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Superflous explanation

It might not interest anyone, but I felt I would share with you my "method" when tasting a new beer. To explain you how I do it and why.

Before opening the bottle or ordering the beer I try to forget everything I might have heard or read about it, I also try to ignore as much as possible what the label says (easier with a beer on tap). The only information that at the moment is useful for me is the ABV or the gravity. This isn't easy to do, almost impossible I would say, but the aim is to be able to focus on the most important thing, what I will have in the glass.

At home, I pour the beer carefully, in a clean grass and try to do it at the proper temperature. Once served, I make a couple of photos and start taking notes.

Usually the first sip is rather big. I close my eyes and keep the beer in my mouth for some time trying to "listen" to it. I want to understand what the beer wants to tell me. Only then I might start reading the label, looking for the list of ingredients and any other bit of info that the brewer saw fit to include. Unless I can't understand the language on the label, I hardly ever look for information about the beer on the internet.

As I empty the glass and take notes, I try to imagine moments for the beer, what sort of foods I could pair it with, etc. (that is, of course, if I like the beer). If my wife is around, I always give her to taste and pay attention to what she has to say, this helps to see things from another perspective.

Never ever, nor before, nor during, nor after I look the beer up in RateBeer or BeerAdvocate, or any other similar web site. I think it is an utter waste of time. I will not like the beer more or less if my opinion about it agrees or not with that of people I don't know and likely will never know. And needless to say, I don't decide whether I'm going to taste a new beer based on the ratings of those sites, that, to me, is something bordering the stupid.

I do like discussing the beer with friends, people I know, readers of my blog or fellow bloggers. It is interesting to compare impressions with other people, but my opinion about the beer will always remain, at least then. It can change with time, though, beers change and so do tastes; a beer that I found wonderful me the first time, might not be so later, and viceversa.

But this is not dogma, and many times I drink a new beer without paying too much attention to what I'm drinking, just for the sake of drinking it.

Na Zdraví!

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  1. I found at one point that thinking too much about the beer stopped the enjoyment as much, so I gave up taking notes and just enjoyed the beer for a while.

  2. Quite often I just take mental notes, I can't help it. But basically, it all comes down to this: I like it = good beer.

  3. Pretty much the same process for me. If I get tired of "thinking" about the beer I'm drinking I go for homebrew or stuff I've had before, or some which of which I have several bottles.

    I try to avoid ratebeer and beer advocate, but will sometimes look after the fact to get details on the brewery, or what kind of beer they think it is. In some cases I'm not sure what "style" I'm drinking, but I try not to put labels on beer. The brewer can do that. :D

  4. I have to say that I enjoy reading the information about a particular beer or brewer on BA and other sites. It can be a learning tool (grain of salt needed of course) for beginners that are trying to understand styles, proper glassware, best drinking temps, etc, etc...

    The ratings are a whole other ball of wax though. They are inherently flawed and have to be taken with a whole box of salt. It seems, to me at least, that the trend is to bash anything made by the big brewers and favor extreme beers. Big alcohol beers and beers that are hard to get seem to be very popular and highly rated. Some reviewers are good though and provide alot of context in their descriptions which can be helpful when on the hunt for something specific.

  5. What is the best temperature for a Czech lager?
    Before now I have been in Prague in the really hot summer and found that the beer can be served up too cold for my tastes...


  6. Mike,

    The temperature is around 6-7°C I would say, if it is a pale lager what we talk about, though it does happen in summer that you'll find them a bit colder than it should be.

    To the other two,

    I think BA and RB are good sources of information about breweries. What I meant is that their core thing, the ratings, is a waste of time, for the reasons Michael H very well mentions.

    And, actually, I think that a newbie should completely ignore them, they should taste as many beers as they can to build their own minds about what is for them good or not. At least that is how I've done it, and I'm happy with the results so far.

  7. I am not convinced that the ratings on BeerAdvocate and RateBeer are a waste of time. I prefer to think of them as each individual's reaction to that particular beer, and the beer's ratin as the cumulative opinion of people interested enough to take part - at least in theory. No system of evaluation is perfect, after all we are talking about human beings here but as a guideline both sites serve their purpose well.

  8. I think that Micheael H got the ratings perfectly.
    It's been shown many times that most people like stronger beers more, why, because they are tastier. Then you have that anything that is or becomes rare, hard to get and/or expensive will be more appreciated by many if not most. A good example of that is this article.

    But the reason I believe the ratings at BA and RB are a waste of time are the following:

    Before tasting the beer: I don't want my opinion to be influenced anyone, very difficult to do already, don't need any ratings to add up to that.
    While tasting the beer: I want to concentrate on it, can't be arsed with looking the beer up in BA or RB and read its reviews.
    After tasting the beer: Why do I need it? I've tasted the beer and have my opinion about it. It won't change whether it agrees or not with a bunch of ratings.

    I do like exchanging opinions and discussing a beer, though, but with people, not with user names.

    But once again, that's me and my personality.

  9. I generally read ratings after I have drunk the beer, just out of interest in what other people have to say about. As I don't have the internet at home I can't read them while drinking beer, and to be honest I can't think of anyone that does so it is kind of a non-issue really.

    I find the difference in experience that goes with the rating fascinating, but that is probably because I find people fascinating and behind every user name is a person.

    I would disagree that stronger beers are tastier - the best tasting beer in Prague is a 10 degree pale lager.

    I think there is a mindset which says "it must be good because it is extreme" whereas I completely agree with Lew Bryson and the Session Beer Project, it is possible to make tasty beers which are less than 4%ABV, they are the kind of beers I want to drink regularly.

  10. Stronger beers are tastier in the sense that they have more taste, which doesn't mean all by itself better.

    I prefer session beers as well, those are the ones I drink more often and they can be really tasty as well.

    I like the Lew Bryson project, though, for me, a 5%ABV pale lager can also be a very good session beer.

  11. I have to say that this topic fascinates me as well for the same reason Al stated. It is a little peek into human nature. And, a little peek at human nature when it is distorted by a keyboard. It's obviously not just the beer community either.

    Of course, just like anything on teh internets, you have to heavily filter for pertinent and accurate information. Beer ratings require a good filter to avoid the information cascade.

    In the end, we all like what we like and anyone who deflates us because of it can, well (head tucked safely behind monitor), go stick it.

  12. First of all, I want to make clear that, although I don't rate myself, I don't doubt the honesty of at least most raters in BA, RB and similar sites

    I like reading beer reviews, but in blogs. At RB or BA you sometimes have to read 100's of them and if you want to know about who the reviewer is, you have to click on their profile etc, etc, etc. Whereas with a blog you you are following you can have a better "view" of the personality of the author(s) and what they like and don't like. Not to mention that you can leave a comment that can start a discussion with the author.

    For me, it is also more interesting in the sense that many bloggers will also tell you when and where they drunk those beers they are reviewing, which is something you don't get all that often in rating sites (at least not that I remember).

    But as I've said, this is what works for me. And I'm actually glad my post has started this debate.

  13. Enjoying the "When Lobster was Spam" link :D

  14. I rate beers on ratebeer for me, to have it easy on one place all my notes on beer.
    I very rarely read rates on beers that aren't made by friends of mine ;)


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