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Developing your beer taste buds?

I’m constantly a bit amazed at the details some of you claim to detect with your beers. I just can’t seem to pick out the stuff many of you claim to taste. I do’t think I’d note an “off” flavor (whatever the hell that is) if it jumped up and down on my tongue.

Question is: Were you born with a sensitive tongue or do you develop that ability over time?

[quote=“jimexcelcs”]I’m constantly a bit amazed at the details some of you claim to detect with your beers. I just can’t seem to pick out the stuff many of you claim to taste. I do’t think I’d note an “off” flavor (whatever the hell that is) if it jumped up and down on my tongue.

Question is: Were you born with a sensitive tongue or do you develop that ability over time?[/quote]

I don’t have a very sophisticated palette either, but believe me… you’d notice an off flavor. At least, you’d notice blatant off flavors.

I’m making an effort to develop my palette. Drink some single hop beers or brew some SMaSH beers.

In my experience, it’s considerably easier to “develop your beer taste buds”—especially when evaluating off-flavors—when you have someone definitively identifying the flavor for you and then providing contrast and/or counter-examples.

For example, I sat around a table with a bunch of people from my homebrew club, and we were all collectively trying to identify flavors in our beers, mock-BJCP style. It can be surprisingly difficult associating a flavor with the right word. “Bubblegum” is a flavor found in beer, and was a flavor found in the beer we were drinking, but I needed someone else to mention it before I could definitively identify it in my mind. I certainly struggled with that flavor’s identification beforehand… but, once it was mentioned, it was an “of course!” moment for me.

Google “beer off-flavor class” in your area. Sometimes these are held at LHBS, or even breweries. If you can’t find anything local, you can buy a kit for an online course here:
http://cicerone.org/content/flavor-kit-and-tutored-tasting-webinar

I’m very much a novice as well when it comes to identifying off-flavors. A bit pricey, but very cool. Thanks for the link.

:cheers:

Here’s a bit from the upcoming “Experimental Brewing” that tells you how to find out if you’re a supertaster…

Roughly 35% of women and 15% of men are “supertasters”. These folks have been given a special skill. No, they can’t fight crime. Their palates are much more sensitive to a number of flavors, especially bitter. You can test to see if you’re one of the lucky ducks with a bit of food coloring, a hole reinforcement label (the things you put on a punched paper to prevent it from ripping out of the binder) and a good camera.

  1. Douse a cotton swab with blue food coloring. Paint the front of your tongue with dye.
  2. Carefully place a reinforcer on your tongue in the colored section.
  3. Take a photo of your tongue and zoom in on the hole. Count the number of pink dots inside the circle. These are the papillae which house your taste buds.
  4. If you count more than 35 – congrats – you’re probably a supertaster and have a legitimate reason for hating broccoli. Below 15? Oh boy, you’re a “non-taster”. If you’re in the middle, welcome to being perfectly average!

Learning to pick out flavors (in beer or wine or whatever) is a gradual process. One key is to drink a lot of the stuff. The other is to think a little bit about it - though you don’t always have to be overly active or scientific. It can happen in a pretty passive way as well.

One thing I have always noticed in wine and beer tasting, is that once you pick out one specific flavor, you will always be able to pick out that flavor, even in much more subtle situations.

So much of the flavor recognition that I have developed, occured when drinking wine or beer that was not properly ballanced, and when one flavor or “off flavor” dominated much more than it should.

A good example in wine tasting is blueberry and plum flavor (“blue fruit”). Can be very difficult to pick out due to their subtleties. However, I sampled some homemade Cabernet at one point that had some very interesting notes to it. It took me a while to associate the flavor - even when blueberries are my favorite fruit. Once I finally pin pointed the flavor, I can now always pick out “blue fruit” in wines that show it in a much more subtle way. This Cabernet would have been considdered a blueberry bomb, and the intensity of the flavor was way too pronounced to be considdered ballanced.

So to be scientific, if you really want to develope a taste for off flavors, you could ferment a beer so poorly that it could have nothing other than the worst garbagie off-flavors immaginable. Then you would always be able to pick them out for the rest of your life.

My advice is to enjoy ignorance. If you can be happy with beer that others find repugnant, your life is probably going to be more fun.

you can develop overtime.
Go buy an off flavor kit, a lot of off flavors are very difficult to tell.
I did it with some freinds when some could pick some out some couldnt tell a thing, it all varies…

When I drink directly from a bottle I can’t taste as much as when I drink from a glass. A wide mouth glass that I can get my nose right in there works best for me. I may be stating the obvious but I know a lot of people who still insist on slugging from a bottle.

+1. My goal isn’t to become a BJCP judge. I’d hate to be stuck with 5 gallons of something where every time i tasted it i said “man this would be so much better if that slight hint of fusel alcohol wasn’t there at the finish”

+1. My goal isn’t to become a BJCP judge. I’d hate to be stuck with 5 gallons of something where every time i tasted it i said “man this would be so much better if that slight hint of fusel alcohol wasn’t there at the finish”[/quote]

It’s like learning to play or write music…you can never just relax and enjoy it again. You’re always analyzing it.

