Let’s be honest – who doesn’t like a chilled pint of beer? Beer tasting is probably an outlandish concept when it comes to fine dining in Malta. However, at Marina Club we believe that just like a glass of great wine, a glass of a finely brewed beer should be valued with equal appreciation.
When it comes to such a beverage, just like any other drink, it’s good to drink what you like. Granted, experimenting can be fun, especially when you’re with a group of friends. Nevertheless, if you find yourself gravitating to a certain style of beer, we recommend you to investigate that style as best you can.
When tasting beer, there are a number of aspects to consider before choosing a good beer. Glassware, temperature, pouring, taste and your overall drinking environment are all factors that come into play as you’re tasting. We’ve decided to share some tips to keep in mind for a fool-proof tasting experience:
Environment and Palate Preparation
Firstly, you need to feel relaxed. The best beer tasting is done in a place without a lot of interruptions, even if you’re tasting with a group of friends. After all, a good beer deserves your undivided attention, right? “Centre” your palate, by having a glass of cool water along with a handful of unsalted crackers (to nibble on in between beers), on the ready. These will help to cleanse and refresh your palate, so you can get the most out of each taste.
Important Tip: avoid tasting a beer after particularly greasy or spicy meal – the shock your palate takes from that kind of food may hamper your experience. Likewise, if you’re a smoker you’ll want to skip your cigarette while tasting; cigarette or cigar smoke is murder on the tongue, and it greatly affects how you taste beer.
For beer tasting, using glassware is always better than straight from the bottle. This is particularly true if that bottle is dark coloured glass, versus clear or green. Your beer will look, taste, and smell infinitely better when you enjoy it from a clean glass.
Don’t be too worried about pairing the proper glass to the style you are tasting. A standard shaker pint will suffice. Clean white wine glasses will also work well for most beers. Remember, you need to be able to see the beer and admire its colour and brilliance. Make sure your glass is spotless, because any residue leftover from a dishwasher will quickly kill the head on your beer and it can even affect the flavour.
For many beers, temperature has a weighty effect on flavour. If too cold, those temperatures can chill your taste buds and also boost the carbonation, dryness and bitterness of the beer, which lowers and inhibits your perception of aroma, flavour, and body.
The correct temperatures will augment body, aromatics, mouthfeel, sweetness, acidity and flavour. There isn’t really a rule of thumb, but there are a few guidelines to remember:
- Lagers are best consumed in the range of 40-45°F
- Ales are best at around 50°F
- Barleywines and strong ales should be enjoyed at 55-60º F or “cellar temperature”
Don’t forget, beer is designed to foam. If you pour a bottled beer down the side of your glass its carbonation won’t be fully released, and you’ll basically end up swallowing gas. Hold the glass at a 45° angle and pour slowly down the side, for a proper pour. Once the glass is about ½ full hold it straight and pour the rest of the beer right down the middle, raising the bottle smoothly.
If you’re tasting a bottle-conditioned beer, there will be a pleasant yeast bed at the bottom of the bottle. It’s really up to you if you want to drink it with your beer. If so, simply leave about a ½ inch of beer in the bottle, give it a strong swirl to disturb and agitate the yeast and pour it into your glass. If you choose to leave it, leave about an ounce of beer in the bottle.
Undoubtedly the most anticipated part! After you’ve taken a few minutes to examine the colour, clarity and head retention of the beer and give it a heavy swirl, take note of what you smell, whether it’s hops, malt or other aromatics. Smell is all perceptive and relative. Take a sip, and let the beer roll all around your tongue and flood your mouth. Let every edge of your palate savour the flavour.
Take a few deep breaths to try and detect more flavours your taste buds might not have picked up. Before your swallow, don’t neglect to notice the body, carbonation, warmth and creaminess the beer has. When you swallow the beer, this is your chance to feel the dryness and any aftertaste it may have.
In actuality, beer has a larger range of potential flavours than wine. the truth is, brewers get to play around with more than just grapes, tanks and barrels; they have the added ingredients of barley or wheat, ingredients which create the perception of sweetness, and hops – which contribute bitterness, as well as spices, fruits and chocolate. All ingredients which elevate the drink even more.
There is also something to be said for beer’s flexibility when pairing with certain foods. If you are somewhat of a novice in the beer tasting scene, we suggest you take a leaf out of the wine taster’s book. Just as champagne or sparkling wines are often said to cut through fried or fatty foods, beer can be just as effective – specifically a crisp lager. Moreover, wheat ale can be reminiscent of a Californian Chardonnay and a rich porter can be as complex in levels of flavours as a prestigious wine from Bordeaux.
Here at Marina Club, we believe good beer should be given justice. That’s why we encourage you to come and enjoy one of the many beers we have on offer. For anyone who enjoys a great pint, why not pair it with a meal or platter? Our friendly and helpful staff will be able to recommend the best beer to couple with whatever dish you choose. Book a table at Marina Club, situated at the stunning Valletta Waterfront, today.