    66 vote(s)
  2. No

    38 vote(s)
  3. Sometimes

    59 vote(s)
  1. wesbray

    wesbray Advocate (550) Alberta (Canada) Feb 29, 2012 Beer Trader

    I just had a discussion with a friend about my summer road trip and all the different beers I was hoping to try. That got me thinking about logistics. Obviously visiting a fair few breweries on my travels won't allow me to have a few pints from each so I would be restricted to flights and samples. Can you truly tell everything you need to know about a beer in 2/4oz servings?
    brewbetter likes this.
  2. i need a full pour to judge an IPA but with other styles 4oz should be enough to form an accurate opinion
    stantheposterman likes this.
  3. sirtomtom

    sirtomtom Savant (260) California Dec 10, 2010

    In general, yes, small sample servings should be plenty. The majority of good/great beers can be judged at serving temperature.
  4. jawzman

    jawzman Aficionado (240) Minnesota Mar 20, 2010

    4 ounces is enough for me to judge any beer of any style...
    tronester, Hanzo and brewbetter like this.
  5. i can certainly spot an average beer from a 4oz pour which saves drinking the other 12oz's of tedium. if you like it order a pint!
    huysmans likes this.
  6. Airyk12

    Airyk12 Aficionado (155) Oregon Jan 1, 2011

    You can adequately judge a beer in 4 oz. All the festivals I've been to use 4 oz pours, and it was plenty to decide whether I liked it.
  7. When you consider head retention, I am going to have to say no. besides there is something super gratifying about enjoying at least 8 ounces of beer. Id much rather ask for a small sample of a beer and decide on one beer.
    kojevergas and brewbetter like this.
  8. kzoobrew

    kzoobrew Champion (870) Michigan May 8, 2006

    If I am writing a review it is largely written with in the first four ounces. Granted I will keep the review open to revise as I go but my perception of the beer after the first four ounces rarely changes.

    With that said, flights are not designed to allow one to fairly reflect the quality or allow the consumer the full experience of the beer. A flight is designed to give the consumer the opportunity to experience more beers at one time.
  9. tommyz

    tommyz Advocate (580) Michigan May 28, 2007 Beer Trader

    I think it depends on the person and their palate. I know, for me, I can judge a beer fairly on 4oz..
  10. TongoRad

    TongoRad Poobah (1,045) New Jersey Jun 3, 2004 Beer Trader

    'Evaluating' a beer's technical aspects, and really getting an understanding of it are two separate things. I don't think my initial impression ever reflects my ongoing opinion of a beer, except in the most basic way. A lot of beers really grow on you, and I believe I would have cheated myself out on some of great repeat purchases through the years had I went with my first impression. Many others initially wow me, but then get overbearing in the end, and fall out of favor.

    And heaven forbid that one's first four ounces of Schlenkerla colors their opinion of that one for ever (paging Herrburgess ;))
    beerloserLI, JimKal, jgluck and 3 others like this.
  11. youbrewidrink

    youbrewidrink Advocate (720) Vermont Apr 9, 2009 Beer Trader

    Flights are good for first impressions, but IMHO doing a review on such a small, questionable pour never does any beer justice (good or bad).
  12. herrburgess

    herrburgess Poobah (1,035) South Carolina Nov 4, 2009 Beer Trader

    No. IMO the "Pepsi Challenge" effect is very real and greatly influences the taster's perceptions when trying to formulate a judgment based on such small samples. Matter of fact, I think the Pepsi Challenge effect + small sampling sizes are largely responsible for the Top Beer lists here being full of the most intense tasting craft beers out there.

    And no, never form a final judgement on 4 oz of Schlenkerla Maerzen. A true assessment is only possible after 4 half liters.
    tronester, jgluck, paulys55 and 3 others like this.
  13. Hanzo

    Hanzo Champion (975) Virginia Feb 27, 2012

    I've never understood why some say you need a full pour to properly judge a beer. At professional competitions how big are the pours for the judges? Give me 2-4oz and I can tell whether I like a beer, and what I like/dislike about it. Sure beers change flavors as its temperature changes, but you can still experience that in a smaller serving as long as you aren't taking huge gulps.
    mecummins likes this.
  14. I think 4 ounces is more than enough to get a good feeling for a beer. But I hate when I ask to try something at a a bar and they give me half of a shot glass worth, what the hell am I supposed to taste with that.
    searsclone likes this.
  15. taxman

    taxman Savant (285) Illinois Feb 22, 2012

    As with any tasting, it's important to cleanse your palate between tastes. A flight should be the right amount to gain an appreciation for what is represented.
  16. Mothergoose03

    Mothergoose03 Champion (875) Michigan May 30, 2005 Subscriber

    If beers were graded on an A-F scale, you can certainly decide from a 4 oz. pour (or 2 oz.) if the beer is a C, D or F, but to decide on whether it's an A or B needs a larger sample.
    jgluck and Hermthegerm like this.
  17. MammaGoose

    MammaGoose Aficionado (230) Wyoming Jan 10, 2013

    I can fairly assess whether or not I want a pint of a beer after a flight sample, and if I really take my time with each sample, I'd say I can give a fairly accurate opinion.

