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    How to Drink Beer… First Sip


    The first sip of the first beer of the day is not something to rush through. That first sip is a special moment that, if not celebrated, is a special moment lost and worse, wasted. To lose something is forgivable. To waste something is unforgivable. But I digress too early… As I was.

    The first sip of the first beer of the day is sometimes as early as 0800 hours on Mondays in my world. This is the time to taste the beers sent to me by brewers across this good country. They send these beers to me with printed information known in the business as “cheat-sheets” or “sell sheets” offering what the brewery representative thinks are the unique selling points of that particular brew. Do I read these epistles before tasting? No… I like surprises. Have I had to read the sheets after the tasting to understand the flavors of the brew? Yes… sometimes it makes a winner out of a loser that was simply misunderstood.

    Why do I start my beer drinking so early in the morning?

    The taste and olfactory senses are sharpest early in the day. A couple of rinses of the mouth with sparkling water gets the taste and “smell team” ready to work at the top of their form.

    Why rinse my mouth with sparkling water?

    Sparkling water, as opposed to still water, is because of the carbonation is slightly acidic. This tingle sets a base line for the various senses involved in the morning tasting.

    Back to the first sip…

    For those of us who sip for professional reasons that first sip sets off all kinds of mental masturbation. The search for a new way to explain the slightly toasty cracker sweet-tinged grain and nut brown maple smoke taste sensation in a way that fully expresses but doesn’t intimidate the person reading the words is not a short one. Looking for flavors and aromas in the layers of flavors and aromas that make up each brew is similar to mapping the particular colors you can/can’t see in a natural rainbow after a spring thunderstorm in the Hudson River Valley just before sunset. It is a magnificent obsession I can assure you.

    In the real world the first sip of the first beer of the day is a searching for succor, a charge into chilly refreshment and/or a slide into serenity. If rushed the chilly refreshment is celebrated and the anticipated buzz on the express line. I shall paraphrase “Cliff” pontificating to “Norm”… “This stuff tastes pretty good when you take the time to taste it!” (If you don’t know these chaps I suggest you visit YouTube and search “Cheers”.)

    The first sip of the first beer of the day begins with the sight of the well poured beer in a crystal clear glass mug, stein, flute or tumbler. There should be “two fingers” (ask me and I’ll explain) of “head”/foam on the beer unless it is a dark stout and then only a quarter of an inch or so is more than acceptable.


    The temperature should be between 40/45F with the exception of cask-conditioned ales (ask me and I’ll tell you about it). If all of these preliminaries are taken care of the first sip is only waiting for you to enjoy… after a brief stop to appreciate the aromas of that particular brew.

    Don’t be afraid to smell your beer. The more aromas there are the more you can be assured that you are about to enjoy an ale. If the aromas are shy and only tease you with hints of aromas then you will be enjoying the subtle attractions of a lager. This is important in letting you know what’s to come!


    Photo by Ginalola Lowry

    Yes, it is actually time to raise the glass to your lips and allow the elixir of the gods to flow across your lower lip and teeth, cascading across your tongue and into the embrace of your flavor receptors. Well, that’s pretty much the general idea. In short, slow down, see it, sniff it and sip it.

    It’s worth it.