The science of alcohol
The science of alcohol

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The science of alcohol

1 What makes a champion beer?

In Week 2 you learned about the four main components of beer and how they instil the different characteristics into a beverage. You have also been introduced to the different types of beer that are brewed – lagers, ales and so forth. Given that beer is essentially the same product made in different ways it is surprising that so many complex properties can be found.

Activity 1 Tasting and smelling a beverage

Timing: Allow about 5 minutes

Have a think about describing the last thing you drank – it doesn’t have to be an alcoholic beverage, it could be a cup of tea or glass of cordial. Write down a few descriptors that could be used to identify it by taste and smell.

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Now watch this video of Nick Boley from CAMRA describing what makes a champion beer.

Download this video clip.Video player: soa_1_w3_s1_vid_boley.mp4
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Transcript

NICK BOLEY
Well, a champion pint-- there's a number of things that go to make a champion pint. And the things that are important are, what does it look like? Does it look inviting? Does it smell good? Because we do put a lot of store by the aroma of a beer. It whets the appetite. And then the actual taste-- what does it taste like? Is it a taste that draws you in? And then when it's gone, is it a taste that's there at the back of the throat that makes you think, I want another sip of that? So as far as we're concerned in camera, a champion pint has to have a lot of qualities. But it has to be a well-made beer, a beer that is well-balanced, not too hoppy, not too sweet, not too dry, but it's got a nice balance of flavours. It should be well-made, well-balanced, complex, and moreish. And there are a number of brewers who manage to do this, fortunately, which means that when we come to judge what are our champion pints, it's hard work. But someone has to do it. Cheers.
End transcript
 
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Do any of the words you used to describe your beverage match the descriptors that Nick used in the video?

Answer

In Figure 1, you can see some words that people have used to describe drinks that they had recently.

Described image
Figure 1 A variety of descriptive words for various drinks

A wide variety of words can be used. Some describe tastes such as bitter, sweet and dry but others are different (touch) sensations that we can relate to, such as whether a drink feels bubbly or smooth when it’s in the mouth.

When describing a beverage you can also describe it through what you see. For example, lager is lighter and clearer than a stout, but it is through taste and smell that you gain the most awareness of a drink as you consume it. It might surprise you to learn that these two senses are actually linked and give you a vast amount of information about what you are consuming. For this reason this week will focus on the senses of taste and smell.

SOA_1

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