The paper is called "Método de Catado de Cervezas" (pdf, SP) and was written by Carlos Inaraja González, brew master at Heineken (Spain, I presume) and Francisco Javier Soriano Perdigón, Gastronomy Professor at the "Gambrinus School of Hospitality" (that also belongs to Heineken) in Sevilla. According to them, it's aimed at Somelliers, Hospitality school teachers and professionals in the restaurant business.
I thought the idea was great and worth of being promoted. The "handbook" has nine pages full of information. Much of which is very good and useful. Some of the rest can seem rather obvious to anyone with a bit of experience tasting whatever, but it is still worth reminding. There is some stuff in there, though, that seem a bit too "strict": 22°C and 60% humidity as a must to taste beers? It might be for a competition, but I think that any place where you feel comfortable and relaxed is perfectly fine to sit down for some beer tasting.
Everything would be really great anyway, if it wasn't for the two rather important mistakes that can be found pretty much at the beginning of the document and that kind of invalidate all the rest: The "freshness" of the beers and the temperatures they should be served.
The moment I read them I wanted to write a post, but I thought it would be better to ask first someone who knows more than me. I was planning to call a friend who happens to be an international judge, but a Czech beer related e-mail from Kristen England couldn't have been more timely.
And who is Kristen England some of you might be asking. Well, his e-mail signature says: "BJCP Continuing Education Director, Grand Master Judge" and, for those who follow Ron Pattison's blog, he's also the person who puts together the historical recipes for the "Let's Brew" series. I can't think of much better credentials than that.
And, just as I'd expected, his answer confirmed what I had thought from the beginning.
According to the document "beers with freshness lower than three months must always be used". It's true that there are many beers out there that should be drunk the freshest possible, Cask Ales and Kvasnicové come to mind. However, there are many more that could be drunk a bit "older" or even after some maturing in the bottle. I've seen many labels on which the maker recommends their beers to be drunk after a few months or even a year in the bottle. The authors of the document either don't know about these beers, or they are telling us to drink them before they are "ready". I just don't understand it.
But this could be considered a minor detail if we compare it with the temperatures they say beers should be tasted.
Lager and Stout (without specifying which kind): 5-6°C
Ale, Abbey, Trappist and Bock: 7-8°C
Wheat Ales: 7-8°C (I'm sure they speak about German Weizenbieren, which ARE NOT ALES!)
Here I will qoute Kriten's comment on the subject:
"those (temperatures) are massively low. I would say pils and most other lagers at 7-8C. The rest of the ales should be around 9-10C. The higher in alcohol, darker and more complex the warmer they need to be to appreciate. Imagine drinking an 18deg (Baltic) porter at 4C. It would taste like bitter alcoholic crap."
Of course that if we are speaking about beers of the kind of Heineken, the colder you can drink them, the better. But Heineken isn't precisely a good example for Pils, or a beer you want to sit down and "taste", for that matter.
There are other things I don't quite agree with, but they aren't worth mentioning. These two mistakes are really basic. When to open a bottle ("freshness"-wise) and what temperature should the beer be drunk are two pices of fundamental information for a somellier or for someone with a bit of beer tasting experience. Not knowing them at all, or not well enough, could result in the experience not being as pleasant as it should, or ruin it altogether.
The worst of this is that the authors aren't just "a couple of bloggers writing in the free time". They are professionals in the field. And what's even more worrying, their target audience aren't just the average consumer, but mostly other professionals. No wonder then that so much rubbish is written about beer in the Spanish speaking media and that renown professionals like Ferrán Adriá can get away with the bollocks they say.
My advice to somelliers, hospitality professionals and general public: Ignor this "Beer tasting Method". If you are interested, get of people with real experience in real beer tasting.
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