How to write memorable beer tasting notes

Lots of us like to record the beers we drink somehow. For many a simple list is enough. For others, rating them on an app is the way to go. If you have the time it’s worth going deeper and keeping proper tasting notes.

A notebook next to a glass of beer
Settling down to take notes in the Mikkeller Bar, Shoreditch

Why you should start keeping tasting notes

It is essential to keep tasting notes if you’re studying to become a drinks professional. But even if you’re not, it can lead to a deeper enjoyment of your beer. Plus there’s evidence that it’s good for your brain.

Learning to write useful and memorable tasting notes will improve your ability to read beer reviews. You can use this knowledge to buy and enjoy better beer.

I’ve written before that tasting notes are boring. The good news is they don’t have to be if they’re done well. It’s just that most are not!

Learning to write good tasting notes is a skill, just like learning to taste beer. And with practice you can get better at both.

Why tasting notes are useful

By writing tasting notes you will learn to talk about beer’s flavour in a consistent way. This is an important skill if you want to unlock which beers taste like one another. It will let you better predict which beers you will like or dislike, and understand why.

Writing tasting notes builds several powerful skills. It improves your observation, by making you look at your beer in a detailed and systematic way. It improves your description by making you put nonverbal sensations into words. And it improves your recollection because the act of writing notes down fixes impressions in your memory.

Beer sommelier education involves drinking beer and taking notes - among other things
A beer sommelier’s homework

You may remember tasting a handful of beers for several days or even a couple of weeks. But the details will get harder to recall the more you taste. (Even more so for pros who taste many beers frequently.)

You will remember some beers just fine — the particularly good and the hilariously bad — but the majority that fall somewhere in between will get lost.

Tasting notes are useful, even important, because they allow you to look back at beers you’ve had but since forgotten. As our tastes change over time this can be particularly rewarding.

How to write memorable tasting notes

The first thing to remember is that these are your notes. Don’t worry too much about what to put in them. Unless you’re taking an exam soon, what matters most is your personal impression of the drink. Record what you’re interested in.

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