Palate Training?

Discussion in 'Beer Talk' started by GA_SIPPER, May 14, 2013.

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    GA_SIPPER Initiate (0) Feb 24, 2013 Georgia

    Let me preface this by saying that I am fairly new to the craft beer lifestyle. I want to review the beers I drink, but I am having trouble doing so. I don't have a problem with appearance, mouthfeel, and overall, but I do have difficulty deconstructing the aromas and the flavors in different brews. It seems like one aroma/flavor always dominates my nose and my mouth. How can I improve my palate and my nose? Or will this just come with practice? Maybe it is not meant for me to write reviews...
  2. TheBrewo

    TheBrewo Initiate (0) Nov 11, 2010 New York

    The more you do it the more patterns and nuances that emerge. When I first started I would always first read about the beer style (nothing really more than what's provided on the page's link to the style), and try to se what I could find based on that information. Once you get a good basis for what to expect then you can start picking out what belongs, or may not belong stylistically. Then the more you drink from a certain brewery you can pick up on brewer's preferences in ingredients or their own unique styles.
  3. CasanovaCummins

    CasanovaCummins Initiate (0) Jan 10, 2012 Nevada

    It helps when you review with more experienced tasters. Ask what they taste or see if you can pull anything from other reviews you might not have noticed. It can be the power of suggestion, but if done over time, you'll recognize similarities and be able to reference these against your own experience.
  4. GimmeGumballHead

    GimmeGumballHead Initiate (0) Dec 4, 2010 Illinois

    Don't eat bleu cheese when tasting good IPA's...
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  5. sjverla

    sjverla Disciple (397) Dec 1, 2008 Massachusetts

    Practice with a bunch of beers. Read reviews here, especially the Bros. I don't take their words as gospel by any stretch, but they've got some experience doing this, and I've found their flavor descriptors to be helpful.

    Also, eat more and more variety and pay attention to what you're tasting. Pick up a fruit you've never seen or tried before now and then.

    Eat a horse blanket. Stick around long enough and that description is likely to come in handy eventually. Urinal cakes are also not off the table.
  6. mecummins

    mecummins Initiate (0) Nov 16, 2012 Illinois

    It's definitely something that you can develop. The more you try, the better you'll get at picking out the notes. I agree, having a basic knowledge of profiles for particular beers will help guide you as you begin to recognize certain aromas & flavors. I came into craft beer from the wine world, so I already had a basic understanding on how to deconstruct a beer's profile. But like everyone else, i had to educate my palate on the particular notes found in beer. The good news is that the homework is pretty awesome.
  7. billyshears

    billyshears Initiate (0) Jan 27, 2008 Connecticut

    just keep drinking, but heed the warning: eventually your palate becomes insatiable and you end up chasing the dragon. the beers i loved when i first started i now find mediocre or downright bad.
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  8. CasanovaCummins

    CasanovaCummins Initiate (0) Jan 10, 2012 Nevada

    I'd start with the more pleasing taste descriptors first. But that's just me.
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  9. pcsnyder

    pcsnyder Initiate (0) May 2, 2011 Pennsylvania

    Slow down and take as much time as you need. Roll the beer around in your mouth so it hits every little nook and cranny. Inhaling over the beer can help carry more aromatics up to your smell receptors (smell and taste are very closely linked, so this can help you better place what flavors you are tasting). Don't try to identify every nuance in the first mouthful, either. Try to assess malt in one taste, hops in another, mouthfeel in a third... that sort of thing. I've found narrowing my attention to just one aspect helps me zero in on those specific flavors more easily, but it does take practice. Lots and lots of practice. :slight_smile:

    My cousin swears by a different method. She started by getting a list of the possible flavors in beer (try googling "beer flavor wheel"), then she'd pick one flavor at a time (say pine) and find a beer that is supposed to display that flavor prominently. She tries to smell and/or taste that flavor (for example, sniffing a handful of fresh pine needles), then tries to identify similar aromas and flavors in the beer. I've heard of other people using this method, too, so maybe you'll find it helpful.
  10. sjverla

    sjverla Disciple (397) Dec 1, 2008 Massachusetts

    It's one of those things that comes up with Lambics, Gueuzes and Wild Ales. I've personally have never tasted one (and wouldn't actually recommend trying it), but having been in a few barns in my lifetime, I find the description apt based on the relationship between scent and taste. And it's a flavor, that, in its place (lambics, gueuzes and wild ales), I quite enjoy.

    As for the urinal cake, that one's fortunately quite a bit less common. And definitely don't try one if you can avoid it. But it does come up, and when you taste it, you'll know. And you'll probably be upset.
  11. Paramecium

    Paramecium Initiate (0) Jun 23, 2010 California

    You just make up the most ridiculous stuff you can think of and roll with it for reviews.

    Smell is of jasmine flowers blooming in a field covered in a layer of morning dew.

