Another season winds down as another one is upon us – winter. Love it or hate it, it’s on its way regardless. Winterizing our psyche seems to start when we finish the last of the Halloween candy and start making Thanksgiving plans. As I look ahead to a cold and dreary four-month (minimum) spell where the evening sky rears its head at 4:30 p.m. here in Central New York, I try to stay as upbeat as possible. Thanksgiving is one of those holidays that serves as a good reminder to stop for a moment and give thanks for all that we have. Besides having the basics of food, clothing, and shelter, I am most grateful for the five senses, and how without them I wouldn’t be able to enjoy the complex simplicity of beer.
Without thinking much, we use our senses every day. I am thankful for all of them – sight, smell, taste, touch and hearing. If you stop and think about it, having beer is a total sensory experience; sometimes we just need to slow down for a moment and break it down instead of slamming a pint as if it were the last glass of beer on earth.
Besides looking at a glass full of suds, what else do you see? Sight gives me the ability to see how clear or cloudy a beer is, how much foam is evident and how quickly it dissipates. I’m also able to see a beer’s rich color, from copper, to gold, to amber, and deep brown to name a few.
Smell and taste go hand in hand – the aromas that emanate from the beer may give us a hint as to what’s to come. As is in wine tasting, sniffing your beer before consumption is totally valid and worth a try. As much as it’s our instinct to start sipping (or gulping) right away, try for a brief moment to resist the urges and get a few whiffs of what you just opened or ordered. What do you smell – malty, smoky, toasty, chocolaty, hoppy (grassy, citrusy, piney, etc.)? Upon drinking, what first taste hits your tongue? Is it what you expected? What is the aftertaste like?
While touch may not be one of the senses most used by a beer drinker, we definitely feel the cold glass or can, and notice if a glass has been chilled, as condensation inevitably sets in and you feel your glass suddenly wet on the outside. Do you hear that beer? Again, stop for a moment, listen closely and you’ll recognize the sounds. The crisp pop that my can of Sixpoint Bengali Tiger makes while being opened alerts me that another sound will soon follow – the fizzy pour, almost as loud as an Alka Seltzer being dropped into water. The faint sound a bottle makes when you use a bottle opener to release the cap is barely noticeable, but it’s there.
It may seem that touch and hearing are trivial with regards to drinking beer, but they are clearly there and certainly contribute to the whole sensory experience. Deprive yourself of holding a bottle or glass, and the best you might be able to get away with is drinking through a straw. How would beer taste then? Having said that, of course it’s not absolutely necessary to have all five senses to enjoy beer. What matters most is that you enjoy it.
With that in mind, I am also very grateful to have an insane selection to choose from when looking for a new beer sensation. Go to your nearest beer store and notice the variety of countries, states, and styles of beer available to you. To have at my disposal an array of beers that run the gamut in flavors, colors and contrast is something worth giving thanks for, and I certainly will toast to that on Thanksgiving Day, or any other day for that matter. Cheers!
Article posted in November 2012 Table Hopping