By applying a more holistic, brain-aware perspective on your own sensory data, you can improve your ability to evaluate beer and raise the level of your brewery’s quality control and analysis.
Instructor(s): Randy Mosher
Let’s join Randy Mosher on a journey to learn more about how we taste and evaluate beer. To get us in the right mindset, here’s an overview.
Why do we have chemical senses—or chemosenses—and what does that mean for how we evaluate beer? How do these senses interact with language, and with our ability to describe what we sense?
Sweet, bitter, sour, salty, umami... or poison? A wide world of taste receptors and bacteria throughout our body tell our brains more than we realize about what we ingest. How do taste thresholds work—how much is too much? And what’s a “supertaster”?
How are aroma receptors combine and send signals to our brains is incredibly complex, and the possibilities are nearly infinite. Much of we interpret those signals is based on the smells we’ve learned and experienced throughout our lives. However, we can also train those receptors—and grow new ones.
All of these various chemical senses combine to send a load of information to our brains, which then must make sense of it.
Having different kinds of receptors means that our brains get different kinds of information about what we smell. The two main types are orthonasal and retronasal—and they combine for a more complete picture. What role do enzymes such as glycosides play in this process? How does our semantic structure come into play—and how can we develop that structure? What role does habituation play?
Our trigeminal system has an important role to play in detecting heat (including chile), cold (including mint), and texture—including the texture of all the liquids we put in our mouths. What do these warnings tell us about beer? Among other things, they have things to say about acids and esters.
Color, clarity, foam retention, and more all can make a powerful impression. Sounds can also affect—and interfere with—what we smell and taste.
How our senses interpret various chemicals is highly individualistic, yet commonalities exist. Developing our language and vocabulary is one way to make better sense of it. And watch out for that hit of dopamine!
Set up a distraction-free environment, if possible. Take notes, and encourage note-taking. Provide water. Think about glassware. Pour assertively, and make some bubbles (which are high in aroma compounds). What are the four parts of your tasting? Hone your retronasal skills!
Thank you for taking this course. Now, get out there and taste!
For a deeper dive on establishing an effective sensory panel at your brewery and honing your brewery’s sensory program, continue on for some additional reading...
New Belgium Brewing’s Lindsay Barr offers practical advice on putting effective sensory analysis to work for you.
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No brewery is too small or too short-handed to get a sensory panel going, and the education and expertise gained can be invaluable to the business. Here’s how to get your panel off the ground.