Thinking About Beer Flavors

Not caramel flavored beer, but the flavor components of beer that you like the most.

Last week 2014 began I read many “2014 _____ Resolutions.”  You know, “2014 Literary Resolutions”, “2014 Television Watching Resolutions,” and many more on many subjects.  One that I read really got me thinking.  It was a 2014 Craft Beer Resolutions article.  I believe it was in All About Beer or Beer Advocate.  Regardless, one of the resolutions was to make a list of your favorite beer flavors.

That seems simple enough.  What are the flavors you look forward to most when drinking a beer?  Except for me it is not that simple.  The flavors I like in a beer depend upon the style the beer is, what the beer is trying to be, and ultimately how all the flavors of that particular beer work together.

My default is probably pale ale or even brown ale.  I prefer both in the American style which means I like them a little hoppier then the traditional English styles.  So, that suggest I like the flavor of hops, but which hops.  That would be the brighter, more piney, more citrusy American hops.  Of course if the beer is too hoppy it takes the taste out of balance it doesn’t work and I won’t like it.  A good way of thinking about it is to think of it as a salad.

In a good salad, you have your base of the greens.  For me that is usually lettuce and/or baby spinach.  Then I like to put some kind of sweet and sour combination of cherry tomatoes, beets, and/or pickles.  With that I will add some type of differentiating texture of carrots or mushrooms.  The last solid is usually red onions.  Then I try to bind it all together with oil and vinegar or maybe a little lemon to brighten it.  If I add too much of any one thing, then the salad experience I’ve created is not as good as it should be.  In this case, red onions like hops can overwhelm everything else if you are not careful.

Now, while pales and browns may be my default that does not mean that is all I am ever in the mood to drink.  I love almost all the Belgian styles ranging from wit bier to Abbey style quadruple to Flanders red.  Then again I am very familiar with wee heavy Scotch Ales,Saisons, and Biere de Garde.  I also love an oatmeal stout, cream ales, and I could go on and just list almost every beer style.  There is something in each one I like.

I think trying to list your favorite beer flavors is a limiting exercise.  These are the flavors that make us comfortable and we all default towards the comfortable.  That is why we all have a favorite pair of jeans or pair of shoes and why television networks recycle story ideas and actors to find what makes viewers keep coming back.  I think as a “craft” beer drinker knowing the flavors you like is fine as long as it is part of understanding your pallet.

I don’t think of any beer as any one flavor.  A beer may be hop forward, malt forward, or yeast forward.  Meaning the predominate flavor comes from one of those, but it is only in combination with the other flavors, aromas, and mouth feel that a beer works.  It is of course good to know what you like, but simply listing flavors can limit you in what you explore.  If you are doing it in order understand your pallet that will help you explore and find beers that you would think are outside of your comfort zone styles.  Brewers are always experimenting and pushing the limits of the styles in order to find new and different styles and beer.  Let their skill and your pallet find a beer in every style that you like.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: