beer brandsThink back to the last time you were in a bar choosing a local brew. Chances are there were plenty of different craft beer brands to choose from and you may have been confused on exactly what is the difference between them all. We don’t blame you — small and independent craft brewers actually represent 12% of the market share of the overall beer industry, so they’re everywhere.

Whether you’re in the mood for a pint or a growler fill, it’s important to know exactly how to taste beer so you can recognize and appreciate the differences in the different flavors. Here’s how to taste beer like a pro.

Step One: Pour

No matter whether your beer comes from a can, keg, growler, or bottle, it’s important that you pour it into a glass. This is so you can fully smell and get a feeling for the complex flavors.

Step Two: Give It A Glance

Hold the beer up to the light and give it a good look — what do you see? Take note of the color of the brew, if the carbonation bubbles are moving up and down the glass, and the consistency of the “head” (the foam top layer). A consistent foam head is a sign that the brew is fresh.

Step Three: Swirl

Just as you would with wine, you should give the glass a good swirl before you take a sip. That will allow the liquid to release subtle aromas and nuances that can enhance its flavor.

Step Four: Double Sniff

Right after swirling, pay attention to how you sniff. You should take two short inhales to get the overall aroma, then take a deep breath with your mouth open. This will give you a bit more of a complex look at both the first and second impression of the drink.

Step Five: Sip, Sip, Hooray

First, take a sip of the beer and let it coat your mouth and roll around on the tongue. This will prep your taste buds for all the deep flavor that is to come. Only once you have savored the first sip can you toss one back!

These five steps of beer testing will help you not only enhance your palette but help you figure out the similarities and differences in multiple beer brands. So next time you’re at your local brewery getting a drink, bring these five tips with you to impress all your friends!