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?


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.

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.

Unrecognizable woman drinking beer on a restaurant with views to nature

Mouthfeel: Beer’s Stealthy Charm

Every beer taster can recognize the bitter snap of hops on the palate, the caramel-to-roasty spectrum of malt aromas, and occasionally the spicy, fruity signatures of certain yeast strains. We love beer’s boldness, and in recent years the volume has definitely been turned up. Amid all the hubbub it’s easy to overlook one of its most unique charms: mouthfeel.