So many ways to taste...
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Post Title: About Me

My name is Sarah and I am currently a student of UCSD Extension’s Brewing Certificate Program. I am a part of the first cohort of students in this brewing program, and I have created this blog to give an insider look into the brewing world of San Diego and my experiences in the program.

Some of my background: I have a degree in Molecular Biology from UCSD, I love beer, and I have worked as an enzymologist/fermentation scientist in the biotech industry here in San Diego. I am looking to find my place in the San Diego craft beer scene that will tie together my love of science and beer!

Post Title: Sensory Boot Camp

Post Date: September 26, 2013

I have started sensory boot camp! Sensory Evaluation and Beer Styles class started this week, and it is way more fun than I imagined boot camp could ever be — with a very inspiring teacher. Gwen Conley is teaching this course, and she is the Director of Production and Quality for Port Brewing Co. and the Lost Abbey in San Marcos. Here is a blurb about her from the Lost Abbey website:

“She began her career in the beer business as a microbiologist for Coors in Golden, Colorado. She left Coors and went to work for the Ball Corporation (the container people), where she went through their sensory training program and became an expert on how colors, aromas, and flavors work together to create sensory experiences. She parlayed her unique background into a position at legendary craft brewery Flying Dog where she not only managed their QA efforts, but also conducted educational programs in beer and food pairings.”

Basically, she is a sensory goddess and I have a lot to learn and I have already gotten in trouble for talking too much in class.

We started off the class by going over the definition of flavor as proposed by Morton Meilgaard…

“Flavor is the term used to describe the complex interactions of taste, smell, and chemical irritation of foods in the mouth that add to its mouth-feel, such as carbonation, the burn of chili peppers, or the coolness of menthol.”

We went over how appearance, aroma, mouth-feel, and other factors such as emotional triggers can affect how a person perceives taste. Gwen stressed that we will all perceive things differently and, really, there are no right or wrong answers to the question: “What do you taste?” Still, although there are not right and wrong answers, we can still train our palates to understand different levels of basic tastes and build the vocabulary needed to express what we are tasting. I thought it was interesting how emotions can have such an impact on what a person tastes and I realized that is exactly how I express what I taste. For example, in another post, I describe a beer as tasting “Christmas-like.” It will be a challenge for me to identify that emotional aspect of taste and set it aside to become more objective — describing a “Christmas-like” flavor in terms of ratios of cloves to pine to nutmeg, for example.

We started the training of our taste buds by pouring standards of basic tastes — sweet, salty, bitter, and umami (Uma = delicious, Mi = Essence) — and tasting them in the lowest concentration to highest concentration of the same taste. We will use these standards to establish the baseline of the seven-point scale that is used to categorize these flavors in beer.

We moved on to tasting beer: a Hop 15 ale. We evaluated the aroma by taking two small sniffs and one long deep sniff, covering the cup, and swirling to release volatile aromas. Next, we tasted the beer, allowing the beer to coat our mouths, and then took another sip, plugging our nose, swallowing, and then breathing out of our mouths. (I kinda thought I was going to choke on this step.) Each of these different steps brought out new aromas and tastes for me. I was really interested in how the flavors affected each other; for example, when we ate a piece of cheese before taking a sip of beer, the umami from the cheese lessened the perceived bitterness from the beer.

Title: UCSD’s Brewing Program | Address: ucsdbrewingprogram.com

Author: Sarah G | From: North Park | Blogging since: September 2013

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