    Taste shows hints of star anise, diamond dust and butterfly kisses with subtle layers of Villa Sarchi coffee beans roasting over an open flame in the Costa Rican fields.

    Mouthfeel is that of tiny Angels moonwalking across the tongue to the rhythm Micheal Jackson's Billie jean.

    Appearance is sunlight viewed through a stained glass image of Jesus in the Vaticans St. Peters. Basilica. Glorious yet altogether humbling at the same time.

    You get the idea.
  12. inchrisin

    inchrisin Zealot (571) Sep 25, 2008 Indiana

    Your palate is freshest right when you wake up in the morning. That means it's ok to drink before noon. :slight_smile:
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  13. hopspine

    hopspine Initiate (0) Feb 28, 2012 Colorado

    Try going to free coffee cuppings at some local coffee roasters. Really can teach you how to smell and taste flavors (acidity, bitterness, roast, etc) in ways that correlate so well to beer.
    Joenajera, Jugs_McGhee and mecummins like this.
  14. mjtiernan

    mjtiernan Initiate (0) Feb 15, 2008 New York

    The correct answer is the best possible answer....experience. Keep drinking and evaluating beer. Be conscientious of the style you are drinking. Read the BJCP guidelines if you must. Expect a beer of a certain style to taste a certain way and if it doesn't, take note and evaluate for yourself if that's a positive or a negative.

    But most importantly, keep drinking and evaluating. Can't stress this enough.
  15. devlishdamsel

    devlishdamsel Initiate (0) Aug 1, 2009 Washington

    Try as many different styles as possible. Try to only drink each beer by itself and not in a session with other beers as well. The more you diversify your palate the more you will begin tasting the individual elements.
  16. superspak

    superspak Poo-Bah (25,469) May 5, 2010 North Carolina
    Society Trader

    It all takes time, believe me. To get the current distinctive palate I have now took well over a year to be able to pick out a wide variety of flavor complexities. Just keep trying new styles as you see fit and your palate will expand. I am currently at 89 of the BA styles out of my near 1500 reviews, and I know everything that each style should be by taste. I also homebrew so I know grain bill and hopping by style as well. I routinely try the most off the wall stuff such as spiced beers quite often to keep things interesting.
  17. StarRanger

    StarRanger Initiate (0) Nov 27, 2006 North Dakota

    You have to give your palate enough experiences so you know the flavors found in beer and can make the connection. You can't recognize a flavor if you don't know it. For example, if you see reviews stating that an IPA has flavors of mangos and tangerines but you don't know exactly what those flavors are beyond 'tropical' and 'orangy', then go to a grocery store and get a mango and tangerine and then smell and taste them and give your palate those connections so the next time you taste them in food or in a beer, you can make the connection.

    Also go to your local homebrew shop and ask to smell the hops and smell and taste the grains. Do some homebrewing too or at least help out when someone else brews a few times. The more you understand the ingrediants that go into beer, the more you will understand the flavors and aromas that show up in the end product.
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  18. hey5hitgoose

    hey5hitgoose Initiate (193) Feb 28, 2013 Illinois

    What I started doing was grabbing brews and watching youtube beer reviews with beergeeknation Chris and the master of hoppers Peter. I would just grab a build your own six pack, usually of one style,and check out Online beer reviews. Eventually I started noticing reocciring flavors and aromas and was able to pick them out on my own. A lot of it is just familiarity and the rest simply using your imagination and thinking of what each nuance reminds you of (ie marshmallows, toffee, fudge, rust, etc). Most importantly, just have fun with it!!!
  19. Eighty

    Eighty Initiate (0) Feb 17, 2013 Washington

    Went horseback riding for the first time last week. Took a good whiff of the horse blanket to see what all the hype was about. I feel way better equipped to review beer now. :slight_smile:

    (Not a joke, I actually did this.)
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  20. sjverla

    sjverla Disciple (397) Dec 1, 2008 Massachusetts

    Dedication to the cause! Can you speak to the accuracy of the description? How would it be sipping gueuze on a horse?
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  21. ColinStClaire

    ColinStClaire Initiate (0) Jul 31, 2012 Washington

    I haven't reviewed a beer.
  22. skivtjerry

    skivtjerry Defender (602) Mar 10, 2006 Vermont

    Lots of good advice above. One thing I do when trying to turn friends into beer geeks is to have them drink a style of beer while reading about in one of Michael Jackson's books, or the BJCP style guidelines ( Neither are infallible but they should get you started. The research is not unpleasant.
  23. DrunkenMonk

    DrunkenMonk Initiate (0) Jun 2, 2012 California

    YES!! I knew I tasted butterfly kisses.
  24. Paramecium

    Paramecium Initiate (0) Jun 23, 2010 California

    lol it's subtle but definitely there.
  25. Eighty

    Eighty Initiate (0) Feb 17, 2013 Washington

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