Can you truly judge a beer from just one?

  1. How many times have you had a beer that hit you totally different on different occasions? I couldn’t tell you how many times I have had a beer that tasted great one time and then didn’t taste as good the next time. And then I have had beers that did nothing for me the first time, and then tickled my tongue the next. Sometimes it comes down to what I am eating with it. Sometimes it depends on what beer (or how many) I have had throughout the night. So… I never feel like I really know if I truly like a beer or not until I have at least 3 or 4 under different circumstances.

  2. Todd

    Todd BA Founder Staff Member

    Simple answer = yes. And most pro-judging is from much less than one.

    Of course it depends on the sample format, age, temp, your palate’s condition, environment, expectations, etc.

  3. But, how can you “pro-judge” a beer from just a sip? Some beers taste different from the first sip to the last!

  4. I disagree, seeing as though I am not a pro judge. It usually takes me 4-6 different tastes (pours) to get a consistent feel (taste) of a beer. Sometimes, that’s just not possible.

  5. I definitely know where you are coming from OP. This happens to me all the time. I think there is a difference between what a pro judge is doing when they sample a beer and when you or I (unprofessionals) sample a beer. I think that there is a difference between judging a beer for what it is and judging a beer by how much you like it. I can’t tell you how many 6 packs I’ve gone through where my appreciation of the first and last beer were polar opposites.

  6. I always rinse with water between styles of beers because like you said, food and other circumstances, to me, can change the taste of a beers.

  7. Todd

    Todd BA Founder Staff Member

    Many have damn good palates, experience, training, etc. But aside from this they could be judging dozens of beers throughout the day. They don’t have the luxury (or stamina) to sit down with multiple pints of each beer in order to get to know them.

  8. I feel like sometimes I get burnt out on certain beers. I will find a new beer that I have never tried before and it will hit me with new flavors that I have never had before and it tastes awesome. Then I will buy a case, and by the end of the case I barely even like it anymore. This happened to me recently with Jai Alai IPA. I drink a lot of IPA’s and wonder if my hops taste buds get tired or something. o_O Good thing there are always new beers to try!

  9. Todd

    Todd BA Founder Staff Member

    To each their own.

  10. I completely agree. While you can certainly get some great “notes” on a beer from a 2oz pour, I hardly think that you can really judge how a beer stands up.

    How was that one bite of Kobe Beef? The best steak ever? Please. No one, and I mean no one should rate a beer after what amounts to a sip. Like the OP stated, even just a bottle once sometimes isn’t even enough. I thought SN Narwhal was crap the 1st time I had it (come to think of it, I need to re-rate it) but it turns out I can’t get enough of it. I thought Two Hearted was pretty good the first time I had it, turns out it’s a crap IPA no matter how many times, or how fresh I have it.

  11. I hadn’t even really considered the “pro-judging” aspect of it. I can’t imagine trying to judge dozens of beers within one sitting, especially off of one or two sips each. What’s next? Music critics listening to two notes of a song to decide if it is good or not? ;)

  12. I can’t and often revisit a beer to firm up my opinion.

    As far as the pro judges, I think we underestimate how well trained they are. It truly is a skill and it takes practice and dedication to develop the ability. Some people can, some can try, some just can’t gain those abilities. I’ve been through several intensive sensory training in my career….I have to keep going to regular follow up sessions just to maintain what little I have managed to pick up. And I pretty much taste one or two products.

    Yes…I think some people can make an accurate judgement with minimal volume.

  13. If it depends on how many you’ve had throughout the night, you’re just drunk and that will likely account for why it tastes different. I can see the food making a difference. For me though drinking just one and sometimes even less than one is enough to decide whether I like something or not. If I at least like it the next few help me decide how much.

  14. Indeed. and that is why most peoples choice awards do not follow the “trained” judging.

  15. Todd

    Todd BA Founder Staff Member

    Sure, however, marketing/branding, loyalty/homerism, and a slew of other subjective factors plays a huge role in this.

    Pro-judging is blind and far more objective.

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  16. For me, I’m relatively young. I’m 25, and started into craft at almost 22. So it took me a while to really gauge what I was tasting. Some things I tried a few years ago and didn’t have a palette for, I’m discovering now I can really taste and appreciate. I make sure to retry everything, I feel that setting, mood, and experience has alot of impact let alone the fact the beer can change time to time due to environment and brewing factors. I will review beers knowing that I might not agree with all others but my review could be a guide for others that are at my point in the hobby. There’s been a few I’ve revisited and found I rate highly when I’ve only given an average rating initially. Which is really exciting for me as It help me see my palette change.

    So in short, I think it depends on where you at. A refined palette doesn’t need to taste much more than a few sips. I however, can make decisions based off of one beer, but I know my decision can shift slightly in the future.

  17. The first few sips are probably your least biased sips, assuming you are sampling with a clean palate. Anything beyond that has already conditioned your palate, and therefore influencing your opinion on the said beer. If I were to judge a beer, the first sip or two is probably all I would need to know the beer. If it takes any more than that, I would humbly admit that I am not qualified to judge….

  18. I’ve definitely found that giving a beer multiple chances is the way to go. For me one of the main things I think about when determining my favorite beers is, “would I enjoy drinking a six pack of this?”

  19. I agree on a professional level, but disagree on a personal one. I get paid partially to be critical of beers, as you do. But on a personal level I enjoy or appreciate most beers and if I have the opportunity to have a couple in different setting I can really start to determine how I feel. I have trained myself to judge beers on a critical level, but most the beers I enjoy the most don’t match styles or expectations.

