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24-05-2010, 10:16
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If you give me a US IPA, and you tell me exactly what style it is, then my brain triggers an expectation of taste. If you give me a beer, but donít tell me what it is, and I see that itís chestnut brown with a thin head, then I can almost taste it before I actually raise the glass to my lips Ė itíll be bready, a little toffee, maybe some earthy, English hops, right? If you give me a bottle and donít tell me the style but the tasting note says Ďrich chocolate flavour, roasted fruit and a bitter finishí then I know what to expect when I drink it. And if you gave me a bottle of Dark Lord (http://beeradvocate.com/beer/profile/26/7520)/Westvleteren 12 (http://www.ratebeer.com/beer/westvleteren-12/4934/)/Pliny the Younger (http://beeradvocate.com/beer/profile/863/21690) then I can guess roughly what itíll taste like flavour-wise and I also expect it to be incredible, thanks to its stellar reputation. But how much do these Ė knowing the style, colour, tasting notes and reputation Ė affect the actual perception of taste?


To try and get a better understanding I asked Lauren to choose any two beers from the cupboard. No restrictions, apart from a couple which were 750ml or some strong specials - there were about 50 bottles to choose from ranging from lagers, through pale ales up to big stouts, from all over the world. She then put them in the fridge for an hour and banned me from looking until after Iíd tasted them both.


Part of me expected to be almost stupefied by not knowing the beer/style in my hand, as if the senses of smell and taste would be rendered useless. At the same time I wondered if not seeing them would intensify my ability to smell and taste. Also, I was worried that Iíd get them entirely wrong, proving that I canít actually taste anything...


As you can see from the video I didnít do too bad. I got the strength and colour of the first beer Ė Mikkellerís GIPA (http://www.mikkeller.dk/index.php?id=61&beer_id=110&land=1), which I fail miserably at trying to pronounce Ė picking out earthy, peppery citrus but confusing it with something a little bretty and sour (it wasnít sour, just bitter, lemony and fruity from the hefty use of German hops). Taking the blindfold off and drinking it again seemed to make it taste different, as if the flavour was suddenly amplified. The second beer - Viven Porter (http://www.beermerchants.com/b6079) - I managed to get the colour straight away from the roasted aroma but the easy-drinking quality of it made me think it was a low abv beer when it fact it was 7%. Again when I drank this without the blindfold it suddenly tasted different; stronger and generally bigger. Iím pretty sure my perception of these beers changed as soon as I knew what I was drinking, which I guess confirms the idea that knowing what beer is in your glass does affect the way it tastes.



http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_FLUWDWr_WT8/S_oygSC4JLI/AAAAAAAABEg/GwqoyEaSuqU/s320/CIMG4455.JPG (http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_FLUWDWr_WT8/S_oygSC4JLI/AAAAAAAABEg/GwqoyEaSuqU/s1600/CIMG4455.JPG)
The mind tricks in clever ways so I wanted to see how well I can smell and taste without anything influencing it. The selection group was small, which may have affected me (I knew I had a bottle of mild in the cupboard and as soon as I tasted the dark beer I thought it was that), so maybe next time I need to do it at a beer festival where there are hundreds of beers to choose from. I also think that next time I will be more objective and know what to expect of a test like this, perhaps taking more time to think about the actual qualities of each, rather than speedily sniffing and sipping just to get to the big reveal of what Iím drinking. The use of all the senses of important and I sped past them eagerly.


The test was far from scientific, but an interesting test of perception and the senses. I want to try it again soon and itíll be interesting to see how I do with a couple of British ales. The other idea, inspired by Chunk (http://beerbirrabier.blogspot.com/), is to get Lauren to choose any bottle of beer from the supermarket without me knowing and then pour it out and see how I get on. As experiments go, this one has got my brain ticking in many ways, raising questions about packaging being able to influence the taste of something, as well as reputation and style.


Have you attempted a similar blind tasting exercise? If so, how did you get on?


I think thereís so much more to this idea than just this post and I find the whole concept of taste and perception fascinating. The only trouble is that I look like a right twat with that mask on. I've also just realised that the way I have the page set up cuts off half the video, thankfully it's the half in which nothing happens, but if you want to watch it in glorious (hazy) widescreen then you can see it here (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iEEIDjwn92A).
https://blogger.googleusercontent.com/tracker/8717216232742676074-8832003476746398128?l=pencilandspoon.blogspot.com


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