Tasting Beer with Your Eyes

2 goldYou can’t judge a book by its cover, but you can often guess how a beer will taste just by looking at it. Of course, there are exceptions to every rule, but you can perceive a lot about a beer by its appearance.

Almost all beers gets their colors from grain, although some fruit beers get their color from the fruit, like the cherries in New Glarus Wisconsin Belgian Red. Most beer is made from barley, which provides starches that are converted to sugar. But barley also gives beer its wide range of colors, from pale to dark black.

5 blackThe majority of barley in beer provides little color, it’s the base malt that supply the bulk of the sugar. Specialty grains are the small percentage of the grain bill that add color to beer. The specialty grains are usually less than ten percent of all grain used for brewing, even in a dark beer like a stout. It doesn’t take a lot of dark malt to turn a beer black.

3 amberBarley is malted, brought to its germination point, then germination is stopped. The barley is dried then placed into a kiln or roaster. Kilned, stewed and roasted malts develop more intense flavors and color depending on the process used and those characteristics are imparted to the beer. The specialty grains that give the beer color also give it a lot of flavor. Beer flavor is influenced by all its ingredients: Water, Barley, Hops and Yeast. Each ingredient contributes different flavors and the grain derived flavors are what you would expect if you’ve ever had a cracker, biscuit or piece of bread. There are many similarities between flavors in beers and baked goods.

4 brownMalted barley comes in a range of colors that influence beer color, from pale to black. Here’s a few flavors you can pick out from various colors of beer:

  • Pale – flour or bread dough
  • Golden – baked bread or light crackers
  • Light Amber – bread crust or biscuits
  • Amber – toasty or caramel
  • Brown – nutty, toffee or chocolate
  • Black – roasted or coffee

Next up, we’ll talk about the tasting process. Until then, drink well. Cheers!