Author Topic: How to become a better recognizer of flaws  (Read 1582 times)

Offline benamcg

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How to become a better recognizer of flaws
« on: January 03, 2013, 05:07:34 PM »
I can't say that my palate is overly sensitive.  I let my wife have the first pint off of every keg to determine whether batches are serve worthy for parties, or if I am going it alone for 10 gallons.  She seems to be able to detect very subtle flaws that I cannot. 

My question is, is this something that I can overcome or rather become better at?  I would like to exercise the palate so that I can detect subtle differences in my own procedures.  I am sure that those who have sat for the BJCP exam became better by preparing for the exam?  Anybody have any study tips that were helpful or techniques?  Thanks in advance.

Online narvin

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Re: How to become a better recognizer of flaws
« Reply #1 on: January 03, 2013, 06:00:10 PM »
Drink more beer.  There's plenty of variety out there... good and bad.
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Offline tom

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Re: How to become a better recognizer of flaws
« Reply #2 on: January 03, 2013, 06:30:39 PM »
The http://www.bjcp.org/examcenter.phpwebsite has an "Exam Study Guide" that has some info on how to make "doctored" beers on page 44.  You can first learn what they taste like, then dilute it to see what your threshold is.
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Offline hopfenundmalz

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Re: How to become a better recognizer of flaws
« Reply #3 on: January 04, 2013, 05:52:29 AM »
My wife has the better palate also. I have become better at tasting, through time and training. The BJCP preparation class helped too. It takes practice.

You might want to try judging a competition, as you will be paired with an experienced judge. That is also a good way to learn.
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Offline leejoreilly

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Re: How to become a better recognizer of flaws
« Reply #4 on: January 04, 2013, 08:07:34 AM »
As I understand it there are some folks who naturally have a much more refined palate than the rest of us. These are the "Super-tasters" who can readily identify subtleties in beer, wine and food that most people don't/can't notice. My wife is one of these, and it sounds like the OP's may be, too. But, like any other skill or ability, those of us lacking this talent can still improve our own palates by exercising them. Read up on what beers/wines are supposed (or NOT supposed) to taste like, then practice identifying those tastes. In my experience, it helps to practice with someone more skilled than you, who can help point out the tastes that may escape you.

Offline morticaixavier

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Re: How to become a better recognizer of flaws
« Reply #5 on: January 04, 2013, 08:35:21 AM »
Also look at what you are eating, drinking, smoking, smelling while/immediatly before tasteing.

I quit smoking tobacco a couple years ago and I was astonished at the increase in my ability to taste and smell subtle flavours. get some plain soda crackers or simple baguette to nibble between tastes to clear your pallete before tasting again.

let the beer warm a bit before tasting as this will boost flavour and aroma significantly.
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Offline AmandaK

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Re: How to become a better recognizer of flaws
« Reply #6 on: January 04, 2013, 11:07:51 AM »
Us women generally have more sensitive palates than our male counterparts. I read it in a book, so it must be true! ;D

Otherwise, drinking beer and writing down what you think is a great way to get the thought process going. The BJCP has tons of great resources on their website - use them!  :)
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Offline davidgzach

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Re: How to become a better recognizer of flaws
« Reply #7 on: January 04, 2013, 11:23:24 AM »
Print out a few BJCP scoring sheets and do some tastings with your wife on various beers.  I was surprised at the different scoring my buddy and I had.  You may also find that you have sensitivities (hopefully not emotional  ;)) that she does not.  It's a fun exercise.

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Offline gauzzastrip

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Re: How to become a better recognizer of flaws
« Reply #8 on: January 04, 2013, 11:59:21 AM »
My problem is that I know that I like it or I don't but like you said detecting those little tasting notes and picking out specific flavors is difficult for me.  I wish more BJCP judges would sign up on my site so I could send them my homebrew without having to enter a contest

Offline dmtaylor

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Re: How to become a better recognizer of flaws
« Reply #9 on: January 04, 2013, 12:03:53 PM »
First, learn what all the common defects are, e.g., diacetyl = butter, acetaldehyde = green apple, DMS = corn or celery or cabbage, oxidation = wet cardboard, chlorophenol = band-aid, other phenols = pepper, smoke, electrical fire, etc.  Then, every time you taste a beer, search for these flavors.  Sometimes they are obvious, sometimes you can detect something is a little off but can't nail down what it is until you think about it.  Very often, there are no flaws at all, so be careful not to get too carried away -- sometimes a really good beer really is just a really good beer!  Also, you might want to practice writing out BJCP scoring sheets to train yourself how to describe all of the flavors you are tasting.  When I first got into BJCP classes and early days of being a judge, I wanted to score every beer I tasted!  After doing this like 100 times, the nostalgia or mystique or whatever you want to call it finally wore off, so that now I kinda sorta judge every beer I taste all the time, but I don't bother putting numbers to it.  With practice, the flaws (if any) will jump right out, and the really good beers will stand out as really good beers, AND you'll be able to describe exactly what you like about them.  As with anything, practice makes perfect.  I would also say that taking a BJCP judging class was one of the most eye-opening experiences of my life.  It's awesome.  If you're thinking about it and the opportunity comes up to attend a class, jump on it.  You'll love it.  But I do think it is possible to be self-taught.  Probably will just take more time and self-determination.  Learn the faults, and memorize a flavor wheel, and practice diligently 100 times, and you'll get the hang of it.
Dave

