Tasting Beer with Your Nose

DSC_0081 I know we teased you about a new series on beer and food pairing, and it’s coming. However, you can’t fully appreciate a great pairing unless you understand a few beer tasting principles. In our last post we discussed how a beer’s color and flavors are related. There’s a lot you can tell about a beer by looking at it. If your eyes are good for evaluating beer, your nose is even better. In fact, your nose may just be better than your tongue for exploring beer flavors.

To get started savoring a beer’s aroma, take a few quick sniffs of your beer. One long sniff can actually dry the receptors and cause you to miss subtle aromas. Some call this “hounddogging.” Swirl the glass to release some CO2, then hounddog it again.

Next, pass your glass left to right under your nose and see what aromas you pick up. Try not to go to fast, or too slow. Just a gentle pass under your nose will help you catch some other aromas you may have missed. What you were just doing in those two steps is called orthonasal breathing, which is just a fancy word for sniffing.

A lot of what you’re tasting when drinking beer comes from the aroma drifting up from the back of your mouth up into your nasal cavity. To explores those aromas you need to do a little retronasal breathing. It sounds complicated, but it’s easy, here’s how:

  1. Swirl your beer
  2. Take a deep breath
  3. Take drink of beer, but don’t swallow
  4. Close your mouth, then swallow your beer
  5. Exhale through your nose, while keeping your mouth shut.

Pretty cool, eh? You can pick up a lot of new flavors with retronasal breathing that you didn’t just by sniffing it.

Drink well, friends. Cheers.