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Beer Evaluation - Kinesthetic & Trigeminal Senses

Have you ever listened to a close friend describe an accident or severe pain? Their words are so vivid that you feel a weird shock wave through your body. It is only for a moment, but the intensity is undeniable.

Or how about a moment of intense fear? I was recently walking along a dark city street, when I noticed a man walking in front of me. His pace slowed considerably, as my eyes fell upon a shining object concealed in the grip behind his back. The hairs at the nape of my neck stood up – a clear warning. My skin suddenly “crawled” with such magnitude that I felt the hand of God whip me around in the opposite direction with deft quietude and speed.

I am sure you have, at some time in your life, gulped a strong scotch whiskey or vodka or wine, and shook as the burning liquid slid down your throat. The muscles in your neck actually contracted in protest, then relaxed as you laughed at your tearing eyes.

The Kinesthetic Sense! How often is this ignored by those who evaluate beer?

Beer judges typically assess beer based on appearance, aroma, flavor, mouthfeel, and overall impression. They look to the style guidelines to decide how closely the brewer adheres to the parameters that govern the description. They can pick out off-flavors – diacetyl, DMS, skunkiness, cardboard and sherry. But the beer may still be lacking qualities that make it “world-class.” A truly good beer can be recalled in your mind the next morning. It seems to be ambiguous, but your body has actually picked up on other sensory qualities that come as a bonus when the brewer is an artist.

One of those qualities is felt in the Kinesthetic Sense. Although many people believe the brain to be only that mass of gray matter between the ears, it actually consists of an entire system of nerves that extend to every part of your body. This includes neurons that send waves of electrical discharge, triggering and releasing chemicals at each synaptic junction. When stimulation merits release, the muscles give feedback to the brain. A beer that can reach the Kinesthetic Sense is far superior to one that merely meets stylistic description.

Audition is another sense that is often ignored by beer judges. The “pffft” as the cap is released, or the screaming of freshly released effervescence activates joy in the brain of a beer drinker. The ting of glasses in the toast may also trigger “expectation,” causing inaccurate evaluation or error.

Another often ignored sensory characteristic is the Trigeminal Sense. Hot and cold sensations! Who has never laughed at the commercials for Wintergreen LifeSavers? “I feel a cool breeze blowing through my hair…ahahhhha!” She giggles. What about the heat that envelopes your entire head when you eat a Jalapeno? Or the stimulation that overtakes your nasal passages when you consume wasabi or horseradish sauce? Brett, sour fruit, or peppery profiles may add or detract from your perception of an exceptional beer.

You may already be keyed-in to these three factors. If you never noticed them, awareness of these nuances will make you a better judge.

Cheers!
 

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