Beer judging 

I’m always honoured to be asked to be on the judging panel for beer. In my day job as coffee girl, cupping and tasting coffee, my tastebuds are tuned. The same principles of taste are applied whatever you’re tasting. 

The average person has about 10,000 taste buds and they’re replaced every 2 weeks or so. But as a person ages, some of those taste cells don’t get replaced. An older person may only have 5,000 working taste buds. That’s why certain foods may taste stronger to a child than they do to adults. Smoking also can reduce the number of taste buds a person has. Women tend to have more than men.

There are five known tastes that are detected by taste buds: sweet, salty, sour, bitter, and umami. Although these tastes are detected by all taste buds, some regions of the tongue have a slightly higher sensitivity to some tastes than others.

The sweet taste is created by carbohydrates such as sucrose and fructose, as well as artificial sweeteners such as aspartame and saccharine.

The salty taste is generally created by salts containing sodium ions, such as sodium chloride (table salt) and sodium bicarbonate (baking soda). Salts containing potassium, lithium, and other alkali metal ions also produce a mildly salty flavor.

Acidic compounds, such as citric acid and vinegar, produce sour flavors.

Bitter flavors are produced by a variety of organic compounds and are generally considered an undesirable or unpalatable flavor. Many toxic chemicals produced by poisonous plants have a bitter taste, thus leading to the negative reaction to bitter foods.

Umami, or savoriness, is the most recently discovered taste, found in foods that have a “meaty” taste due to the presence of the chemical glutamate. Meat, cheese, mushrooms, and the chemical monosodium glutamate (MSG) all contain glutamate.

This time for the judging was best of show beer. It was that time of year again for the Westmorland beer festival at Kendal town hall. To taste 12 beers and choose best of show.

The criteria for judging is split down into 4 categories. These are Appearance, Aroma, taste and aftertaste.  Each element is marked out of 5 with the exception of taste which is out of 10.


It’s very much acceptable to judge a beer for how it looks. You need. to take note of the following to attain your score.

How is the color best described?

What’s the clarity like? Is the beer clear or cloudy?

How would you characterize the carbonation?

What kind of head retention does the beer have? How much head was there and how long did it last?


90–95% of what you experience is through your sense of smell.

Breathe through your nose, then with your mouth open, and finally through your mouth only; the nose and mouth are connected in the experience. This process is called olfaction.

Agitate your beer by gently swirling it in the glass. This will pull out aromas, slight nuances in fragrance, loosen and stimulate carbonation, and test head retention.

You must bring the beer close to your nose to really take it in. Take note of the aromatic qualities and observe what you smell as closely as you can. Here are a few questions to note as judging.

Is it sweet, smoky, toasty or nutty? Can you pick up hints of chocolate or caramel?

What about the hops? Are they more grassy, citrusy, herbal, piney, resin-like or floral?


You want to note how the beer feels on the palate. Ask yourself these questions before you judge:

Is it light or heavy?

Can the beer be classified as thin/watery, robust, smooth or coarse?

What about carbonation? Did the beer seem to be flat or over carbonated?

Is it a pleasant drink?


Does the taste linger?

The other important thing is When tasting beers, don’t try more than six at any one time or you will confuse your palate.  Plain crackers, bread, or matzos will cleanse your palate in between tastings.

It’s very interesting doing this. As well as doing the best of show, the following night did the NW best bitter to go forward in the national beer championship.

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