    I have mixed feelings on flights. I obviously like that I can try several beers without ordering several pints. But, usually the situation I'm in where I try flights is...my boyfriend and I are travelling (quite often on a brewery tour) and don't have a lot of time. So we order a flight to try as many beers from a new brewery as we can. Then we take a sip of each sample, and then we don't know where to go from there. Who drink which one? What if neither of us like one, or both of us love one? I end up feeling rushed and like I didn't get to appreciate the beer as much as I should have.

    I'd rather just take a tiny sample or two (if they offer them readily...which most breweries do if I inquire about a beer they have on tap) and then order a pint to relax with.
  18. You only get a few ounces when judging a beer in a competition. You can request more if you need to.
  19. jglowe77

    jglowe77 Initiate (0) Massachusetts Jan 24, 2011

    I don't think so. Think of how many beers you've drank a full pour of that the first few sips were much better/worse than the last few. Consistency is an important part of the quality of a beer and if a beer can't hold up over a full glass, then it's probably not that good of a beer.
  20. stakem

    stakem Poobah (1,025) Pennsylvania Feb 20, 2009 Beer Trader

    At a BJCP sanctioned event, I basically asked a high ranking judge the same question.

    He told me he judges all beer with less than an ounce. The first sip tells him everything he needs to know about a beer's general character. A second smaller sip solidifies his opinion of the first impression. He then told me that when he goes out to a bar, he tells his friends to avoid samplers and drink a full pint in order to fully appreciate the beer for what it is.
    tronester, cmannes, drtth and 2 others like this.
  21. I say no. In my opinion, tasting temperature's influence and observing head retention/lacing are an interesting part of enjoying a beer.

    Can I make a judgement about a beer after 4 oz., sure. But I can't truly enjoy all the qualities of it.
  22. Exactly. A few ounces is enough to judge, but to appreciate the beer as a whole, you need a full pour.
    fredmugs and crushedvol like this.
  23. leedorham

    leedorham Champion (855) Washington Apr 27, 2006

    What's a full pour?
    j47paco likes this.
  24. No, I really think you need to drink a full beer to get a good feel for it. I can try something and get a cursory opinion on a small sample, but that first sip out of a pint is never the same as the last...
    Providence likes this.
  25. Whatever the bar/restaurant has notated on the menu or suggests as the amount to serve (assuming the bar/restaurant knows what they are doing). So maybe 10 oz for a BBA Stout or perhaps 22 oz for a Czech Pils.
  26. leedorham

    leedorham Champion (855) Washington Apr 27, 2006

    I really think it's the glass more than anything. 4-6oz in a taster glass doesn't tell you much, but 4-6oz out of a globe or snifter would be just fine for any beer, including IPA's, ESB's, etc.
  27. rowingbrewer

    rowingbrewer Advocate (615) Massachusetts May 28, 2010 Beer Trader

    I think it is more about the proper glassware, and the right serving temp than it is about a pint vs a 4oz pour.
    ChanChan likes this.
  28. I don't know - if you drink it really slowly, then sure, maybe. But part of tasting a beer properly IMO is drinking it over a wide range of temperatures. Some beers start poorly and then really open up, while others start awesome and then fall apart - 4oz of most beer would be gone before you could really get a feel for that. And sure, you could drink 5 samples at a time, but then you're just confusing your palate...
  29. ChanChan

