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What’s Your Beer IQ?

We do a lot of explaining and judging of different beers here on this site, as I know many of you do too.  We try to make sense of it all, and explaing flavors in a way that is at least somewhat objective (most of the time) and we try to be true to our observations.  Comparisons are inevitable, for example in our recent Podcast I compared Dogfish Head’s 120 Minute IPA to a Barleywine, trying to explain its flavor.

Recently I came across this article by the Strand Brewer’s Club from LA County California where they tried to see if they could identify different beers in a blind taste test.  Now the beers used were all fizzy and yellow, so the deck was stacked against them right away, but in their defense their tasters said that they could pick out the right beer every time.  So How did they do?…

The results were surprising to some, but they only got the beer correct in their taste test 33% of the time.  Well they used three different beers (Bud, Miller, Coors) so that is in line with complete chance.  But it got me thinking, could any of us do a better job with Craft Beer?  Of course you can discern an IPA from a Saison and a Stout from a Whitbier, but could you tell the difference say between three different IPA’s?  Perhaps three different FarmHouse Ales?  Or Sours?

How discerning are our palates?  We certainly take enough time discussing and writing about what we taste, and judging this brew and that, but have we ever tested ourselves?  I know I have not.  But perhaps some of you have.  What did you learn?  Is it a good idea to do this as an experiment or would it end up hurting credibility?  I just thought I would open up this topic for discussion.  What are your thoughts?  What is your Beer IQ?

-Don

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18 Comments on “What’s Your Beer IQ?”

  1. Brandon
    August 10, 2010 at 11:19 am #

    For sure my palate needs a lot more work. Me and a few friends did a blind tasting with cigars not too long ago. We were able to identify the garbage and even named a couple of the brands. No way I could do it for beer or even bourbon yet.

    • Don
      August 10, 2010 at 11:25 am #

      See that is impressive to me Brandon, because I am so lost in the smoke right now! But Beer or Whiskey would be challenging but interesting to me.

  2. August 10, 2010 at 11:25 am #

    It depends on the day for me. It seems sometimes my palate is razor sharp and other days it’s as dull as a butter knife. Usually being a little hungry helps, but then the alcohol can sneak up on me.

    So I’m gonna say 5. My beer IQ is 5.

    • Don
      August 10, 2010 at 11:29 am #

      5 what? You’re such a smart ass. It is interesting I know Katie over at http://www.GonzoGastronomy.com said she always does her tastings in the morning because her palate is sharper than after she has eaten a days worth of food and gotten those flavors of the day swimming around. So there is probably something to doing it before you have eaten.

  3. Rob Crozier
    August 10, 2010 at 11:41 am #

    I would have to say my Beer IQ is very low – I don’t make a big deal about recognizing flavors and stuff; I go with “like” and “dislike” – I leave the beer reviews up to you experts. I know that sounds amateurish and I really drink beer for the simple pleasure not to impress someone with any knowledge that I know what I’m talking about. Sometimes I read a review after tasting a beer or a cigar and wonder “What the hell, am I brain dead that I can’t recognize all of these flavors?” My friends and I did a blind taste test last year of all what we call “scheisse” beers (check your German dictionary for translation). We were so off on recognizing most beers and gave high marks for Bud Light etc. I was even more confused afterwards and realized I needed to break down what I taste to “like” and “dislike”. Ahhh, enough of my rambling…

    • Don
      August 10, 2010 at 11:43 am #

      That is how I do it too. Like, Dislike, Meh…

    • August 10, 2010 at 5:13 pm #

      A taste test of scheissbier… not for me, man.

  4. August 10, 2010 at 11:51 am #

    I don’t see sun-dried palm leaves on that flavor wheel.

    I’ll say my palate is pretty lame. Actually, my big secret is that I was born without tastebuds, so I compare beers by carbonation and body.

    • Don
      August 10, 2010 at 12:04 pm #

      I also noticed that lady bug wings, unicorn tears, and river stones are not on the wheel either…seriously who put this stupid wheel together in the first place?

  5. Marvin
    August 10, 2010 at 12:21 pm #

    That is the most complex flavor wheel I have seen yet. As for blind taste testings, I have never done one, because I like my fragile glasshouse of snobbery I have built. AND, as for doing it with fizzy yellow beer, I’d be horrible, as I do not drink any of them. Well, the macros at least.

    This is what judges go through every time when judging comps. Comps are ubiquitous anyways, as if you’re the last beer tasted, you have a lot of tired palates trying to pull out nuances that they probably cannot recognize anymore. Anyways, I do pride myself on being able to pull out flavors, but I have never put too much on it at the same time, as my ego is fragile 😛

    • Don
      August 10, 2010 at 12:28 pm #

      I kinda like my glass house too Marvin. However I might do it some time just to see if I can pull it off. If I can’t I certainly won’t tell anyone!

      • Marvin
        August 10, 2010 at 2:05 pm #

        Well I know Rick is doing the Imperial IPA tasting all day on the 28th. We should stop by and test it out.

        • Don
          August 10, 2010 at 5:43 pm #

          Jim and I are going to be at Brewforia recording a remote podcast for an upcoming show this Sunday around 1pm. If you are available you should come by and we can sample some of your brews, or just goof off.

  6. August 10, 2010 at 5:05 pm #

    I could try to pick out beers in a blind taste test, but then I’d fail miserably. I’d have fun doing it, mind you, but it would still result in ultimate failure. In order to do so, one must be familiar with the various flavors within a given style and how they are dispersed among brands. And then you look at the sheer quantity of brands (let’s say IPA)… that’s a lot of work, fun and tasty as it may be.

    Really, I’d say it was impossible. If the field were limited to two or three, then I’m game would love to give it a try. But seeing as the craft beer world is increasingly varied in the beers that are produced, I’ll just stick with like, dislike, and meh.

    • Don
      August 10, 2010 at 5:46 pm #

      I’m with you Tex. I think it would be fun if there were just 3 brews and you could try to place them, but just trying one and having to guess at what it was? I think everyone would fail miserably at that.

  7. August 11, 2010 at 1:50 pm #

    This is why I drink beer instead of brew beer… there is just so much to “taste” for. Give me dark, red, light and I’ll identify them. Maybe there are 15 to 20 beers I could distinguish by taste, but not on the IPA side at all. Beer is so much more than taste too. Give me a test where I have to take 10 beers and 10 labels and put them with the right beer, maybe I can do it. Blind… now way.

    • August 11, 2010 at 1:51 pm #

      I of course meant “no way”

    • Don
      August 11, 2010 at 1:54 pm #

      Well that is essentially what they did in the experiment where everyone was wrong. they just had the 3 beers (Coors/Miller/Bud) and they had to place each one. I’m thinking it might be hard to take three saisons or IPAs or Stouts, etc. and do the same thing. I think it would be fun and I will probably do it some time in the near future.

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