I found that my ability to taste the components in a beer developed when I started experimenting with my own brews (shortly after I started brewing some years ago). I would take the same basic pale ale recipe and change one thing (the yeast or a hop or a specialty grain). I began to understand what that single item was contributing to the overall flavor of a finished beer. Eventually I ended up being able to guess what hops or sometimes the yeast that was used in someone else’s beer.

Well, I just popped open my first “Red Hood” brew (from Midwest Supply) that’s been in the bottle for two weeks. Recipe calls for “2 to 4” weeks. I now know what “green” tastes like. Sort of like every ingredient was overpowered by every other ingredient. No subtlety a’tall.

That’n will sit for a while.

[quote=“jimexcelcs”]Well, I just popped open my first “Red Hood” brew (from Midwest Supply) that’s been in the bottle for two weeks. Recipe calls for “2 to 4” weeks. I now know what “green” tastes like. Sort of like every ingredient was overpowered by every other ingredient. No subtlety a’tall.

That’n will sit for a while.[/quote]
And the journey begins…
If you can stand it, let one sit in a dark cool place for a year. You won’t recognize it as the same beer. My father binge brews once a year, has 2 fermenters going at one time and pitches over the yeast twice for a total of 3 per fermenter - 6 batches total. Stores everything in the “cave” (utility area in the back of a finished basement) and that keeps him in beer for himself for the year. The last bottle is different than the first.

[quote=“NanoBrew”][quote=“jimexcelcs”]Well, I just popped open my first “Red Hood” brew (from Midwest Supply) that’s been in the bottle for two weeks. Recipe calls for “2 to 4” weeks. I now know what “green” tastes like. Sort of like every ingredient was overpowered by every other ingredient. No subtlety a’tall.

That’n will sit for a while.[/quote]
And the journey begins…
If you can stand it, let one sit in a dark cool place for a year. You won’t recognize it as the same beer. My father binge brews once a year, has 2 fermenters going at one time and pitches over the yeast twice for a total of 3 per fermenter - 6 batches total. Stores everything in the “cave” (utility area in the back of a finished basement) and that keeps him in beer for himself for the year. The last bottle is different than the first.[/quote]
Same beer maybe. Better maybe not. Depending in the beer For the most part probably way past its prime.

[quote=“Denny”]Here’s a bit from the upcoming “Experimental Brewing” that tells you how to find out if you’re a supertaster…

Roughly 35% of women and 15% of men are “supertasters”. These folks have been given a special skill. No, they can’t fight crime. Their palates are much more sensitive to a number of flavors, especially bitter. You can test to see if you’re one of the lucky ducks with a bit of food coloring, a hole reinforcement label (the things you put on a punched paper to prevent it from ripping out of the binder) and a good camera.

  1. Douse a cotton swab with blue food coloring. Paint the front of your tongue with dye.
  2. Carefully place a reinforcer on your tongue in the colored section.
  3. Take a photo of your tongue and zoom in on the hole. Count the number of pink dots inside the circle. These are the papillae which house your taste buds.
  4. If you count more than 35 – congrats – you’re probably a supertaster and have a legitimate reason for hating broccoli. Below 15? Oh boy, you’re a “non-taster”. If you’re in the middle, welcome to being perfectly average![/quote]

Damn Denny. It’s people like you that make these forums great. I think my oldest son is a “super taster” he’s always critiquing my beer. I just brewed a N English Brown Ale that I think is nectar and he’s calling out all these “off” flavors… sheesh. Anyway those gummed reinforcement rings? In the Air Force I learned the real name is “Paper assholes” :slight_smile:

[quote=“grainbelt”][quote=“NanoBrew”][quote=“jimexcelcs”]Well, I just popped open my first “Red Hood” brew (from Midwest Supply) that’s been in the bottle for two weeks. Recipe calls for “2 to 4” weeks. I now know what “green” tastes like. Sort of like every ingredient was overpowered by every other ingredient. No subtlety a’tall.

That’n will sit for a while.[/quote]
And the journey begins…
If you can stand it, let one sit in a dark cool place for a year. You won’t recognize it as the same beer. My father binge brews once a year, has 2 fermenters going at one time and pitches over the yeast twice for a total of 3 per fermenter - 6 batches total. Stores everything in the “cave” (utility area in the back of a finished basement) and that keeps him in beer for himself for the year. The last bottle is different than the first.[/quote]
Same beer maybe. Better maybe not. Depending in the beer For the most part probably way past its prime.[/quote]
Yes. For him it works. He only makes one beer and it is a simple stout beer. By the end of the year the flavor is more pronounced, more “dark”. For other beer, it might be past its prime, but if you have the self control to keep a couple of bottles and try them every few months it is interesting to see how the flavors are constantly changing.

Brew Meister Smith wrote:

[quote][/quote]
My advice is to enjoy ignorance. If you can be happy with beer that others find repugnant, your life is probably going to be more fun.

Amen! Life is very complicated and a hobby/obsession should not be. However, there are left brained individuals who find added pleasure in the complications of a subject matter so, taste subtleties would appeal to them. I am not there…yet!

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