Beyond TODAY is an extension of our weekly column for the TODAY Show food blog. Over there, I talk about how an off flavor ruined my last chance with a very highly regarded beer. Over here, we’re looking at other flavors that make a good beer taste bad (at least to me). Click here to check out Today’s Bites food blog.
I hate it when this happens – you’re taking a sip of a well made and a highly-regarded beer, when a flavor note leaps out at you and spoils the whole experience. From that moment forward, that flavor is all you can taste; it sits there like an 800 pound gorilla, pummeling the other nuances of the beer into the background. All you get is a mouthful of monkey.
Over many years of beer geekery, I have identified a few of these flavor fouling louts. I know that these are particular to me – others can taste the same beer and get past them, but every time one of these notes pops up, it’s pretty much game over for me and that particular beer.
Here are a list of the usual suspects:
The Popsicle stick
This one usually pops up in stouts, and not only oak aged ones. It’s a flavor that takes me back to when I was a kid, trying to extract the last bit of flavor from a frozen treat on a wooden stick. Once the sweetness faded, all that was left was a pleasant, nutty woodiness from the white birch used to make the stick. I started to identify this flavor in super-roasty dark beers a few years back, and now every time I taste it, it’s all that my pea brain can register. The Popsicle stick flag goes up, my ability to enjoy the nuances of the beer disappears, and I look to pawn the beer off to my wife. It’s a perfectly pleasant flavor, but it totally takes me out of the beer.
Nothing tastes more like FAIL to me than a metallic beer. I get this a lot with Belgian Tripels, and it makes me want to run for the hills. I’ve read that this can be a result of poorly stored malts, but it’s a constant flavor in some beers, so I doubt it’s a mistake. It’s either a product of the Belgian yeast strain used in a beer (that’s my guess) or from the hops used in Belgium. Whatever the cause, once my mind goes “metal” I immediately want to get that beer out of my glass. I’ll try and hang in there and finish it, but I’m a firm believer that drinking a craft beer shouldn’t require effort.
Gym Socks and Mildew
Speaking of making an effort to enjoy a beer, I REALLY have to work hard to choke down sours. I know this one is on me – lots of people love sours, but I haven’t been able to get into them. My chief barrier is the idea that I’m drinking something in which dirty gym socks have been steeped; many sours have a fetid scent creeping just below the surface. It reminds me of a load of laundry forgotten in the washing machine for a few days. It’s not a mistake or an infection; it’s what the brewer intended, but that smell is a real turn off to me, and I can’t get past the fact that it’s part of the mix. I still keep trying to find a sour I like, waiting for my palate to become adult enough to process these tastes in an enjoyable way, but so far I’ve had little luck. Too bad, because I love Sour Patch Kids and other super sour treats, but I can’t seem to find a way into sours.
So those are three flavors that ruin a perfectly good beer for yours truly. Do you struggle with these as well, or are you able to keep them in perspective when you taste them? Do you have any flavors that will make a good beer go bad in your opinion? As always, let us know below!