Wine waiter woman during blind tasting various alcoholic beverages. Sommelier exam to study different wine and beer.

Superpowers and Blind Spots

It’s obvious that we human beings are all pretty different from one another—in appearance, experience, attitude, gender, and countless other attributes. Each of us has things that come effortlessly and others at which we struggle. It goes without saying that these differences affect our abilities as tasters. But how, exactly?


The Pleasures of Portugal

Sunrise in Porto, the view from our hotel window. Situated along the Douro River estuary in northern Portugal, beautiful Porto is one of the oldest European centers. Port wine, one of Portugal’s most famous exports, is named after the city as its metropolitan area is the heart of the packaging, transport, and export of this world-famous fortified wine. Recently my wife Nancy and I had the occasion to visit lovely Portugal and spend a little time enjoying its scenic and gustatorial delights.

A man enjoying the aroma of his meal in a pan, cooking in his kitchen.

Thinking About Sniffing

A universal truth that keeps popping up in my search of the literature is that nothing is as simple as it seems. A sniff seems just a simple movement of air, but it’s actually way more than that: it’s a psychomotor event. One crucial function is to synchronize the olfactory receptor cells with the olfactory bulb and other smell-related brain regions, especially the primary olfactory processing center, the piriform cortex. This allows different regions to communicate with each other…


Diving Into Beer’s Aroma Pools

Beer is more complex than any other beverage known. No one’s keeping the master list of odor chemicals, but it’s huge. Hops alone contain more than 1000 terpenoids with citrus, floral and other aromas, with many other chemicals, too. In malt, Maillard and other browning processes create hundreds more. Fermentation and subsequent maturation creates a third enormous family of aromas, yet there are more. Add them all up and you get far in excess of the widely quoted number of 600–1000 odor chemicals in wine.

Glass of barrel aged stout

Barleywine and Old Ale

,A strict definition for the term barleywine is of fairly recent origin, and according to respected beer historian Martyn Cornell, it’s dubious to apply it to a style. For centuries, it was a poetic way of referring to the stronger sorts of pale-ish beers available in Britain, but only appeared on a beer label about 1900 in connection with Bass Ale’s Number 1, a 10%+ Burton-style ale. 

Dark beer on stump

The Heart of the Darkness

Nearly all malt flavor derives from a few chemical reaction systems: Maillard browning (aka non-enzymatic browning), and a similar, but distinct process known simply as “caramelization.” Maillard involves many forms of carbohydrates plus nitrogen-containing amino acids found in malt. Caramelization mainly involves sugar, typically in a dense and liquid state, like when you put sugar in a pan and heat it until it browns and changes flavor. At the highest temperatures a process called “pyrolysis” takes over, which is just a fancy technical way of saying “burning,” specifically of sugar molecules.

Brewer’s Art – Generative AI

A New Swing at an OG IPA

Like living organisms, the evolution of beer styles follows a principle called “punctuated equilibrium.” This states that as long as conditions remain unchanging, there is little evolutionary change other than random drift. But when conditions change, entities either adapt or radiates to fit changing niches or gets pruned back as unfit. With long-dormant American beer, changes started in the 1970s.

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