Questions on Creating and Maintaining Beer Tasting Journals

Discussion in 'Beer Talk' started by SaverioD, Jun 1, 2013.


What is your primary Journal method?

  1. Hand-written Journal

    9 vote(s)
  2. Electronic Journal or Database

    26 vote(s)
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  1. SaverioD

    SaverioD Initiate (0) Jun 1, 2013 Georgia

    I have been a craft beer drinker for a while now, but the wife and I have just started to be more deliberate about it as a hobby/life-style.

    We are thinking about how to keep track of our beer experiences and would like to hear from those of you who have been maintaining a log for a while.

    We are both computer and computer software savvy. We see the benefits of a sturdy database: standardization, ease of updates, efficiency, sorting etc. But, we also find that a computer based journal seems, at least initially, to be inappropriate compared to a set of hand-written logs (that, admittedly, have none of the benefits of a computer based log).

    So, how have others kept their notes and why do you prefer this method? I suspect that we are going to have to make a great deal of updates given our amateur ranking at the present and the speed of the learning curve.

    Thank you,
    pinnser likes this.
  2. Jwale73

    Jwale73 Poo-Bah (3,604) Aug 15, 2007 Rhode Island
    Beer Trader

    I take hand-written notes and then post to BA. That way I have mobile access to the beers I've had or want to have. That said, I wish I could export my reviews out into a spreadsheet so I can manipulate the data. I would gladly pay for the service if it was offered - not so subtle suggestion :slight_smile:
  3. hopsputin

    hopsputin Meyvn (1,114) Apr 1, 2012 New Jersey

    For me its a combination of a small notebook that I hand write notes in with the goal of inputting that info in my master beer notes spreadsheet (though, I am about 3 months behind putting info in that spreadsheet, yikes) and taking notes on my phone. Recently I've begun reviewing on BA, but I still like to write down the tasting notes at the same time.
    SaverioD, nsheehan and dianimal like this.
  4. dianimal

    dianimal Initiate (161) Apr 18, 2012 California

    I do both although I haven't been too diligent lately. An excel spreadsheet helps me keep track of what I have, and my hand-written journal helps me keep track of tasting notes/opinions of what I've drank (because my memory sucks).
    SaverioD likes this.
  5. UCLABrewN84

    UCLABrewN84 Poo-Bah (12,204) Mar 18, 2010 California

    I take notes on my phone, post reviews to BA, and keep a list in Word and Pages of every beer I drink.
    SaverioD likes this.
  6. dbrauneis

    dbrauneis Site Editor (6,363) Dec 8, 2007 North Carolina
    Subscriber Beer Trader

    I keep it electronically, I like the ability to search and manipulate the queries across the data... That being said, I frequently take notes in a hand written journal when I am away from the computer/home and then add the review to BA.
    SaverioD likes this.
  7. Stevedore

    Stevedore Poo-Bah (3,832) Nov 16, 2012 Wisconsin
    Beer Trader

    Used to write in a notebook, got tired of it and just scribbled short descriptors for each category on a napkin or scrap paper and then use that to help me write a full review on BA which is mainly for my benefit.
    beertunes likes this.
  8. SaverioD

    SaverioD Initiate (0) Jun 1, 2013 Georgia

    Great feedback. Thanks folks. So, my take-away is that I will have a notebook on hand when I am out but also have a computer-based record keeping for searching/sorting etc.

    I am also of the age where my poor short term memory performance is only rivaled by my lack of long-term memory. So, jotting down notes contemporaneously will be important.

    Great site and forum. Looking forward to exchanging information with you. I am lucky that I have an excellent store a mile away with an awesome stock of craft beer and a very knowledgeable staff. They have hit a home run with every recommendation and I have found that BA agrees with their picks (I do wait until I have made my own assessment before checking on the BA site). I will start posting my thoughts on BA when I think I can rely on my interpretation enough to comment.

