Do You Trust What You Taste?

Jeffrey Wiser, October 10, 2013

How do you know when to trust your palate?

This is a question that I pondered for a long time before deciding it was time to believe in what I was tasting. I’d watch these wine and beer people call out these incredibly specific notes they were experiencing while tasting and just marvel at the ability to pick up on pine needles, blackberries and yeast. Many empty glasses later, I’ve discovered that I’m on my way to, perhaps one day, knowing what the hell I’m actually talking about.

I can trace my trust in my palate back to one specific moment. It was when I took my first swig of a Sculpin IPA by Ballast Point Brewery. I was living in Phoenix, saw it on the menu at an awesome establishment and ordered it. I knew I had heard Eno talking about their stuff in the past on twitter and thought I’d give it a shot.

The beer blew me away. I’d never had an IPA from San Diego before and quickly learned that they’re distinctly different than those I’d grew up on from the Northwest. I could taste these sweet notes and a balance of bitterness. I smelled some hops, other floral notes and a twinge of citrus. I knew this beer had to be good, so for verification, I looked it up. It turns out that other people like it and I was validated.

  • Appearance: a light orange amber with a perfect amount of foam on the head (4)
  • Smell: very floral with scents of hops and pine and juniper (4.5)
  • Taste: a terrific balance of caramel malts on the front with hops and citrus in the middle and a lightly-bittered finish (4)
  • Mouthfeel: a medium-light mouthfeel that keeps the beer very refreshing (4)
  • Overall: one of the premier West Coast IPAs. This is a must-try in my book (4.5)

I revisited the beer just recently and decided to add another element to the mixture. Recently, I began experimenting with cheese and beer pairings. I’m very new to this whole thing and still finding my way, but I read that IPA’s can pair well with some types of cheddar. Cheddar is good and so are IPA’s. How could this be a bad thing? Turns out it was exsquisite. 

For ease of use, I decided to enjoy some Dubliner Cheddar that I had in the fridge with my Sculpin IPA. Both were and are delicious and putting the two together was nothing short of amazing. The way the tang of the cheddar took away some of the sweetness from the malt of the IPA was incredible. Pairing them up changed the profiles of the beer and cheese and they became like all new products when enjoyed in the same sitting.

This is something I wouldn’t have been able to identify a year ago, before I had my first Sculpin, before I began to trust my palate. I plan to keep messing with the beer and cheese thing because I like them both and the combinations are really intriguing, plus the cheese just adds a whole new dimension to taste identification. Luckily I’m up for the challenge because, well, who doesn’t like beer and cheese?