Suds with Sophie: Drinking for All Five Senses

You just got home from a long day, grab a beer from the fridge, crack it open and are about to take a swig – but wait! Don’t forget to pour that beer in a glass first. 

I know it seems perfectly fine, and it is easier to drink straight from the bottle or can – I mean, that’s why koozies exist – but believe me, drinking straight from the package makes you miss out on some vital aspects of the drinking experience. 

We humans have five senses, and every one of them is important to the beer-drinking experience. Taste is the obvious one, but taste is influenced by sight and smell – two senses that are largely excluded when you don’t pour your beer into a glass. 

Beer is a surprisingly visual experience. Its color and clarity can tell you a lot. We’re all familiar at this point with the idea of “hazy” versus “clear” beers. Suspended proteins or other factors that cause a hazy appearance can be paired with characteristics such as fruitier and less bitter hops. A clear beer might have an added crispness or a bite on the end consistent with German lagers and West Coast-style IPAs. 

The color of your beer can tell you something about the malt types used and what level of “breadiness” – dough to crust – you might experience. All of that can be easily overlooked if you’re not given the opportunity to see your beer. 

Next comes smell. Did you know that if your nose is plugged, food will taste more bland? Why would you purposely plug your nose to beer by drinking straight from the package? 

This factor is actually so important that most beer-glass designs intentionally try to effectively direct aroma toward your nose. (If you’re thinking about the classic shaker pint and its lack of an inward taper, you’ve hit it on the nose [pun intended]. These glasses do very little for your drinking experience and are actually not meant for beer – they’re just a common bar item.) 

Some styles do have special glasses designated for them, but unless you love having a trove of various beer glasses, this doesn’t have to be a complicated matter. My favorite type of glass is anything with a stem and an inward taper. This includes wine glasses or even brandy snifters.

For touch, technique is important. When you pour a beer, try to pour it straight down or with as little angle as possible. Yes, there will be more head, but honestly, that’s a good thing. The head on a beer is where volatile aromatics are released, and they may not be released at all if you try to avoid a head. Most of these aromatics are from hops and can give a boost of citrusy, dank or pine notes, depending on the varietals used.

By pouring straight, you’re allowing excess carbonation to dissipate into the air, which helps to reduce beer bloat – that full, burpy feeling you get when you consume too much of the carbon dioxide. Once excess carbonation has dissipated, your beer will actually taste a bit creamier, or have a less sharp carbonic bite. You’ll be able to experience the body of a beer without the distraction of too much carbon dioxide. Some beers such as Belgian lambics and American light lagers are meant to have more carbonation, but these are also best experienced with less carbonation than the can holds.

We’ve covered how sight, smell and touch influence taste. But sound? Listen to me, and pour your beer in a glass.