II’m currently reading How to Taste: A Guide to Discovering Flavor and Savoring Life, a book recently published by Mandy Naglich. She is a certified taster, drinks educator and writer, amongst other things. In her book, Mandy chronicles meetings with world-class sommeliers, highly-trained cheese analysts, sensory scientists and more, to hear their personal take on flavour. It’s fascinating reading!

When I first got into beer tasting and judging, I thought there was a ‘right’ way of experiencing flavour, not realising that it’s highly personal and often deeply connected to our memories. You don’t need to become a professional taster to appreciate beer, but it helps if you understand what type of beer you like. What do you usually like in food and drinks? Do you like pickles on your burger? Do you have a sweet tooth? I don’t like sweet cocktails, but rather steer towards gin & tonic. In terms of beer, not surprisingly I like them dry and bitter, with a citrus note.

But preferences also change over time. A few years ago, I was into Saison. It’s a complex Belgian style with a spicy yeast character. Nowadays I prefer crisp lagers and quaffable session beers. “This is the new me, I’m a lager person now,” a friend told me recently, explaining their choice of drinking a simple lager in a trendy craft beer place. I totally understand, if a refreshing lager is what you want, that’s what you should have.

A great way of exploring what you currently like in terms of beer flavour is to try a beer flight, which is a selection of 4-5 different beers, usually served in small glasses in a row on a wooden tray or paddle. What better opportunity to taste and compare a variety of beers – you might even find a new favourite.

Malin Norman

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