How long does it take to develop a palate?

Discussion in 'Beer Talk' started by ChristopherProvost, Aug 5, 2015.

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  1. Yargamo

    Yargamo Initiate (0) Jun 9, 2015 New York

    Don't misconstrue verbose critique as an advanced palate. Better that you follow the trends in language use. You'll soon learn that its a game of ape. Which is not to say that marmalade and biscuits are not identifiable facets to an English pale ale, or whatever language is tripping your up - but its really all about notions. You smell something and it takes you to point X or Y. You'll see guava being used endlessly - and if you don't taste it, it's because its not there. Me, I vomit when I hear people say that IPA G is "tropical goodness".
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  2. cavedave

    cavedave Poo-Bah (2,971) Mar 12, 2009 New York
    Society Trader

    Type random stuff? Can't speak for everyone, but I don't do it this way at all. I have a dart board with names of pretentious sounding flavors on it, instead of numbers, and I throw darts to find words to describe a beer I'm reviewing. :wink:

    I have long ago realized that just because I don't have the ability to taste as much as some other folks, doesn't mean they are making shit up, or that I enjoy things less.

    I will say after many years of drinking fine beer I am much better at understanding what it is in a beer I am tasting, and because of this I understand better what I like about a beer, so I can both pick it out more easily, and enjoy it more when I drink it.
  3. rgordon

    rgordon Meyvn (1,075) Apr 26, 2012 North Carolina

    Developing a knowledge of beer and wine flavors does take time. Having experience with world food, spices, culture, and a love for them is the key. Also, a nice imagination, good vocabulary, and often a tongue firmly in cheek are helpful.
  4. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (4,653) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania

    You neglected to mention the most important organ: the brain.

    It is the brain that takes in the varying sensory inputs:
    • Appearance from the eyes
    • Taste from the tongue (taste buds)
    • Aroma from the nose (both direct sniffing and retronasal olfaction)
    • Other qualities like mouthfeel, etc,
    It is ultimately the brain that processes this varying and concurrent input into an overall drinking perception.

    As with any activity involving the brain, learning and practice will refine its abilities.

  5. StarRanger

    StarRanger Initiate (136) Nov 27, 2006 North Dakota

    Your palate can be developed over time, but it won't just happen, you have to work at it. It is all about connecting smells and tastes to a vocabulary to describe them. If you have never smelled or eaten a mango then there is no way for you to recognize it in the aroma or flavor of a beer.

    So actively seek out the aromas and flavors you see described in beer reviews. Go to a good grocery store and get one of every fruit and vegetable you are not familiar with and smell the rind, the flesh, the seeds, taste it fresh then let it sit a while and taste it again. Hit a farmer's market and smell everything. Go to ethnic restaurants and try different things and concentrate on the experience. Cook with spices you are not familiar with. If you don't homebrew, find someone who does or go to a homebrew ship and then smell all the different varieties of hops then smell and taste all the different grains and notice the differences between pale malt vs pilsner malt vs vienna malt vs crystal 20L vs crystal 90L, etc.

    If you have a chance, get into a BJCP prep class where you learn to taste and then describe what you taste. Having judged beers with Grand Master level judges, they can certainly pull out 23 different descriptors to a beer including the specific malts, hops and yeasts used in brewing the beer. When you give feedback on a judging form, you need to go beyond the basic descriptors so 'malty' isn't enough, you have to further describe it as toasty, roasty, bready, biscuty, etc. They also have off-flavor classes so you can experience the common off flavors you might not be able to describe like DMS, acetaldehyde, astringent, diacetyl, metallic, etc.
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  6. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (4,653) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania

    I will also mention that @utopiajane is a tremendous resource when it come to palate development.

