Daily Archives: November 9, 2010

Astringency

Years ago I recall being told that astringency was one of the basic tastes, along with bitter, sour, sweet and salty. Since then, its place on that list has been taken by umami.  Astringency has since been considered a tactile sensation, with similar physiological mechanisms as pain, heat, cold, and pressure. Despite this reclassification and the scientific progress in elucidating some of these mechanisms, there are still many questions that need to be answered. The general phenomenon is defined by the Merriam-Webster dictionary as “tending to pucker the tissues of the mouth”. This isn’t an ideal description of the term as it applies to the food and beverage sensory industry since we know that polyphenol-based astringency sensation does not involve any physical changes in the tissues of the mouth like the traditional astringent alum would produce. A somewhat more applicable use of the term for our purposes is “a compound which precipitates proteins and has a molecular weight over 500”.[1]   However, even this definition has limitations, as there are some curious results which defy explanation at the moment.

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Guest Beer 1: Full Sail Sanctuary

As I’ve mentioned previously, every taste panel I administer terminates with a blind tasting of a “competitor’s” beer sample [I put “competitor’s” in quotes because I may include some of our own beer in on rare occasions].  The only thing my panelists know about the beer is what color it is.  The reason for blind tasting is to limit all the sources of bias that I can control; I want my panelists to experience these beers with as few preconceived notions as possible.  At the moment, I’ve got tasting data for over 150 of these samples, so I thought I’d make them a normal part of this blog.   Hopefully our descriptions of these beers can help you expand your awareness and vocabulary.

Some of the terms on these lists are common terms and some are molecular names, and since I have to assume that the readership has limited knowledge of these things, if I think a term needs additional description, I’ll include it.  We will cover the molecular names for these in future posts, so don’t worry too much if you feel overwhelmed.  Stick around, it will get easier.

Today’s beer is Full Sail’s (Hood River, Oregon) Belgian-style Dubbel called “Sanctuary”.  This latest addition to their line of Brewmaster Reserve beers, was bottled in a 22oz bottle, with a stated ABV of 7% and 20 IBUs.

Descriptors:
Stone fruit
Oxidized
Fruity (estery)
Sweet
Solvent
Acetone
Butterscotch
Metallic
Medium body
Papery
Port
Sour
Clove

I’ve already discussed why you should (and how to) pick out the freshest beer you can find in the store, and some of the reasons are stated above: “Oxidized, papery, port, stone fruit” are all common terms associated with the oxidation of beer. Other flavors suffer when beer oxidizes, not only because these flavors themselves degrade, but also because the oxidation flavors that build up easily mask whatever flavors and aromas are left over. This is not [necessarily] the fault of the brewer. Most beer abuse happens after the beer leaves the brewery, much to the dismay of the brewers who tried their best to treat it right.
Overall, this beer was fairly decent. Other than the oxidation, no apparent off-flavors were present; the noted sourness was pretty limited and did not seem to indicate an infection, although this was our first exposure to this beer, so we can only assume it tasted true-to-type. Being only a “dubble” it was a fairly mild beer, as belgians go. Limited (but still present) phenolic/clove aromas and the low-ish alcohol means that this could be fairly drinkable for those used to the style. As usual, just be sure to buy it fresh, if possible.