5 - Five Senses: The Sound Of Beer

5 - Five Senses: The Sound Of Beer

03 Jan 2022

by Mick Wust

This series of five articles explores how you can experience your beer with all five of your senses. When you slow down, pour it into a glass, and approach it from different angles, you’ll find it can boost your enjoyment of beer and bring more satisfaction than just throwing it down your throat.

Of course, don’t let anyone tell you that you ‘should’ drink your beer a certain way. Drink it however you enjoy it - that’s the whole point! But if you’d like consider how to explore beer with all five senses, and how to talk about what you’re experiencing, then read on.


Drink with your ears

There’s a lot you can learn about a beer by listening to it. Before you take your first sip, you should always hold your glass of beer up to your ear to hear the sound of the bubbles popping. The frequency and volume will tell you… actually, it won’t tell you anything at all. If you hold a beer up to your ear, you’ll just look like an idiot.

I need to come clean. I’ve lured you here under false pretences. The first four articles of this series have been about the sensory experience of beer - the appearance, aroma, taste and feel of beer. But this article isn’t about the sound of beer, or literally listening to beer; it’s about metaphorically listening to your beer.

Beer appeals to more than just our senses. It appeals to our hearts and minds as well. Why do you think beer ads are always showing people having fun or having adventures, relaxing at home or enjoying picturesque locations, spending time with best friends or loving family? Beer ads show these things because beer - and well-made, flavoursome, local, independent craft beer in particular - is greater than the sum of its parts. It has history, it stirs emotions, it carries associations, it evokes memories, and it reminds us of stories.

So what stories is your beer telling you?

The ingredients tell a story

Since independent brewers are artisans at heart, they often select ingredients with interesting stories to put into their beer. And for drinkers, there’s something romantic about knowing those stories.

Grassy Knoll’s Valley Lager is made with a single malt - Voyager’s Atlas malt, made from Latrobe barley grown in the Western Riverina of NSW - and a single hop - Mandarina Bavaria, a new world German hop variety released in 2012. The result is a clean and straightforward beer, but there’s a wealth of information about these ingredients waiting to be explored.

Young Blood Crystal Ale is a pale ale named not only for the crystal malt that give it a big body and rich colour, but also for the crystal rock salt sourced from South Australian beaches and used to finish this beer. Can you taste the salt? Can you taste the beach?

The brewer tells a story

Breweries like to tell stories with the beers they make, and will often use the beer names to help them along. 

Bird Rock Brown is named after the place where the idea Bells Beach Brewing was first dreamt up, and contains coffee from Mikro Coffee Roasters just down the road from BBB. Talk about a sense of place!

The words Whynot, Hoogley and Vulture may not mean much to you, but Brisbane’s Catchment Brewing will tell you about the local streets these beers are named after. They’ll even include a bird’s eye view of their home suburb West End in their can design.

You could even turn some of these stories into trivia for your mates. How did Nine Fingers Brew get its name? Which Urban Alley beer was first made in collaboration with Melbourne Ice Hockey Club? What does Heroes and Villains’ B.O.T.N.A. stand for? 

You tell stories

Perhaps the best kinds of stories are the ones you tell, and beer is fantastic at firing up the imagination. As the aroma wafts up your nose and the liquid washes over your tongue, let it stir up your memories release your inner storyteller.

“This tropical sour is so pungent! Our neighbours used to have this passionfruit vine on their back fence…”

“When I was backpacking across Germany, there was this tiny tavern that served their beer from wooden barrels…” 

“This stout takes me right back to when my grandfather used to smoke his pipe after dinner…”

“The zing in this IPA would go perfectly with Jimi Hendrix - I’m thinking Electric Ladyland on vinyl.”

Beer is special in the way it engages so many of our senses, but it’s almost magical in the way it can do far more than that. It can transport you to new places, teach you new things, and take you to new depths in your friendships… if you’ll only listen to it.