The Telluride Blues & Brews Festival guide to Sampling Beer

With over 170 styles of beer to sample at the Telluride Blues & Brews Festival the choices can be daunting! From classic lagers and IPAs, to wild sours and stouts, the complex flavors range far-and-wide. With so many unique tastes, aromas and colors, one may ask themself, “What makes a good beer or how do I evaluate this beverage?” While everyone has a unique palette and opinion, there are a set of loose guidelines to evaluating a beer properly while sampling. Compiled from experts, brewers and friends, here is the Telluride Blues & Brews Festival guide to “sampling beer”.


How to Taste 

Seven Simple Steps

The process of sampling beer is similar to that of sampling wine. When you get a pour the Grand Tasting, a Sierra Nevada or House of Brews beer during the festival  we recommend the following steps for an optimal experience. 

  1. Smell - Stick your nose in the beer and swirl it around if needed. Take time and consider the aromas!

  2. See - Hold the beer up to the sun! Examine its colors, clarity and foam (head).

  3. Taste - Take a sip with keeping your mouth closed and exhaling through your nose. Think about the tastes and how they progress. 

  4. Taste, again - Take another sip and consider the mouthfeel and weight. 

  5. Enjoy - Consider the elements: Smell, Flavor, Mouthfeel and Appearance. Think about how they work together and the beers strengths. Don’t rush it!

  6. Clear your palette - Bring a water bottle to drink between tastes. This keeps your palette sharper and your body hydrated.

  7. Repeat! - Embrace the lively crowd, beautiful scenery, live music and cheers a stranger!

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How to Judge

Exercise Your Senses, Use Those Adjectives

When sampling a beer some of the most striking and important elements to note are the smell (aroma), flavor and mouthfeel. Behind these elements come the beverage’s appearance and most importantly in with the tasters natural opinion or overall impression.

Smell (aroma) and Flavor - A Divine Relationship

Believe it or not, smell dictates taste. Just like eating food, smell and flavor work hand-in-hand to dictate your beer drinking experience. A beer’s smell and taste can be made up of a range of descriptive adjectives (see below).

Things to consider:

  • Is the aroma strong, moderate or faint? 

  • Does the aroma match the flavor or is it misleading? 

  • What is the progression of the taste? Initial tastes, intermediate taste and aftertastes - What impression do these leave? 

  • What are the smells and tastes? Acidic, aggressive, alcoholic, almond-like, apple, artificial, assertive, astringent, balanced, banana, barnyard, big, bold, bitter, boozy, bourbon-like, bright, carbonated, chalky, chocolaty, citrusy, clean, clove-like, complex, corn, dark, deep, dirty, earthy, fine, fluffy, foamy, flat, fresh, grain, harsh, hazy, hearty, herbal, honey, husky, inky, jammy, lemony, medicinal, mellow, milky, musty, nutty, oily, piney, peppery, perfume, persistent, powerful, refined, refreshing, robust, salty, sharp, sour, smooth, sweet, tart, toasty, undertones, wine-like, woody, zesty.

Mouthfeel - The Next Level

Many consider mouthfeel the next dimension of beer sampling. You can’t taste cold, thickness, textures or carbonation - this is how the beer feels and is another dimension in the tasting. Brewers use the word “body” to describe this. Beers that are “lighter bodied” tend to be less thick and more carbonated, “heavier bodied” beers tend to be thick and creamy.

Things to consider:

  • Does the beverage feel thick, crisp, carbonated or other?

  • Does the temperature feel right to the beer or is it distracting? 

Appearance - More than meets the Eye

Never judge a book by its cover, but appearance too is another element to consider when judging a beer. Looking a beer can tell you a lot about what you’re about to drink. 

Things to consider: 

  • Is the color lighter or darker? The spectrum to consider: pale, straw, golden, amber, copper, orange, russet, brown, black   

  • The clarity: Is the beer clear or hazy? 

  • What does the foam (head) look like? Thick, thin, does it leave lace on the glass? 

Learn more about everything “brews” at The Telluride Blues & Brews Festival below and join us September 13-15 in beautiful Telluride, CO!