For instance, I never liked hoppy beers for years. I kept giving them a chance every few months, and now my favorite styles incorporate massive amounts of the little flowers. The last remaining style that I disliked was "barley wine", a bittersweet mega-alcoholic brew. This is now one of my favorite kinds of beer. I appreciate it in ways I never thought I would.
Here is a descriptive guide for what to look for in tasting beers. These are words I've read from other sources (such as the late, great, Michael Jackson) as well as words I have just come up with from my own experiences. I must warn, many of them are probably not what is legally considered "English".
Hop-derived aromas/flavors: floral/flowery, citrus, fruit salad, grapefruit, water melon, lemon, orange, peach, strawberry, black currants, woody, earthy, herbal, oregano, piney/pine needles, resiny, sappy, grassy, catty (cat urine/litterbox), lemongrass, sweat
Malt/sugar derived aromas/flavors: biscuit, cracker, bread, rye, wheat, corn, toast, toasty, roasty, coffee, espresso, dark chocolate, cocoa, toffee, grainy, cookie, dough, caramel, burnt, smoky, sweet, creamy, malty, molasses, rummy, cidery, dark fruits: raisins, prunes, dates, plums, figs, hay, anise, liquorice, tobacco, nutty, almond, bourbon, alcohol, wood/oak, brown sugar, meat/bacon/BBQ/campfire, maple syrup
Yeast/fermentation dervied aromas/flavors: spicy, white grapes, phenolic, cloves, bananas, black pepper, coriander, citrus, smoke, estery(fruity flavors), sweat, yeasty, "funk", vinegar, sour, horsey(saddle blanket), barn flavors, tart, leather
Other random aromas/flavors: coriander, cardamom, allspice, cinnamon, cloves, cumin, anise, fennel, tea, perfume, rosehips, fruits(added to the beer), chamomile, chocolate, juniper, spruce, heather, ginger
Negative flavors and off-flavors (in some styles of beer these may be desirable, most of the time they are not): vinegar, sour, tart, cooked corn, vegetal, astringent (think biting into a grape stem, sucking on a tea bag), cidery, wet cardboard, soapy, barn flavors, horsey, medicinal, band-aid, buttery/butterscotch(this tastes like a buttered popcorn Jelly Belly to me, in fact it is in ingredient in that candy and is the cause of "popcorn lung"), meaty, metallic/blood, solvent ("hot"/harsh alcohol flavors), cloying (sickenly sweet/syrup), stale, musty, stale, skunky
Moutfeel: sticky, smooth, fizzy, tingling, soft, flat, thin, thick, creamy
Finish: crisp, fruity, sweet, bitter, lingering, malty, hoppy
- Always pour beer into a glass first (style-appropriate glassware is another discussion all-together). Drinking from a bottle does not allow the beer to hit all flavor centers on your tongue and over-emphasizes the bitter taste-buds on the back of the tongue.
- These adjectives are just a starting point. If you think a beer tastes or smells like something, write it down!
- Try joining a site like ratebeer or Beer Advocate to keep track of your notes.