Tasting Beer

Mastering Your Palate with Randy Mosher

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.

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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


1. Introduction: This Is Your Brain on Beer

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.

2. The Power of Chemosenses, Language, and Memory

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?

3. The Physiology and Psychology of Tasting

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”?

4. The Superpower of Smell

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.

5. Convergence of the Chemosenses

All of these various chemical senses combine to send a load of information to our brains, which then must make sense of it.

6. Types of Olfactory Senses

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?

7. The Trigeminal System and Mouthfeel

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.

8. The Importance of How a Beer Looks—and How It Sounds

Color, clarity, foam retention, and more all can make a powerful impression. Sounds can also affect—and interfere with—what we smell and taste.

9. The Synthesis of Flavors (and Off-Flavors)

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!

10. Beer Evaluation, in Practice

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!

11. Thank You!

Thank you for taking this course. Now, get out there and taste!

12. Further Reading...

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...

13. Tasting Notes: How to Define Your Sensory Process

New Belgium Brewing’s Lindsay Barr offers practical advice on putting effective sensory analysis to work for you.

14. Learning the Love Language: How Even the Smallest Breweries Can Evaluate Their Hops

Relying on the spot market is no reason to accept hops that don’t meet your brewery’s standards. Here are tips from the hop-sensory pros on making sure you get the traits and quality you need.

15. Brewing Quality: How to Start Up Your Sensory Panel

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.