What Does This Remind Me Of?

Beer tasting should answer 5 questions.

  • What does the beer look like?
  • What does the beer smell like?
  • How does the beer feel in my mouth?
  • What does the beer taste like?
  • Do I like it?

As a taster you should be able to answer those questions intelligently in language that anyone can easily understand.

I want to ask a sixth question with my tasting notes:  What does this beer remind me of?  For me beer, bourbon, music, and literature all have emotional memories for me.  I associate tastes and sounds with specific moments and I think about that every time I take a drink.  I may not write about the specifics of moments, but I want to relate those memories in a general sense to what I’m drinking and why I do or don’t like it.

The deeper into craft beer you get the more you will find that different types of judged competitions have different guidelines they follow for judging beer.  For judges at large competitions (BJCP sanctioned) it is not enough to judge how good the beer tastes, judges also look to whether a beer is a good representative of the style.  Each style has certain guidelines that define appearance, aroma, feel, and taste that it has to meet to get first place.  The most common style guides are the Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP) Style Guide, the Brewer’s Association Style Guide, and the Great American Beer Festival (GABF) Style Guide.

Now, for most normal people, you taste a beer to see if you like it.  Again, the deeper you are into craft beer the more you kind of care about whether a beer meets the style benchmarks, but even then, you are just trying to find something worth drinking.

As a slightly abnormal person, I drink a lot of beer and have begun to develop my palate to taste differences in beers within styles.  It can be a fun experience to be able to taste something and say, “That isn’t quite what I expected from an IPA.”

Take my recent experience with the Devil’s Britches IPA from Highland Brewing.  I bought it knowing it was IPA.  However, when I started drinking it, I knew something was different about it.  I had gone in with the expectation of your average hoppy American IPA (a distinct style under BJCP, Brewer’s Association, and GABJ style guides).  Instead, as soon as I tasted it, I knew something was different.  It is what Highland calls a “red” American IPA.

Now, as a normal beer drinker, I was surprised by the taste of this particular beer, but grew to quite like it the more I drank it.  I have recommended this beer to others.  However, I don’t know how it would fair in a beer competition in its style.  It might push the limits of what an American IPA too far to win any BJCP competitions.  As a beer drinker, that does not matter as long as I like it.

It is entirely possible that the best tasting beer in a competition does not fall into any of the prescribed guidelines and the worst tasting beer in the competition hits every guideline perfectly.  Luckily, even if the beer doesn’t hit all the guidelines, judges worth a crap will still give it high marks if it tastes good (it still probably won’t win) and they will kill a beer that tastes like crap.  They are after all beer fans.

All of that is to say this:  In the tastings and notes I will do for this blog (it will be such a sacrifice) I will respect the style guidelines the BJCP has set down, but I will not let those style restrictions decide on what I recommend.

Next up I’m going to give a short glossary of terms.

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