  7. evilcatfish

    evilcatfish Defender (626) May 11, 2012 Missouri

    All I can say is drink all the beers/styles you can and read all you can (books, internet, etc) It takes time but eventually things will come together. Then again, there are exceptions like the people who 6 months ago were drinking captain and coke but now tell me they can tell taste/smell differences between most hops and can detect the slightest of "off" qualities
  8. JFresh21

    JFresh21 Disciple (330) Mar 6, 2012 Illinois

    It can take a few years of drinking many different beers and styles, but that's the fun of it.

    The best part is that after you have a good hold on everything out there, something new comes along. Brewers are constantly pushing the boundaries of styles and adjuncts. Cheers!
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  9. BearsOnAcid

    BearsOnAcid Savant (952) Mar 17, 2009 Washington

    Taste everything, not just beer, and it will help you create connections to flavors.

    Some people create a laundry list of associations on just aroma. It's way too granular in analysis and they're probably making half the stuff up. Some people probably haven't even eaten the exotic descriptions they are describing. How often do you eat wild flowers or actually smelled a horse blanket?
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  10. doktorhops

    doktorhops Poo-Bah (1,981) Jan 12, 2011 Australia

    How long is a piece of string? 2.3 inches, but that's beside the point.

    There are many factors in developing your palate which will be impacted by the following:

    1) Your sense of taste/smell - oddly enough I get the impression over the last 4yrs I've been reviewing beers that my sense of taste has dulled whilst my sense of smell has improved - these things change over time
    2) Personal experience with foods e.g. If you've never had Jackfruit before how do you know how crazy it is?
    3) Overall beer knowledge - being forearmed with the knowledge that an IPA is likely to taste like half a spruce tree mixed with citrus means you know what your palate will expect once you pour that delightful amber fluid into a glass
    4) Beer drinking experience - if you've drunk a thousand shitty Lagers you will be able to pinpoint with greater accuracy exactly what flavour you're tasting and how it is different from another shitty Lager
    5) Knowledge of flavour chemistry and flavour vocabulary - this is what separates the layman from the beer-science-man... I have personally read at least 3 articles on the subject, including Wikipedia, and there is a massive body of knowledge behind how the brain perceives flavour chemicals and why a Phenol may taste like cloves, etc, etc.

    I don't proclaim to be an expert, but to me the people whose reviews I most read and respect on BA are the people who have all of the above qualities are the people who I like to learn from, maybe one day I'll be as good as them (you know who you are *cough* @BEERchitect *cough*).

    TLDR: Saying it takes time is obvious but there are many factors in developing your palate - go back and read the above points I've made dammit!
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  11. beernooph

    beernooph Initiate (189) Feb 23, 2008 Connecticut

    I think sometimes people make that shit up! Who tastes marmalade? Uh oh, hope I didn't start an uproar.
  12. LennyOvies

    LennyOvies Initiate (0) Jul 22, 2015 Mexico

    Sir, it was a joke. Still, your sarcasm was funny.
  13. WillQC4Beer

    WillQC4Beer Initiate (0) May 1, 2014 Vermont

    A lifetime.
  14. brewsader

    brewsader Initiate (0) Dec 7, 2012 New York

    don't let yourself feel inadequate for not tasting something that someone might mention in a review. just note what you do taste/smell/see, and go from there.
    DoctorZombies likes this.
  15. Gtwreck45

    Gtwreck45 Disciple (341) Jul 5, 2014 Missouri

    You should seek out horse blankets and smell them. I think that's a prerequisite to tasting saisons and brett beers.
  16. cavedave

    cavedave Poo-Bah (2,971) Mar 12, 2009 New York
    Society Trader

    I recommend some kind of signal that your posts are a joke. Adding a degree of humor often works:wink:
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  17. LennyOvies

    LennyOvies Initiate (0) Jul 22, 2015 Mexico

    Smoke signs maybe? :stuck_out_tongue:
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  18. jlsims04

    jlsims04 Devotee (489) Jul 14, 2013 Illinois

    Taste and smell new things all of the time. The documnetary Somm had a great segment about picking out strange flavors or sents. Basically if you have never tasted or smelled something how are you supposed to know what it is when you smell it or taste it.
  19. esimonoff

    esimonoff Initiate (0) Dec 2, 2014 California

    I very briefly mentioned it :slight_smile: . Thanks for mentioning retronasal olfaction... I usually bring that up in posts like these!
  20. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (4,653) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania

    I went back and yes you did parenthetically mention the brain in your prior post.

