As is the case when tasting wines, the criteria for beer appreciation include appearance, aroma and taste. Unlike wine tastings, however, the spittoon is set aside as appreciation of ales requires one to swallow in order to assess bitterness at the back of the throat. Unless a beer is bottled-conditioned or containing wheat, a golden summer ale should drop clear, bright and vibrant. Aroma evaluation should be undertaken from a glass not a bottle. Stick your nose in. If your nose is wet then you've stuck it in too far. Instead of taking lots of deep inhalations, mix them up with lots of quick, small sniffs and let the herbal, fruity vapours flood in. Once the beer makes it into the mouth, note the interaction between the sweet malt, the bitter, floral aromatic hops and the fruity yeast. Balance is best. A good way of detecting the bitterness of a beer and the hop flavours is to eat a bit of foam from the head with a teaspoon. It may look odd, but it's extremely revealing. Does the beer develop and grow in character as you drink it? Are there layers of flavour? Is there a finish that stays longer? Or does it vanish without trace? Either way, it should leave you wanting more.
Written by Decanter