Q is for Quaff
Quaff – to drink heartily.
Heartily is also a nice word you don’t hear very often any more. It implies something that’s hard to put your finger on, but you know it when you see it – sincerely, genuinely – from the bottom of one’s heart.
But when it comes to experiencing a beer, quaffing comes after you’ve put your pint through its paces.
“What does that mean?”
I’m glad you asked.
While the craft community has come under a bit of fire for “fussing” over their beer, if you’re trying a beer for the first time, you owe it to yourself and the brewer to get the most out of that experience. As I’m sure you’re aware, taste is far from the only factor in the making of a great pint.
So let’s break it down into 5 easy steps. And remember, people tend to mock what they don’t understand, so ignore any funny looks or cocked eyebrows. Or better yet, grab a taster tray and educate them.
5 Steps of Beer Tasting
Hold up your glass and take a second to appreciate what’s inside. A good brewer is just as concerned about the appearance of their beer as any other aspect. Beers comes in a myriad of colours (measured on the Lovibond scale) and a certain style should fall within certain parameters. It’s not the end of the world if it’s a bit off, but the perfect hue in an amber ale is something to celebrate!
From the hoppy, pine and citrus notes of an IPA to clove, banana and bubble gum often found in Hefeweizens, beer offers a myriad of smells – each unique to the hops, malts and yeast used in production. Nuances can be more difficult for beginners to pick up on, but with a bit of practice, you can pick up individual hop types, the use of specialty malt and what type of yeast was used.
“Finally!” you might be thinking, but by this point, you will already have an idea of what you’re about to experience. Roasted notes on the nose might indicate a rich, malty beer. Tons of pine and perhaps you’re stepping into a hop bomb. Try and separate the ingredients. Which is most prominent? Is it a malt forward beer – where biscuit and grainy flavours take centre stage? Perhaps bright bubble gum and the yeast overwhelm everything else. How is the bitterness level?
Now take another sip. Before swallowing, let that beer mellow in your mouth for a bit. What does it feel like? It is thin or full and creamy? Perhaps it’s somewhere in the middle. What is the carbonation level like? How is the finish? Dry and crisp or a bit flat? Are the bubbles dancing everywhere, or could you take a few gulps without wincing?
5) Overall Impressions
Take another mouthful. Enjoy the beer! Think about how it compares to other examples of the style you’ve tried. Is it a particularly roasty porter? Could the pale ale use a bit less carbonation? Is that caramel or diacetyl in that amber ale? Most importantly – do you enjoy the beer?
With all of the above accomplished, (in no more than 15-20 seconds – this doesn’t have to be a craft beer parade) it’s time to quaff!
Drink deeply. Drink heartily. Enjoy the beer, but also enjoy the company. Besides, what’s a drink if not with good friends?