Here’s how it goes folks, I have a system for reviewing each beer that I’ve used from day dot and it has become so ingrained in me that sometimes I get migraines and see flashes of my beer review system in front of my eyes, but that’s a story for my GP. First off – I didn’t invent this system, it is a slight variation on the system that beer judges around the world use, so if you wanted to YOU could learn how to judge beer yourself based on this system.
I like to start my beer reviews with a quick paragraph about the beer, some stupid anecdote, Haiku, or a beer-related fable – this is the part you can skip entirely if you like, it holds no consequence to the review itself.
Then I will talk about the Vessel the beer came in (bottle/tap/can) the Size of the vessel, and what kind of Glassware I used to contain the beer: This is very important one beer of the same batch may taste different from another based on many factors, one of which is glassware – so if you’re following me at home and you use the same glassware as me (I always try to match my glassware to the beer style) you should in theory get a similar taste to me*.
Next up is the Appearance of the beer, denoted by the capital “A”. The appearance of the beer is the least important aspect so it gets a 5% score weighting. Things I look for: Body colour, head size, head colour, cloudiness (or lack of) and carbonation action (how fizzy it looks in the glass). There are entire essays out there on how a beer should look (at least I imagine there are) and various beer-drinkers have their own ideas but I’ll simplify it for you: If it’s up to 7% ABV it should have a head, if it’s over 7% ABV it probably wont, and the higher you go in ABV the less likely you are to see one.
Smell is the category denoted by the capital “S”, I would have used the nicer word “Aroma” however I already used my “A” on “Appearance” and it would be confusing having two A’s. Anyway, aroma is the next part of the review and it involves having a big old whiff of the beer and writing down the aromas I perceive. Very important – I’m not implying that these are the ingredients in the beverage, just which notes I’m picking up when I breath in. The aroma will generally set the stage for the next category however sometimes it can (pleasantly or not) surprise me. The score weighting for this is 20%.
My personal favourite part of the review is the Taste (capital “T”). The taste is a summation of the flavours I’ve incurred during the my tasting. In many cases it will take several sips for me to pick up all the nuances of the flavour profile, which to me is the sign of a “complex” beer. Other times there will be an imbalance between the five flavour types (sweet/bitter/sour/salty/umami) in which case that will be noted as “this beer is a sugar bomb” or if there’s no balance at all and just one dominant flavour I will note it as “one-dimensional”. Taste is weighted at 45% as it is the most important factor in any beer.
“M” is next and it stands for Mouthfeel which is a made-up word to describe how the beer feels in the mouth. But Doc beers don’t have emotions. Yes you’re correct, it’s not how the beer feels emotionally it’s how the beer feels physically inside your mouth, is it heavy/light, oily/watery, and how is the carbonation? Over the top/flat. These are the things we examine here. Due to the fact that it’s not a huge deal if the mouthfeel is out we only give it a 10% score weighting.
Last beer tasting category is Drinkability which is basically “how many of these would I like to consume in a given setting, specifically the pub” this part is denoted with a “D”. Other factors that seep into drinkability are “is the beer expensive” and “would I keep some in my fridge for later”. Also I sometimes like to fit in a polemic against crappy brewers here as well. Drinkability is given a 20% score weighting.
Rating – this is out of ten based on the score weightings and will be just below drinkability (will possibly throw in some neat infographics too) – Edit: This is all at the top with little stencils (which I put together in Inkscape) of the main flavours and a picture of the glass you should be using for quick reference, and in case you couldn’t be bothered to read the review.
Food match is the biggest take-it-or-leave-it part of my review and really I like to have a laugh at some restaurants food pairing with beers as they are wildly hit and miss. I will generally tell you if I’m “taking the piss” with my pairings as I am oft to do. I still believe that beer food pairing is an idea in its infancy, which is why I still see outrageous matches on menus. We’ll get there one day though.
*The biggest factor against this is the tongue – which will subjectively taste things in it’s own way. Although we do all share the same taste receptors palates differ according to many many factors such as environment, genetics, age, etc.