Why does everyone insist on smelling a beer before tasting it?

To me, I don't want any preconceived notions about what it may or may not taste. You ever see a trailer for a movie and you think it's going to be awesome. Then you go see it and realize it's only so-so?

The aroma is a big factor, don't get me wrong, and adds to the total experience of a new beer. But I don't drink beer for the smell.

  • 7
    You fundamentally misunderstand what taste is if you think smell is unrelated.
    – jsled
    Commented Jan 4, 2011 at 14:15
  • You don't have to "smell it first", you can just drink it if that is the ritual you enjoy best. You won't pass any BJCP judging exam, but that's not your point, right? Cheers!
    – DaFi4
    Commented Jun 10, 2016 at 7:30

5 Answers 5


There may be a bit of tasting elitist that goes with smelling before tasting, but in my experience smell, aroma, and most importantly, oxygen is key to getting the full taste/experience.

I'm not talking about smelling it, setting it back on the table, commenting to your buddy how you detect hints of cherries, then picking it back up and taking a big swallow (which has its merits).

I mean smelling and breathing as you taste the beer. Literally, as beer goes into your mouth, breathe (smell) in through your nose.
This may stray from your question, but it makes all the difference.


"Many aromatics in beer are quite volatile and tend to dissipate rapidly. Quickly sniff a beer after it’s poured to detect these. Also note how the aroma changes over time."

This is from the article written by Gordon Strong (BJCP President) on Beer Evaluation for the Homebrewers Association.

To read the full article http://www.homebrewersassociation.org/attachments/0000/1270/JAZym04_JUDGE.pdf


If you're not drinking beer for the smell, you're missing out. Hops provide bitterness, flavor and aroma. I love the smell of a good IPA, just as much as the flavor. Aroma adds a dimension to beer, and can also change the way it tastes (usually for the better).

To take your analogy further, consider the aroma as DVD extras. Sure you can just watch the movie, but if you really loved it you can appreciate it at a deeper level by finding out why the director made certain choices, or what happened in a deleted scene.


Without the sense of smell you can not taste. Ever notice this when eatting something while having a cold. OR hold your nose while drinking a beer, then let go and smell the aromas. All of a sudden your taste buds jump to life. Most of what you think you taste, you are actually smelling. Aroma of beer is very important, as it wakes the taste buds up and gives you the full experience of the beer. Don't beleive me, here's a link.



Many beers also taste different from how they smell, and so you get the full experience of the beer by smelling it first. That difference can be quite substantial in a sour beer or one fermented with brettanomyces (A sour/malty/goaty flavor combined with the scent of bad feet or good cheese).

The smell of a beer can also be an indicator of quality. If it doesn't smell good, you might not want to drink it. If I smell horseblanket in my ESB, I know something somewhere has gone horribly wrong.

  • damn. +1 for "bad feet or good cheese", +1 for Horseblanket ESB. But only +1 counts. DRAT!
    – Pulsehead
    Commented Jan 4, 2011 at 18:45

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.