First thing’s first, let’s get the beer in a glass. Drinking straight from a bottle (or can) means your snout can’t join in the fun. Check to see whether the beer is “bottle conditioned”. If it is then you’ll want to pour carefully so as not to throw the yeast in. It won’t hurt but a lot of people prefer to leave it out. Unless it’s a wheat beer. Then it HAS to go in. Rinse the inside of the glass with cold water. Put the glass at 45° and the the bottle at 90° (see the perfect pour) Go steady.
Hold it up to the light and have a good look. It might make you look like an idiot but it’s worth it. The colour, how much head it has and whether it’s cloudy or not will all tell you more about the beer. None of those things are necessarily good or bad, but knowledge is power, friends.
I always put my hand over the top of the glass and give it a vigorous swirl. Some prefer to keep their grubby mitts out of the way and do a bit more gently. But this stage is all about preparation for...
This is where things start to get really exciting. If it’s heavily hopped, this is when you’ll know about it. The finest pale ales can throw out anything from tropical fruits to citrus and grass smells. And there is no better smell than the coffee and chocolate aromas from a fine stout or porter. Well, apart from bacon in the morning after.
That’s enough messing about. Get it down you. Give it a good swirl around the mouth and have lots of small sips, rather than massive gob-fulls to get the most flavour. The hops, malt, yeast and water all have a role to play in the flavours you pick out. Another thing to consider here is the mouthfeel… full, thin, smooth, oily, prickly, flat… what you like is up to you. Oh, and this is beer... we always swallow.
Always read the label. Visit the brewery and meet the folks that brewed it. If you can’t do that, visiting their website is the next best thing. Beer just tastes beer when you know the story behind it.