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Offline reverseapachemaster

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Re: How to become a better recognizer of flaws
« Reply #10 on: January 04, 2013, 12:15:53 PM »
I find smelling the beer before I taste really helps pick out flavors. It's also easier to pick out aromas and flavors from warmer beer, so letting your beer warm up will help pick out flavors and aromas that should be there as well as flaws.

The biggest key to picking out flavors/aromas/flaws is having a strong association with each as an individual component. For example, cherry is a fairly unique flavor/aroma so it's an easy one to pick out but some of the caramel-esque flavors, like toffee, can sometimes be harder to pick out when there's also lots of caramels, melanoidans, chocolate, etc. flavors in the beer. However, if you have a clear concept of each of those flavors in your head it's easier to pull them out. A lot of that is just experience. The same works with flaws, except you normally avoid things that taste bad so you have less experience tasting bad stuff. Normally a food that tastes like band aids is something you would spit out so unless you spend a lot of time drinking poor quality beer you don't have a lot of opportunity to train yourself to pull out those flaws. Using a list of flaws and their descriptions while you taste the beer can help you pull them out.
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Offline hopfenundmalz

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Re: How to become a better recognizer of flaws
« Reply #11 on: January 04, 2013, 12:59:13 PM »
I find smelling the beer before I taste really helps pick out flavors. It's also easier to pick out aromas and flavors from warmer beer, so letting your beer warm up will help pick out flavors and aromas that should be there as well as flaws.


You should get your nose over the glass as soon as you can. Some off aroma compounds will gone quickly, an by the time the beer has warmed, you will have missed them if you don't get that quick smell. Then do the appearance evaluation, then go back and smell the beer after some time. Keep smelling as you taste.


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Offline dmtaylor

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Re: How to become a better recognizer of flaws
« Reply #12 on: January 04, 2013, 02:44:40 PM »
I totally agree.  I'll usually sniff a beer for a good 1-2 minutes before taking a single gulp, unless there is nothing there to smell which does happen on occasion.  Always drink out of a glass, never out of a can or bottle, because you lose half the flavor if you can't smell it in the glass!
Dave

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Offline ajk

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How to become a better recognizer of flaws
« Reply #13 on: January 05, 2013, 03:49:33 AM »
It helps to know the limitations of your own palate and how to work around them.  I used to be unable to smell or taste diacetyl, so I had to get it from the slick mouthfeel. Through practice, I eventually learned to perceive both the aroma and flavor of diacetyl.

Oxidation is another one.  I never get papery/cardboardy.  What I get is a honey-like or overly caramely character.  Either that or a sensation I think of as (but would never write on a scoresheet as) "tin can".  Don't let other people's descriptors limit your observations.

Learn how you perceive by correlating those perceptions with what you already know about the beer.  To paraphrase Gordon Strong, your palate is the best instrument you have, so trust it.

Offline hopfenundmalz

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Re: How to become a better recognizer of flaws
« Reply #14 on: January 05, 2013, 07:41:55 AM »
It helps to know the limitations of your own palate and how to work around them.  I used to be unable to smell or taste diacetyl, so I had to get it from the slick mouthfeel. Through practice, I eventually learned to perceive both the aroma and flavor of diacetyl.

Oxidation is another one.  I never get papery/cardboardy.  What I get is a honey-like or overly caramely character.  Either that or a sensation I think of as (but would never write on a scoresheet as) "tin can".  Don't let other people's descriptors limit your observations.

Learn how you perceive by correlating those perceptions with what you already know about the beer.  To paraphrase Gordon Strong, your palate is the best instrument you have, so trust it.

I can diacetyl if the level is high enough, below my threshold I must rely on the slickness.

The honey-caramel flavor is a marker of earlier oxidation for me. I often get it in imported German light colored beers here, but not in Germany with fresh beer. The hop bitterness also becomes rougher, and the hop aroma has faded in the imported German beers. When the beers are really old, the cardboard comes out. I have tasted homebrew that has the cardboard flavor, probably due to poor bottling technique.
Jeff Rankert
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Home-brewing, not just a hobby, it is a lifestyle!