    Eg. In the class I took last night at San Diego State on off flavors we analyzed Heineken and while it’s a terrible beer when you really look deep, it’s a damn good beer on a hot day at a pool party.

  20. Todd

    Todd BA Founder Staff Member

    I never said that you can’t do both. You can easily judge a beer off of one (or less) or get all deep about it with multiple sittings with the same beer.

    Ozzylizard and Eriktheipaman like this.
  21. Has there ever been a case where a judge has changed his/her mind about a certain beer following a competition?

  22. I’m sure. But there is so much bottle and batch variation a good judge wouldn’t think twice.

  23. Fair enough

  24. Ya, objective. And what has that got us? A medal for every thought up feel good imaginary “style” in the world. No, the true test of a beers worth is if people like it and will buy it. Pro beer ratings are nothing more that beer geekery masturbation. Judging a beer on a 4oz pour is a sham. Objective? Give me a break! Beer is MORE than a sip. To say otherwise is to deny the obvious. Most beer is consumed in far greater quantity and in far different environments. It’s not just a drink, It’s a social glue, It’s a work of art and it’s far more than a silly gold medal in Russian Imperial Barrel Aged Belgium IPA
    My answer to the OP is No. One is not enough

  25. You can’t.
    Incidentally I was part of a panel judging”Best Bitters” last week.The point was made that these beers weren’t generally sipped but gulped and it would be unrealistic to judge by merely sipping them.
    Many beers give misleading first impressions.Some grow on you as you get down the glass, others flatter to deceive and disappoint as you drink more of them.In an ideal world judging should match how beers are to be drunk.

  26. Bravo!

  27. I’m not suggesting that I drank a full Imperial pint of each and then went back to check………………

  28. For us non-pros I would say no, you can’t. With so many breweries making so many great beers along with mixed 6 pks & trading being so huge, that’s oftentimes exactly what we do

  29. I trust my first impressions, and in the craft market I dont have money to be throwing away a ton of money to try a beer again if I hated it the first time. That being said, I rarely buy singles and usually get 4- or 6-packs, so I am not trying single bottles as often as I perhaps should be. For the most part though, I buy stuff I know I like.

  30. Simple answer is, judging beer is for hobbyists and not enjoyists (aka who cares)

  31. The best judging I can manage is do I like it with the first few sips, by then I know whether it’s average to better than Average or just a tremendous brew. I know what I like, and a beer that’s true to style and substance I might not like, but a judge would score it high. I might be able to judge IPA’s and DIPA’s because they really are my first love, and I’ve got my hands on so many great ones not available in NC, but that’s about as far as I could ever go. I’ve never had a blind tasting event, that might be interesting.

  32. Yes, you can judge a beer by a couple ounces. Can you write an in depth review? Maybe not. And yes you can get a better feel for a beer on multiple tries, but you can still judge it from just one.

  33. As just one point of anecdotal experience – I had a bad cold the first time I tried Heady Topper, my nose was all stuffed, and I just didn’t think anything of BAs best-rated beer. Luckily, I had bought a case of it. The next day, when my sinuses had cleared, I had another one, and it was magical.

  34. All conditions equal, yes.

    The problem is that for must of us that just pop the top, pour and drink don’t always make sure to have a clean palate and to drink the beer under the same conditions. So, it is quite possible to have the same beer taste differently from one bottle to the next just simply because of the state of the palate.

  35. I consider myself a professional consumer and I believe a sixtel is about the right amount for tasting under different conditions to satisfy my like/dislike:cool: That being said I need a sixer over two sittings to make that purchase decision of said sixtel

  36. Personally, my threshold for really being able to “get to know” a beer is around 4 oz. It gives me enough to have multiple sips (or swallows) and continue to smell the beer as I allow the beer to warm (how much depends on the style and my first impression–I generally let beers that aren’t very good initially warm to see if temperature may be impacting my experience.

    I’m no professional judge, but then again, I’m not really “judging” a beer when I write a review. I’m just sharing my experience of it. And for me, 4 oz is plenty of time to feel like I have a good handle on said experience.

  37. Hey, that’s more than Pitchfork sometimes listens to albums before reviewing them. ;) (Opportunistic diss)

    If these pros really are judging beers based on one sip it makes me wonder how much the Pepsi Challenge Effect is skewing their judgments. The less of something you try the more you focus on strong upfront flavors.

    For me, one beer will give me a good idea of my general opinion of the beer, whether it’s good, bad, or okay. But it takes a second or third to really elaborate my opinion on the beer and notice all the different flavors present.

  38. I think that is fair for session or lighter beers, but not so much for heavier beers. I’ve rated several IS’s or Heavy Belgian beers with a 4.5-5 rating that I seriously doubt I would enjoy much having 1 every night for 6 days. By the 3rd night, I’d be pretty tired and sick of it. I would have to space my visitations of the heavy beer out over 3 weeks or so before the 6 pack were gone to keep enjoying it. Everyone is different though.

  39. Judging is done in a controled environment with minimal distractions by people who have had training and experience on how to judge beer. The judges are focused on the beer and the experience. All they have to focus on is the beer in front of them, not the brand or brewer. They have water and a palate cleansing food available. It is not like they are at a busy bar with food and smoke all around.

    In a perfect world they would all have a pint or more of each beer but that isn’t practical.

    You can’t get 100% of the experience with a few ounces but with training you can get darn close and some styles are harder to judge so do you find more experienced judges doing those styles.

    If you have never done any formal judging, I suggest that you find a local homebrewing club and inquire about any competitions that they might have, they are always looking for judges. They will usualy let you sit in with some experinced judges and they will walk you through the process.

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