Appreciating a Craft Beer

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There has always been an air of sophistication that surrounds wine tasting, however the same principles can also apply to beer. Each craft beer that is brewed has many unique features that are easy to miss, unless you know how to discover them…

Beer Storage

The storage of a beer can directly influence its taste therefore it’s important to keep your beer in the correct location. The two main factors to consider when choosing a location to store the beer are:

• Is there the risk of direct sunlight? Natural light can wreak havoc with a beer unless properly protected.
• Is the temperature appropriate? A beer should be stored in a consistent environment. If it’s too hot you’ll risk shortening the life span of the craft beer. Too cold and it will result in the beer becoming cloudy.

When it comes to storing St. Stefanus, our brew master recommends ensuring that the beer is kept free from natural light – preferably in a cellar.

Pouring

When pouring a beer, the first thing to consider is the type of glass you should use. Many craft beers will have their own glasses, which will have been specifically designed to provide the best experience when drinking their beer.

In many craft beers, the way that you pour them will affect the final taste. In St. Stefanus Blonde, this can be attributed to the yeast that is still present in the bottle to allow our beer to slowly mature over time.

When stood upright, this yeast will rest at the bottom of the bottle, so that when you pour the beer, very little yeast will make it into the glass. Without the yeast, our Blonde is crystal clear and offers a light, fresh taste.

For a more full-bodied flavour, stop pouring when there is a third of the beer left in the bottle. Then gently swirl the liquid in the bottle to redistribute the yeast before adding the remaining beer to the glass. Known as a ‘cloudy’ beer, this is our master brewer’s personal recommendation.

Appreciate the appearance

When taking the time to examine the aesthetics of a beer before tasting, the mind will naturally generate assumptions on what to expect. When eventually tasting the beer, confirming these predictions can be a very satisfying experience. For instance, hold the glass up to the light and identify whether the liquid is light or dark. Quite often lighter beers will have a sweeter, fruitier taste whereas a darker beer will have a more bitter taste.

With a glass of St. Stefanus, the clarity of the liquid will indicate the taste that you can expect. When the body appears cloudy in the glass, this indicates that the yeast is present in the liquid, meaning that depending on its age, there will be a fuller flavour.

Aroma

Our sense of smell is closely linked to our taste palette and so taking the time to savour the aroma of a beer will enhance your tasting experience. Agitate the liquid in the glass by gently swirling – this will accentuate any aromas or slight nuances that may otherwise remain hidden. You could try to identify whether the smell predominantly comes from the hops or the malt. The aroma from hops will vary, but any fruity, floral or herby aroma can be attributed to these little flowers. On the other hand it is the malt that will give the beer a more resounding coffee-like smell.

Taste

This is the step you’ve been building up to… Take a small sip and resist swallowing immediately, allowing the liquid to linger on your palette while exploring with the tongue. Note the texture of the liquid and the consistency of its body while exhaling. This is known as ‘retro-olfaction’, which will release any stimuli at mouth level, enhancing the tasting experience further.

General Tips For Craft Beer Tasting

• When first sampling a beer, try to avoid eating immediately before or after. Once you have a true appreciation of what the beer tastes like, then begin experimenting with food and craft beer pairing.
• Cleanse your palette with water before tasting.
• Be sure to leave a beer at ambient room temperature for up to fifteen minutes before serving. It is generally accepted that allowing a craft beer to warm up slightly will release more flavour.
• When you can, don’t open your craft beer straight away. Beers like our St. Stefanus Blonde will continue to mature in the bottle, slowly changing in taste over time. Experiment with different ages to discover all the different possibilities hidden within a craft beer.

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