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 don’t tell me what it is, and I see that it’s chestnut brown with a thin head, then I can almost taste it before I actually raise the glass to my lips – it’ll be bready, a little toffee, maybe some earthy, English hops, right? If you give me a bottle and don’t tell me the style but the tasting note says ‘rich chocolate flavour, roasted fruit and a bitter finish’ then I know what to expect when I drink it. And if you gave me a bottle of Dark Lord/Westvleteren 12/Pliny the Younger then I can guess roughly what it’ll taste like flavour-wise and I also expect it to be incredible, thanks to its stellar reputation. But how much do these – knowing the style, colour, tasting notes and reputation – affect the actual perception of taste?
A brave thing to share with us and pleasingly honest. I think I would goin to panic mode and start to imagine all sorts of non-existent flavours.ReplyDelete
That's a good experiment! I've done a fair few blind tastings with flights of similar style beers, but not completely blind.ReplyDelete
You're dead right, packaging, perception and expectations can really influence how you taste a beer, even if it is only in subtle ways. It's one reason I try to explain to my German colleagues what to expect before they taste something like a mega US-hoppy IPA, as those kinds of flavours just don't compute as normal beer here. Am I playing with their perceptions? I certainly hope so! :D
Very impressed that you can still swirl the crap out of your glass while blindfolded :D
You may have to hand your geek card in Dredgie. Bottled Pliny The Younger? A real geek would know it's draft only... ;-)ReplyDelete
I've read a fair bit of research into this and I used to work with some of the larger brewers. It is true that people "drink with their eyes" and once you remove the visual cues (packaging, branding, tasting notes, colour, etc) the results can be very interesting with lagers being described as ales and vice versa. Similar things happen in blind tastings with food where flavours are even more pronounced so it's no surprise that beer with all it's subtelties throws up some interesting descriptions. As soon as people are able to see what they are drinking then the whole thing changes. The importance of marketing I'm afraid.ReplyDelete
Barry, I can swirl like a king, blindfolded or not. I'm just grateful I didn't snort up a massive noseful of beer when sniffing it!! Playing with perceptions is exactly what it is. It's the same with wine - subtle semantic choices and it just sounds better. Refreshing, crisp, bold - they all mean different things, while the tasting notes give you something to expect.ReplyDelete
Sid, touche! However, I am of course talking about a hand-bottled PtY ;)
Robert, it's a really interesting topic and I've been reading more pieces about it today. It's also making me want to try different experiments with taste.
This is a blog I've read today, pointed to me by Tom @WBandBeer - http://scienceblogs.com/cortex/2007/11/the_subjectivity_of_wine.php. It's a really interesting look at things with a wine link (plus it confirms that wine buffs know nothing anyway - it's because they spit it all out, fools!
Really interesting reading! In Sweden, where I'm blogging (www.alltomol.nu), I try to make people more interested in doing reviews of beer blindfolded. I'm quite sure that people tend to be over-optimistic or having high expectations when they know what they are up to. At the blindfolded tastings that I arrange, people can still see what the beer looks like but they don't know the style, brewery or origin. They just have to trust their own senses. In August I'm actually doing "the Largest blindfolded Beer-tasting in Sweden", 100 people tasting 10 different beers from Swedish micro-breweries. Cheers, and thanks for a good article.ReplyDelete
And don't try to say it's Lauren's either.
nice blind fold mate!!ReplyDelete
i did a blind tasting with 3 ipa's a few weeks ago, it's something i want to do more of as it takes a lot of the pre conceptions out of play.
Hand-bottled into a Panda Pop bottle? ;-)ReplyDelete
Inspired by your post I conducted my own blind tasting on my blog over here in Sweden. You can see how I got on here:ReplyDelete
I think I just about got away with it......