Sorry but you’re doing it wrong – beer drinking, that is. Like every beer geek worth their hops, we know that there’s only so much us brewers can do to create a superior product if you’re just going to eff up the delivery into your mouth by opening your throat and pouring it down. So, pay attention as we teach you how to appreciate the amber nectar like the real beer snobs do.


If you really want to shut down a craft beer wanker at a party who thinks they’re the expert in the room then start discussing the yeast. It’s this – and how it is used and combined with water, malts and hops – that determines that taste. When conversationally sparring over ale, as opposed to lager, your chat sabers will be “a spicier taste,” “a fruitier punch” and “a more robust quality than ale.”

It’s all about the smell

We may eat with our eyes first, but we taste with our nose. Confused? Well just remember the last time you had a streaming cold – how pointless was the vindaloo/pizza/£250 wagyu steak you consumed when you couldn’t taste a thing because you couldn’t smell. See? If you want to get the most out of your pint then sniff it first and set those senses on fire. If you smell grassy and tangy, that’s the hops, if it’s earthy caramels then that’s the malt and the fruity kick is the yeast. And if you smell aniseed then that’s sambuca and it’s time to call a cab.

Appreciate the colour

Ah the shades of light and dark in a freshly poured glass of ale have a beauty akin to a Turner painting. Ok maybe not but it’s a damn sight more attractive than an alcopop and something you should note as part of the tasting process. There’s no ‘right colour’ as long as you’re within the beery spectrum of variations on the theme of beige and brown. If it’s blue then you’ve got a problem.

Take a sip

Now for the best bit, when you try the ale for the first time, notice first how it feels in your mouth (beer wanker term: the ‘mouthfeel’) – is it thin and watery, does it have a heavier feel? – and then move on to tasting for the main characteristics of an ale. Yes, we want you to be that person in the pub who attractively swills before they swallow. Do this undisturbed for several seconds per mouthful and you will in no way irritate the hell out of everyone at the table and totally alienate yourself from the opposite sex (or maybe just do it at home). You’re looking for bitterness (from the hops), which you will most likely taste at the back of your tongue, and a sweetness or maltiness (which comes from the sugars in the malted grain). And then there’s the aftertaste – the taste that the ale leaves when you swallow it will be one of the biggest influencers of whether you decide to try it again.

Have another one!

Smell-taste-swallow-repeat. Until you’ve perfected the tasting art. Or you’ve passed out at the table.

Zoë Knowles


Zoë Knowles


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