tongue versus nose - flavor fights

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tongue versus nose - flavor fights

This is not about exotic ingredients, but about balancing flavors for the ingredients we already use.

I was drinking a Pilsner Urquell the other day (the new cold shipped stuff) and was remarking to my wife that there are some very nice malty flavors, AND a pretty aggressive bitterness. This got me thinking

We normally like to talk about the balance between malt flavors and hop FLAVORS. Thinking of this, I was wondering about the PU in front of me. Then it dawned on me that bitterness is not a "flavor". Our tongue can sense sweet, sour, salty, bitter, and umami. This is simply taste. This then combines with the aroma perceived in our nose, to create a flavor perception - which is mostly dependent on the aroma.

So this has me thinking that bitterness does counteract sweetness, but not necessarily malty flavors (as observed in the glass of PU), since the former are perceived on the tongue, and the latter in the nose. However, hop aromas and flavors do directly compete with malty flavors for receptors in you nose.

This seems then to suggest it would be very difficult to make a beer that is both hoppy (aroma and flavor) AND malty as these compete with one another for receptors in the nose. And that bitterness is not so important in terms of competing against these flavors.

I'll have to do a test batch and take a beer and ferment it out and then dry hop half, and not the other, and then compare the perceived maltiness of the two.

So then how does one make a beer that is both malty and hoppy?

dmtaylor's picture
Malty and hoppy are not polar

Malty and hoppy are not polar opposites, and they do not cancel out one another, at least not in the sense such as with an acid and a base, or matter and anti-matter, where one annihilates the opposition. If you want to make a beer that is both malty and hoppy, simply use a lot of complex flavors of both ingredients. For example, try making an American barleywine or Russian imperial stout sometime. Both malty and hoppy. The malty and hoppy flavors each have their own dials. You can turn the volume up or down on either one. They do not cancel one another, at least not in the most basic sense. Perception of balance is another story entirely. Human perception often/usually does not equate with reality.

Dave "This is grain, which any fool can eat, but for which the Lord intended a more divine means of consumption. Let us give praise to our Maker, and glory to His bounty, by learning about... BEER!" - Friar Tuck (Robin Hood - Prince of Thieves)

denny's picture
I think my opinion would be

I think my opinion would be pretty close to Dave's. I'm having a hard time with the terms "counteract" and "compete". It's a very interesting premise, though, and I intend to think about it and do some testing!

Life begins at 60....1.060, that is!

+1 - While "malty" and "hoppy

+1 - While "malty" and "hoppy" flavors do not compete directly, you can really only perceive so much at once. Neither component blocks the other, but they do act as "background noise" when trying to perceive the other. Turning up the malt affects hoppiness the same way turning up the radio affects having a phone conversation while in the same room.

What erockph said. Great

What erockph said. Great Analogy! That is the question I'm pondering. They are not competing in the nose/tongue for receptors, they are fighting in the brain for our attention

Hans Olo
Deadthread I know but I only

Deadthread I know but I only just found this and feel compelled to weigh in:

I have some annoying allergies and drift in and out of an anosmic state (inability to smell) up to 20 times a week.

I can always sense bitterness and sweetness in beer but malt and hop characters are not present when I can't smell. I can sense malt at times when I am only slightly able to smell but hops doesn't come through unless I am smelling well. I have to say I agree with erockrph that the malt and hops flavours are competing for our brain's attention, not our taste receptors.

It is especially apparent when my sense of smell cuts out mid-pint and what I perceive in the beer changes dramatically. I was suddenly much much more aware of malt and bitterness in a smoked beer when I was no longer able to sense the smoke or hop aromas.

sent from my iSpud