How To Taste like a Cicerone
[Taken from NLC's Occasions Magazine | Spring 2013 | Issue 24]
Steve Riley is a Certified Cicerone, the beer equivalent of a sommelier, and President of He is one of only a handful of Certified Cicerones in Canada, and is a recognized beer judge.

Things are changing for the better in the beer world, with imaginative twists as well as traditional styles available to Atlantic Canadian beer-lovers in more variety than ever.

You have probably noticed an infusion of new beer in NLC Liquor Stores, and whether you always drink the same brand or try new styles at every opportunity, you can expand your horizons by learning what experts know about drinking beer at its best. Here are a few tips on beer-tasting and getting the most out of your next beer-drinking experience.

The Pour
Pour your beer into a clean, clear glass, being sure to retain an inch-high collar of foam. The foam (or head) helps retain the delicate aromas of the beer. Next, assess: is the beer clear or cloudy? If it’s an unfiltered style, such as Wit (Belgian Wheat Ale), it will be cloudy. Typically, cloudy or unfiltered beer will be more complex and flavourful.

Take a short sniff, followed by a longer one. A little trick that beer experts use to accentuate the aroma is to cover the glass with your hand and swirl the glass for 3-4 seconds. Take your hand away and immediately take a deep, long sniff with your nose buried in the glass. Do you notice how intense the aroma becomes? You can pick up many subtleties this way.

Take a one-ounce sip, swirl it in your mouth and then swallow while exhaling through your nose (as taste is 99% aroma). What do you taste? Cereal,  floral, citrus, sweet, grainy, spicy, bitter? When tasting the beer, be sure to also think about the mouthfeel (texture) and any other specific characteristics you detect. Is it watery, thin or thick? Is it hot (a warming sensation felt at the back of throat), or perhaps acidic?

Lastly, remember that beer is social. The setting and the people you enjoy the beer with are as important as the taste of the beer. Get a group together and collectively expand your understanding. Enjoy a beer you haven’t tried before; the selection is greater than it ever has been before.