I saw a graph online that seems to be used for quantifying flavour characteristics of an alchoholic drink (sake).
Is this graphing system used for quantifying beer flavors too? If not, is a different system used?
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Wikipedia has an entire article on beer measurements. The main truely quantitative measure of taste I'm aware of is the International Bitterness Unit or IBU. Wikipedia has a section which describes the IBU. Of course there are other quantitative measures like alcohol by volume that while not exactly taste give some value in assessing a beer. I've also seen specific gravity reported, but this isn't very common in my experience.
Beer Advocate provides user reviews of beers where the beers are assessed numerically based on look, smell, taste and mouthfeel on a 1 to 5 scale. Although these are based on opinion, with enough reviews a useful amount of user feedback is obtained and quantified (to two significant figures).
Is there a way quantify beer flavour characteristics?
I tried to find a site that could standardize this question and this is what I came up with the following. If it does not truly answer your question, it is definitely helpful. Please remember to follow the links.
It can be as easy as taking the time to notice the flavours in every beer you drink. Here are a few general rules to keep in mind:
- Make sure your beer isn’t too cold.
If a beer is very cold, it is a lot harder to taste. It’s a good idea to pull your beer out of the fridge 15 minutes early (or you can always take your time drinking it!)
- Always pour the beer into a glass.
This releases the aromas, as well as the CO2, and will make it a lot easier to taste the full flavour of the beer.
- Relax and Enjoy:
Taking a moment to smell your beer and linger on your first sip will make every beer a rewarding experience.
Taste and Savour
This section outlines basic beer-tasting technique, and what to look for. The Beerology™beer evaluation sheet provides some helpful guidelines and terminology, and can be downloaded to have beer-tasting sessions at home, at the pub, or to record personal impressions.
Raise your glass, and take a moment to appreciate the appearance of the beer in front of you. Although colour and clarity aren’t necessarily an indication of the beer’s quality, the look of any given beer was crafted intentionally and is an integral part of the drinking experience. The colour chart on the Beerology™beer evaluation sheet provides common beer colour descriptors. The clarity of a beer can vary from brilliant to cloudy. Head can tell you a bit more about the beer. Beers that aren’t extreme in their alcohol content should have good head retention (the foam doesn’t collapse immediately). Head retention often indicates a well-crafted beer, made with quality ingredients. As you drink your beer, look for lace-like pattern (left by the foam) on the sides of your glass. This is known as Belgian lace and is another indication of good quality.
Smelling your beer is one of the most important steps in beer tasting. Our sense of smell informs the way we taste things, opening up a complexity of flavours to the palate. If the beer has no discernable aroma, agitate it by swirling it around in your glass. This will release some carbonation, which will carry the aroma up to your nose. It is always easiest to start with a general impression: how intense is the aroma? Is it sweet (malt aroma), sharp (hop aroma), or a balance of different notes? If you like, you can then take the time to identify more specific aromas in the beer. The Beerology™beer evaluation sheet provides some common aroma descriptors. Of course, it is always important to note whether you like the aroma of the beer or not!
The flavour of a beer should be a natural continuation of the aroma. There are a few added dimensions that will appear, most notably bitterness. Swirl the beer around in your mouth before swallowing it. Take a note of any flavours you taste, compare these flavours to other flavours you know. Does this beer remind you of anything? If you like, take a look at the Beerology™beer evaluation sheet and see if the beer contains any of the common beer characters listed. Again, it is helpful to note the intensity of the flavour, the balance between sweetness and bitterness, and your general impressions.
Another component of flavour is mouthfeel. Mouthfeel refers to the texture and weight of the beer, as opposed to the actual taste. High alcohol beer can have a warming quality, not unlike hard alcohol, while bitter beers can sometimes be astringent. The weight, or body, of beer can also vary from being light and watery, to being full and heavy. Another interesting thing to notice is the carbonation level, since it varies between different beers. Ask yourself: is this carbonation level pleasant or distracting?
The final component of flavour is finish. Take a moment to pause between sips. Does the flavour of the beer linger, or is the finish short? The after-taste can be sweet or bitter, and can take on many flavours, either in succession or all at once. Also notice the intensity of the finish. The finish of a beer depends greatly on the style in which it is brewed. The most important thing to note is: do you want to take another sip?
Having taken a few moments to appreciate the various aspects of the beer in front of you, it is always a good idea to summarize your impressions of the beer. Were the flavours really lively and well balanced, or did they fall flat? Did the beer have a very fresh quality to it, or do you suspect that it was stale? Finally, take a moment to decide how much you liked the beer. Just because it was very flavourful and fresh, doesn’t mean that it was to your taste! Feel free to take more notes and share your impressions with friends.