    Apparently my brain does not process parenthetical text.:flushed:

    Anyway, since the brain responds to learning and practice I suppose that was the 'highlight' of my post.

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  21. yemenmocha

    yemenmocha Poo-Bah (2,847) Jun 18, 2002 Arizona

    Couldn't disagree with you more, but perhaps we have entirely different notions over what a developed palate is. I have an in-law with quite the physical presence to put it politely, and he is always telling me how much he loves pizza whenever we go have pizza together. In the kitchen one day we were discussing our own recipes and he accused me of putting too much thought into it. For fun I challenged him to smell Oregano, Basil, Thyme, and a couple others blindly. He couldn't identify a single one. He also couldn't tell the difference between provolone and mozzarella, and he thought monterey jack was provolone. Now, who am I to challenge his love for pizza, his hobby, and his vast experience in trying a bunch of local pizzerias? Hey, no problem. Political correctness hat is now put on. But you know what, I can't help but think there really is a certain minimum threshold of knowledge and education on the matter that the average person (including me) is just not going to pick up from stuffing their face with pizza over the years, or drinking (or even worse ticking) a bunch of beers from some list. I see no respectable sense of a "developed palate" that is acquired from just eating, or just drinking. Even in large quantities over long periods of time. Education & knowledge is a necessary component.

    We're talking about what goes into having a developed palate. Not what a hobby is. I'm not arguing that the OP or whomever doesn't have beer drinking as a hobby.

    Very well said!
  22. CantankerousCaveBear

    CantankerousCaveBear Initiate (177) Jul 26, 2015 Canada

    I think that having a taste for a diverse array of food, and an experienced palate when it comes to multiple cuisines also greatly benefits a reviewer when it comes to pinpointing tasting notes in a beer. If you are comfortable getting the nuances and layers of different dishes then that should translate to reviewing beer, wine, or whisky/whiskey.
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  23. AgentZero

    AgentZero Poo-Bah (2,351) Jul 19, 2009 Illinois

    A large part of it is genetic. Some people are more sensitive to certain tastes than others. Some are more sensitive to all tastes than others. One of the things that can speed up the process a lot is drinking with people who have experience and refined palates. They're able to point things out you may not realize is there, and when they do, you may be able to then pick up on what they're tasting.
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  24. gopens44

    gopens44 Poo-Bah (2,362) Aug 9, 2010 Virginia
    Society Trader

    Your pizza cheese and spice identification becomes the equivalency to my hop experimentation, or rather dry hopping Bud Light to further understand the nuances of hop variants. It's one thing to say "damn, this is hoppy goodness" (or tropical goodness if you want to induce @Yargamo vomiting) v. truly identifying the nuances you pick up from a particular hop based on your study of it individually. To further make the point, hop combinations in beer aren't random (hopefully), they are thought out to achieve a certain taste based on what each hop brings to the table and in what strength. You cannot construct a truly effective recipe without having become at least marginally aware of the taste and aroma profiles of each hop you intend to use, on its own merit.
  25. TheDoctor

    TheDoctor Poo-Bah (2,502) Mar 7, 2013 Canada
    Society Trader

    Interesting question. Everything has been said by now, but I will underscore how important it is to practice (all joking about being alcoholics aside).

