The Growler Guide to reviewing beer without being a total dink about it

Photo by Jonny Healy / The Growler
Photo by Jonny Healy / The Growler

Hello and welcome. It’s time to learn. Don’t be frightened. Your brain could use the stretch.

Right – before we offer you some advice on how to review beer (without being a dink about it), here are some tips on how to properly taste the stuff. You should find these pointers useful-ish, whether you find yourself judging in your first Beer Judge Certificate Program-sanctioned competition, or simply hanging with the pals who may or may not be super freaky beer nerds and want to analyze what they’re drinking rather than just, y’know, enjoying it.

We remember the beer scene when it was just starting to take off in Vancouver. “Craft Beer Enthusiasts” loved to remind their swishy, sniffy, spitty, wide-nostriled wine-sluggin’ counterparts what a gaggle of snobby lah-dee-dahs they were, and that they should all just unplug that cork from its unholiest of positions and enjoy a relaxed beer for once.

My, how the seasons have turned. The uptight, elitist attitude of these new-era Craft Beer Enthusiasts shaped us into thinking certain beer-rating websites should be completely rebranded. Like – how about Or

Or how about a new app (patent pending) called Starburrpd, which gives beer-drinking or -sipping users the ability to rate the resulting belches out of five stars, giving points for aroma, flavour, body, etc.? Fractions of stars not OK.

So anyway… here are those promised tips on how to properly taste beer:

Find the right glassware. Ideally a tulip, or something in which you can get some turbulence going to release the aroma, and wide enough to stuff your big ol’ conk (that’s a nose) right in there.

Serve at the right temperature. Beer at 3ºC tastes completely different at 8ºC.

Carbonation is important. Pour the beer carefully, and make sure the beer you’re tasting hasn’t been sitting out too long (a.k.a. gone flat) and before you bestow your ultimate, all conquering final judgment on it and condemn it to the fire pits of Mordor and/or

Wet that whistle! Go on! Take a big ol’ gulp! Swallow, don’t spit. This is the opposite of a wine tasting…and any other disgusting thoughts going through your head right now.

Have bread and water. Palate cleansing between tastings is a good idea.

Bring friends! Beer tasting shouldn’t be an individual sport. Let’s make it a party. Remember? You need to swallow anyway, so why not get all pissed up with your friends while carrying out this very important duty. All the real judges do it.

Experiment a little. Try tasting blind, so as not to be swayed by brand loyalties.

(Bonus Round) Outfox your
snobbiest friend. Pour a few of the exact same beer’s in a tasting flight and watch them choose the best one, then laugh at their expense.

That’s it. Make sure your tasting panel is drinking the same beer at the same time. Chat about it, but be confident in your own assessment and, especially, your preferences. Try not to be swayed by the power of suggestion.

Avoid this scenario, if possible:

Taster Person #1:  *sniff sniff* *slurp slurp* Oooh, I get a real peachy aroma, guava too, with a wonderful dry finish. Not too sweet. Just right. Delicious.

Taster Person #2 (who has a cold and just had an oyster omelet for a snack, washed down with an espresso): Meh. I got zero nose worth mentioning. Taste is burnt rubber, chicory, Band Aids and buttered popcorn on the palate. How can you like this train wreck?

Taster Person #1: *second sip* Oh yeah, I totally get that now. Not peaches and delicious tropical fruit at all. Definitely Band Aids, chicory and *BUUUUURP*opcorn. I’ve giving this one star on Starburrpd!”

Now that you have the basics of tasting beer down, please join us for a crash course in Reviewing Beer Without Being a Total Dink About It.


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