I intend to spend some time this week writing about the amazing four days I spent at the Seibel Institute of Technology, Chicago, IL, taking their Master of Beer Styles and Evaluation Course, which is a four day intensive course and everyone, I mean everyone, who is really into craft beer should take. 

The 3 inch binder, the tip of the iceberg for the four days of content, was a fantastic road map for the lectures give by  Lynn Kruger, Randy Mosher and Ray Daniels

First the bad news; apparently I was still sufficiently congested as to not get the sensory experience. Keith Lemke even put some of the adultrants used to transform a simple beer into a “problem” beer right under my nose. I got nothing. Actually, I did detect more or less and, generally, where I was detecting it, but I couldn’t distinguish whatever it was. Oranges were perceived the same as rotten vegetables.  

Someone suggested taking a decongestant, which I’m sorry I didn’t try. It would have been an interesting experiment. Plus I’m still stressing with the concern that I might simply not be that sensitive. I’ve certainly heard that from the women in my life!!!

However, Siebel does have these kits for doctoring beers to learn about off flavors. I’m going to get one and organize a tasting doctored beers here at the office.

Something that came up which really captured my imagination was Randy Mosher’s take on the tongue.  

In every tasting I’ve conducted, I’ve reviewed the geography of the tongue, the four basic tastes and their distribution around different segments of the tongue. Randy’s research revealed this idea came from the same group that brought you phreonolgy. Yes, bumps on the head.

Randy’s studies have uncovered six flavors. In addition to sweet, sour, salt and bitter, Randy has added umami and fat. Umami is an amino acid type that suggests aged meat, ripe tomatoes, and oily fish. (Yes, I’m challenged too, but this one is pretty exciting.)

Not only are there six, not four, flavors, but the geography of taste is also out the window as is the timing of taste perception. Generally, the whole tongue, along with the lips, cheeks and palate, can taste all six elements. Furthermore, salt and sour are the quickest and bitterness the slowest to be perceived.  In other words, the flavor of beer has quite a wind-up.

As soon as you have a moment, get a hoppy beer and a malty beer and revisit how flavor hits your mouth, the location and the timing. Forget the idea of sweet up front, bitter in back, salt and sour to the sides. And forget the idea of a single perception. Hell, forget the idea of just the tongue and the throat.  

See how the different beer elements sort out in your mouth and over what time interval. Imagine a cascade of different flavors stimulating all the parts of your mouth as it rolls through from your lips through to your throat. 

As Randy says: “Pretty cool stuff!”