    • Drink beer while reading people's whimisical, insightful, made-up and flat out wrong reviews of said beer. You don't have to agree, but try to be conscious of why you do or don't.
    • Drink beer while reading the BJCP entry for the style. Also read up on similar styles. Seriously, pop an IIPA and read the descriptions for it and an American Barleywine.
    • Drink beer and read the label or the brewery's description/blurb on their site. Even the really stupid ones that try to sound clever and just sound douchey will occasionally say the name of an ingredient, at which point you can look up info about that ingredient (e.g. Hop info).
    Also, don't limit thinking about tastes and aromas to beer and don't sweat it; as in real life, everybody is just making it up as they go along. Some are just doing it with more well-defined criteria than others.
  26. mungbeans

    mungbeans Initiate (0) May 27, 2007 Massachusetts

    Everyone is different.
  27. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (4,653) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania

    Another great post!!

    In my homebrewing, when I utilize multiple varieties of hops my personal goal to try and obtain contrasting but complimentary flavors to the beer recipe. For example I like to combine Simcoe and Amarillo to obtain the contrasting but complimentary favors of piney and citrus. I prefer to not homebrew with two hops which feature citrus since for me that is a 'double-down' effect.

  28. BEERchitect

    BEERchitect Poo-Bah (11,387) Feb 9, 2005 Kentucky

    There's been a lot of great posts in this thread, and they all hinge on what's the underiyer in "palate development" and that is simply 'passion'. Everyone with a BeerAdvocate account has the passion to seek out good beer and enjoy it as fully as they know how. But how many of us has the passion to buy the beer appreciation books, to really absorb the material at or How many of us subscribe to a collection of periodicals, host tastings and become sensory panelists at your local brewery or analysis lab? Are we brewing the stuff, joining a local homebrew club, or organizing legitimate competitions and festivals? How many of us have switched careers because of our sheer passion for this thing that we call beer? Have we worked to learn, and sometimes invent a language to explain what we taste? Have we studied organic chemistry, agriculture and physics.... for the mere love of beer for God's sake?

    Palate development has much more to do with training the mind than it does with training the mouth. Everyone is already tasting well enough to do what the talented tasters do. But it does take a level of discipline, work ethic and willingness to do beer really, really well; and like all of us, I'm still on that journey- it never stops. But the neat thing about beer is that for most of us, this is our hobby, our folie, our simple pleasure. ...and we can take it as serious or as surface as we want. That's the beauty of beer. Cheers my friend!
  29. WhoKnew23

    WhoKnew23 Initiate (119) Oct 20, 2014 Michigan

    You're very right about this. I still don't taste what some of these goofballs taste.
  30. Yargamo

    Yargamo Initiate (0) Jun 9, 2015 New York

    Was looking at some reviews of a local (overpriced) beer to see if people were raving or not....stumbled on this beaut!

    "12 ounce can into snifter, no can dating. Pours pitch black color with a 1 finger dense tan head with good retention, that reduces to a thin cap that lingers. Nice spotty soapy lacing clings on the glass, with a good amount of streaming carbonation retaining the cap. Aromas of dark chocolate, cocoa, coffee, molasses, toast, toffee, dark bread, vanilla, raisin, plum, fig, oak, light herbal, and roast/yeast earthiness. Damn nice aromas with great balance and complexity of roast/bready malt, oak barrel, and light-moderate fruity yeast notes; with good strength. Taste of big dark chocolate, cocoa, coffee, molasses, toast, toffee, dark bread, vanilla, raisin, plum, fig, oak, light herbal, and roast/yeast earthiness. Light herbal/roasted bitterness on the finish; with lingering notes of dark chocolate, cocoa, coffee, molasses, toast, toffee, dark bread, vanilla, raisin, plum, fig, oak, and roast/yeast earthiness on the finish for a while. Incredible complexity, robustness, and balance of roast/bready malt, oak barrel, and light-moderate fruity yeast flavors; with a nice roasted bitterness/sweetness balance and zero cloying flavors after the finish. Medium carbonation and medium-full bodied; with a very smooth, creamy, and lightly slick/chalky mouthfeel that is great. Alcohol is very well hidden with only a light warmth lingering after the finish. Overall this is an awesome oak aged Russian imperial stout style. All around great complexity, robustness, and balance of roast/bready malt, oak barrel, and light-moderate fruity yeast flavors; and very smooth to sip on for the big ABV. A highly enjoyable offering"
  31. esimonoff