    Thanks again,
    nsheehan likes this.
  9. keithmurray

    keithmurray Meyvn (1,138) Oct 7, 2009 Connecticut

    Do any of you do this? I will be out with a group of friends trying new beers. I'd love to review the beers I'm drinking, but don't want to appear to be that big of a beer geek and I want to enjoy the company of those I'm with, so I don't take notes in that setting. I pretty much take notes only when drinking solo@home.
  10. dennis3951

    dennis3951 Crusader (789) Mar 6, 2008 New Jersey
    Beer Trader

    Handwritten because electronic is too easy to edit.
    SaverioD likes this.
  11. MCDub

    MCDub Aspirant (289) Dec 17, 2009 North Carolina
    Beer Trader

    I don't like reviewing a beer with a screen in front of me. I write everything down in a Field Notes. It's easy to carry around so I can review anywhere at anytime. I then, about once a week, transfer the number values of my notes as well a name, brewery, date, etc. into a google doc spreadsheet. I also have a google doc word document where all of the written reviews are logged. It's a bit tedious to type up the notes but they are much easier to search through later. Using google docs allows me to also give access to people that have asked to see my reviews.
    SaverioD and nsheehan like this.
  12. MCDub

    MCDub Aspirant (289) Dec 17, 2009 North Carolina
    Beer Trader

    Evernote on the phone. I just tell people I'm texting. I generally don't take notes when I'm with a large group though.
  13. deekyn

    deekyn Initiate (135) Dec 20, 2011 California
    Beer Trader

    They may give you shit for it but I bet they appreciate when you bring a beer you know they'll like. I use the note app in my phone, short hand, quick and dirty and fill out a full review later.
    SaverioD likes this.
  14. StoutSeth

    StoutSeth Initiate (0) Sep 24, 2010 Virginia

    I use the 33 Beers notebook pretty religiously, and when I'm out my friends normally know I'm the "beer nerd" in the group, so they give me a little leeway. I then keep a master list on Evernote, so I can remember what I rated different beers, and if I've had them before.
    SaverioD likes this.
  15. GarthDanielson

    GarthDanielson Poo-Bah (4,710) Nov 6, 2010 Virginia
    Beer Trader

    I can't stand typing on my phone, so when I'm out I use a hand written journal, and then I transcribe it here on BA when I get home, using this site as an electronic journal of sorts.
    SaverioD and beertunes like this.
  16. SaverioD

    SaverioD Initiate (0) Jun 1, 2013 Georgia

    thanks for the 33 Beers reference. Did not know about these journals. Right now, the wife and I are working through styles to develop our palate and opinions. I am also taking time to learn about the beer process to understand how certain approaches and ingredients cause a specific appearance, smell, taste and mouth feel. In sum, we are doing this for science and humanity.
    nsheehan likes this.
  17. SaverioD

    SaverioD Initiate (0) Jun 1, 2013 Georgia

    On a related note concerning public protocol, the wife needed to go to a company event that was held at a new local brewery. She picked out something from their offering that she would most likely appreciate. She was so glad that she did not inform her peers of her new hobby because the beer apparently was awful to her and she would have struggled to find anything good to say (e.g., there is a wide range of beers in the world and this is certainly one of them).

    I suggested that, even though we are still amateurs among craft brew, we have probably ruined ourselves to average beer since we have consumed products from a string of top shelf breweries in the last several months. This was her first public craft brewery outing that was not just the two of us and was a good lesson on protocol.

  18. pcsnyder

    pcsnyder Initiate (0) May 2, 2011 Pennsylvania

    Both. A lot of my old tasting notes are still handwritten, and I have a small notebook that I take with me when I go out, in case I try something new. Only a small number of the beers I've tried have made it into an electronic format, either here or elsewhere online. I also started keeping track of everything in a spreadsheet a few months back.
    SaverioD likes this.
  19. Andrew041180

    Andrew041180 Crusader (700) Mar 15, 2013 Massachusetts

    I have only recently started reviewing beers on BA, and I do so from memory. I take mental notes while I'm drinking, and then come up with a more thorough description while writing the review.
    SaverioD likes this.
  20. imbibehour

    imbibehour Poo-Bah (6,277) Mar 18, 2008 Maryland
    Supporter Subscriber Beer Trader

    I use both but transfer my notes to my own created database.
    SaverioD likes this.
  21. PatriotsRule

    PatriotsRule Aspirant (257) Sep 25, 2012 Massachusetts

    People can far more easily access online reviews, but i am with sandy Koufax in being a conscientious objector to the Internet revolution!
    SaverioD likes this.
  22. beertunes

    beertunes Poo-Bah (4,790) Sep 24, 2007 Washington
    Beer Trader

    I keep notes in a small note book or a scrap of paper, then add in my BA review later. It only takes a couple of minutes, so you're not really ignoring the people you're with. I recently started using Untappd as well. My handle over there is BellinghamBeerOtter.
    SaverioD likes this.
  23. nsheehan

    nsheehan Devotee (461) Jul 3, 2011 Texas
    Beer Trader

    For full reviews, I do handwritten notes on binder/graph paper and then type them up. I am quite behind on this but will start uploading reviews once I get caught up this summer. Then I'll make a spreadsheet. If you cellar, start your spreadsheet earlier before you lose beers in boxes! I also designate which box I put things in so it's easier to find.

