Training the taste buds

I probably mentioned it somewhere already, I plan to participate in the Dutch biersommelier championships in 2020. Not particularly to win, although that would be nice, but mostly to be there (or be a rectangular thing). And because in 2018 there was no non-male present! While there are a lot of at least female biersommeliers in the Netherlands.

To be properly prepared Judy and I started a training group with Yvonne, Tina, Charlotte and Maurus. Any biersommelier who wants to join some time is welcome, no (gender) restrictions. We also have a training date planned with the Bierbitches. And Maurus and I will go to Rimini in september to cheer Pepijn, Dennis en Hubert at the World Championship. They won the Dutch championship last year!

This month I started with a small exercise: Putting the most common Dutch pilsners in order of bitterness. This has two advantages: first, it makes me concentrate on one flavour in particular, second, you can use this information (a bit) in recommending beers to pilsner drinkers who want to try something new.

The pilsners I had to taste were Dommelsch, Hertog Jan, Heineken, Bavaria, Amstel, Brand and Grolsch. Unfortunately, Dommelsch and Amstel must have had a harsh treatment at the store where we bought them or they were just quite old, so it was also a practice in trying to recognize the original taste through the taste deviations.

Pilsners. I notice that a lot of people I meet in bars in Eindhoven still seem to think those are the only kinds of beer on this world. They probably heard some rumours about specialty beers, but the main discussion for these people is still which pilsner is better, Heineken or Bavaria. Mostly these discussions end in things like: “I can taste the difference between Heineken and Bavaria any day!” By this time they are probably properly wasted. And I think it’s quite an accomplishment if you really can blindly guess the pilsner brand, especially when you can choose between all brands. It’s a thing people ask me a lot: “So now you are biersommelier, you can blindly recognize a Heineken from a Bavaria?” No, I cannot. Well, maybe if you just give me these two, and would ask if it is a Heineken or a Bavaria, I probably could. And I know from a former experiment I cán blindly recognize a Budels from a Hertog Jan ánd from a Heineken. But overall I just don’t practice myself that much in the differences between brands in one beerstyle. So if you give me seven pilsners, I will have a hard time to recognize the brand. It’s already hard enough to recognize the differences between beerstyles 😉 . I mean, sure, I can taste the difference between a pilsner, a stout and an IPA. But it’s harder to taste the difference between a German pilsner and a Czech pilsner, although that’s a thing I dó have to know for the Championships.

Still, tasting and recognizing the differences between the brands on their bitterness is a nice practice. I knew beforehand some results; Brand and Grolsch are way more bitter than say a Hertog Jan. And Maurus, who gave me the assignment was content with the results. My end sequence was the same as it was for him. (That doesn’t mean this is the whole truth of the matter, but it’s nice to agree on something like this). My end result from bitter to less bitter was: Brand, Grolsch, Dommelsch, Heineken, Amstel, Bavaria, Hertog Jan. Interesting to see that the major export brand of the Netherlands is smack in the middle. It could explain some of the popularity. Although remember we ONLY tasted on bitterness, not on sweetness, dryness or other aspects. And the bitterness difference is quite subtle.

Next on I have a tasting date with the beforementioned people in which we’ll try to recognise the differences between several light coloured lagers.

So, another fun exercise instead of a question. I wonder what your results are when you do this excercise! Would you share them with me below?

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