    esimonoff Initiate (0) Dec 2, 2014 California

    But I'd be willing to bet if I took "dark chocolate, cocoa, coffee, molasses, toast, toffee, dark bread, vanilla, raisin, plum, fig, oak, light herbal, and roast/yeast earthiness" and mixed those actual things and gave it to this person, they wouldn't be tasting, smelling, feeling, etc. those exact things. I don't necessarily have a problem with giving tasting notes like this (although this one is especially egregious), but it is misleading to say that you are tasting/smelling/feeling all of these things when you are just picking out flavors that you can associate with those things.
  32. ChristopherProvost

    ChristopherProvost Initiate (111) Dec 24, 2013 New Hampshire

    I suspect the Ctrl-C, Ctrl-V were just about worn out after this review.
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  33. Monkeyknife

    Monkeyknife Poo-Bah (3,175) Jan 8, 2007 Missouri
    Society Trader

    I don't see the palate an either developed/not developed entity. Your palate is an ever on-going process and always evolving. Enjoy the ride!
  34. superspak

    superspak Poo-Bah (24,425) May 5, 2010 Michigan
    Society Trader

    Yea, why would I care what anyone thinks of the way I review? I do it for my own sake and have developed my own routine of going about the review in the most detailed way I see fit, so all of them sound very similar in structure.....
  35. wesbray

    wesbray Disciple (303) Feb 29, 2012 Canada

    The better question is, does a more "advanced" palate mean that you enjoy the beer more? Some reviews really make me laugh with the amount of flavours people claim to pick out.
  36. 1ale_man

    1ale_man Initiate (183) Apr 25, 2015 Texas

    I can smell and taste mostly the strongest of flavors. My nose lacks a lot. To find the corriander flavor in one beer, I went to the spice rack, poured some in my hand, and licked it up. I found it in the beer after. Try all things and enjoy. Cheers.
  37. superspak

    superspak Poo-Bah (24,425) May 5, 2010 Michigan
    Society Trader

    except they weren't used... I have developed a routine on how I do my reviews over time and it's pretty much set in stone now, hard to change a process you use every single day...
  38. JaefromLA

    JaefromLA Initiate (0) May 19, 2015 California

    When brushing your teeth, try not to brush your tongue. It can desensitize your taste buds. Those things can be factored in to your quality of life if beer and food is something to enjoy. I'm just not good at advice. Oh ok while drinking a new beer try reading the reviews on that beer. Try to find the notes that people can smell or taste. You might pick up on something that you smelled or tasted all along but couldn't quite place. For me, years back, this was raisin on the aroma part, when I realized it I slapped my forehead like "Duh!".
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  39. floridadrift

    floridadrift Initiate (0) Oct 24, 2014 Florida

    The more words you know, the easier it is to describe the ingredients to smell and taste. It's all knowledge.
    HorseheadsHophead likes this.
  40. Wer34truh

    Wer34truh Savant (903) Nov 25, 2014 Minnesota

    As mentioned previously, I suspect that it's more about developing a vocabulary to explain the subtleties that everyone feels rather than developing a sense of taste. It's not so much that I don't feel differences, but that I have a hard time articulating what those differences are. One of the main reasons I'm active on Beeradvocate is to immerse myself in the language of beer in order to be able to more accurately reflect my opinions on beer in general through the written and spoken word.

    With that said, I often feel self-conscious in beer-circles because I don't feel that my palate or vocabulary is up to snuff. So much so that I often make the joke that I enjoy avoiding bad beer more than I enjoy good beer.
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