    ChanChan Advocate (620) California Dec 12, 2009 Beer Trader

    I agree, Blue Palms in Hollywood charges an extra fee to pour your flight in snifters as opposed to their usual 4.5OZ barbary glasses which leave no room for aroma. Depending on the beer available the extra fee could be worth it!!
  30. leedorham

    leedorham Champion (855) Washington Apr 27, 2006

    A smaller sample will warm more quickly in a larger glass. I just think too much emphasis is placed on a 12oz or larger sample. I pour myself a half pour or less all the time and I don't think it diminishes the beer at all.
  31. My palate can get fatigued tasting a bunch of different stuff in a short burst of time. I don't really think there is a magic # of oz, but I get a better impression of something tasting it over a longer period, with food, as it warms etc.
  32. mjryan

    mjryan Advocate (550) Minnesota Dec 22, 2007

    Most of the time no, but every now and then yes.
  33. rowingbrewer

    rowingbrewer Advocate (615) Massachusetts May 28, 2010 Beer Trader

    while i would appreciate that they offer them in snifters instead of the normal glass if you choose, charging more for it is obnoxious. If someone ordered cognac neat and received it in a shot glass would they try to charge them nor for a snifter. If you serve the beer, the proper glassware should not cost you more
    ChanChan likes this.
  34. otispdriftwood

    otispdriftwood Advocate (730) Colorado Dec 9, 2011 Beer Trader

    With flights where there are 4 or more beers to try, it seems the drinking tends to be more rapid fire without a break or something else to differentiate the beers. So the first and second 4 oz. samples may be ok but once you get to the 3rd or 4th your taste buds may be conflicted. In addition, you don't get to sample the beers at different temps with small samples and if you skip from beer to beer to let them warm up, you've defeated the purpose of tasting. Therefore, it really takes at least 12 oz. for me to really decide about a beer.
    CyPotter likes this.
  35. Judge the beer? Sure I use samples all the time to judge whether or not I want to get a full pour or bottle.

    Enjoy the beer? No, when it comes to beer drinking enjoyment, give me a full pour of something tasty rather than a bunch of samples.

    I may be in the minority, but I'd rather sit down with a 16oz pour of Ruination, than have 4- 4oz samples of Heady, Hopslam, Citra, and Ephraim.
  36. 2oz is all you need, broseph!
    crushedvol likes this.
  37. This makes no sense
  38. WickedSluggy

    WickedSluggy Advocate (530) Texas Nov 21, 2008

    Flights are fine. The problem is mixing the wrong beers. An accurate sense of taste requires chemical receptors be in balance.

    For example:

    If you drink a beer that is on the sweet side, you deplete the chemical receptors for sweetness. The receptors cannot fire at the same rate as those for bitter, sour, salt. A subsequent tasting of a balanced beer will then taste more bitter than it should. Your sense of taste is inaccurate. You opinion, judgement, review is now invalid.

    Why does orange juice tastes terrible after you eat pancakes? There is plenty of sugar/sweetness in orange juice, but there is also a significant amount of acid to produce its sour character as well. When you eat the pancakes you you habituate to the sweetness level of pancakes and actually run low on chemical receptors for sweetness for a while. So when you drink the orange juice you experience a preponderance of sour characteristics.

    It's similar to when you stare at a colored picture and then look at a white background. You begin to see the negative of the image against the white background. Why? Because your photochemical receptors are also subject to depletion. So when you stare at the image you are using up the receptors in the corresponding portion of your retina (cones). Then looking at a white backgorund (which contains all colors) you see a preponderance of the opposite color because the cones that respond to thoise colors are fully firing where the colors you have been staring at are depleted.


  39. wesbray

    wesbray Advocate (550) Alberta (Canada) Feb 29, 2012 Beer Trader

    I have really mixed feelings now. It probably depends on the beer. As an example, i'll be visiting Russian River. I find it hard to believe that i'll be able to have 2 or 3 flights of sour beers and be able to taste them individually...maybe I should just stick to a couple 16oz glasses.
  40. LeRose

    LeRose Advocate (725) Massachusetts Nov 24, 2011 Subscriber

    Looks like this topic points out a distinction between judging and enjoying. Looks like most are saying to enjoy the beer you need a greater volume, but judging (even if it is just judging whether to have a pint or not) takes less. I agree with that, mostly.

    Never thought about it and haven't done a flight, so if that disqualifies me that's cool. I have done wine tastings and after the second or third one I can't differentiate with somebody telling me what the differences are. When I "taste" at home, the intent is drink the bottle good or bad. If I am in reviewing mode, I jot down notes as they occur to me over the time it takes. If I had "judged" say Backwoods on the first sip or three, I would have totally missed the boat. I knew I liked it when I first tasted it, but as I continued it just became, well, more... It went from "this is good I like it" to "holy crap phenomenal is the store still open". I think I actually giggled at one point...OK TMI.

    Beer is a hobby for me, not a job and trained judges are far more skilled. I have watched skilled sensory folks do their thing - it really is amazing. They can understand a lot more in 2 - 4 ounces than I can in 22, that is for sure.
    searsclone and jgluck like this.