    The 33 Beers book is cute with it's little stat wheel thing, but I don't think it's big enough to write what I want for each category. So consider size of a notebook if you get one. As you review more they lengthen, and it kind of sucks to have an only one-tenth used 3" x 5" notebook because it's no longer convenient for full reviews.

    Props for doing it right IMO, avoid looking at BA scores before drinking (unless you drink right after buying it and looking it up on BA if you have a smartphone). Sometimes when I am halfway through the beer, I'll look at some BA reviews and see if what I get matches what other people got. It can be reassuring and/or educational!

    Also, waiting to post reviews is great. I posted my first reviews in 2011, and deleted them within a week because they were horrible. I don't think a single review I did in 2011 will ever make it onto this site where it can be publicly ridiculed :grinning: Then I stopped reviewing for quite some time before trying again, and then took another multi-month break. It's definitely important to learn styles before you can review even slightly objectively. But how objective you want to be, that's subjective. I think you're doing it right.

    I had a similar question about reviewing in public at all... If I'm in public (alone or with friends) I'll do Untappd or a had on here. I'll just tell people what I'm doing (it's not like I'm at a bar with people who wouldn't be neutral to this at the least). This way they know I'm not texting my cooler friends :sunglasses:

    I have yet to do a full review in public. I imagine I'll have to eventually (I wish I did for 2012 Parabola-bottle, 2013 Parabola-keg side by side). In this case I'd go with a smaller group, or with people who also would be tempted to review (other BAs or something). And only if this is my best chance of getting the beer without trading (e.g. KBS keg or 2011 DL bottle). I wouldn't do a full review if it's, for example, Brooklyn BCS or Sixpoint Resin because I can get bottles/cans easy. The exception would be a beer where the tap version is much better than bottled/canned.
    SaverioD likes this.
  24. nsheehan

    nsheehan Devotee (461) Jul 3, 2011 Texas
    Beer Trader

    Props to you again for not bashing beer, especially at a company event. Don't want to Sour relations (get it?).
    On the flip side, without honest feedback breweries don't know that they might've missed the mark. I'd say be careful, if you've been in beer for less than a year, only 'give honest feedback' if it's piss-like absolutely horrible. The brewers have probably been into beer for years and might know the style better. Then again, so many new breweries are great home brewers but have no idea how to brew multi-barrel batches...

    As you taste more, and learn some terms, then you can give feedback to whomever, like a brewer. Say you taste a poor IPA. You could say the beer looks nice and you like the smell of pine and slight orange. But the taste is too piney for your liking, and there is a bit of butter (diacetyl). Some pros and cons, not full descriptions, just enough to show respect while giving feedback.

    When out with friends as 'the beer guy', I only make suggestions if they ask. An exception is if I know their tastes well and really think I can point them to a home run. This is very rare. If we get the same thing, I will not tell them what I think til they have tasted it and formed an impression. An exception is if I get a beer and they are considering it and want to know what I think before they buy. I'd rather help them better place their money, if I think it's bad. But if it's only average, I will pretty much say what I can without dissuading them. Maybe they like a characteristic I don't.
    SaverioD likes this.
  25. Andrew041180

    Andrew041180 Crusader (700) Mar 15, 2013 Massachusetts

    To this, I would only say that plenty of beginners would have seen those reviews and probably tasted exactly what you had described. The world has enough reviewers pointing out the white pepper and some such exotic fruit that I have never heard of. I love the variety of reviews that I get on this site, and I fully expect my early reviews to be something of a time capsule of my beer drinking experience. Seems a shame to me to waste those early reviews for fear of ridicule. I have fully declared my lack of vocabulary in some of my early reviews, and to me, that's part of the experience: acknowledging gaps in my knowledge, and seeking out ways to fill them.

    Happy reviewing all!
    SaverioD, Kerrie and utopiajane like this.
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