The Nose Knows

Bev Blackwood - Aroma matters. A lot!

On a recent stop at a brewpub in El Paso I was reminded of the vagaries of our own senses.Ode Brewing is a very ambitious brewpub located near the University of Texas El Paso, with locally sourced products and some very interesting food combinations on the menu. 

I found the beers very agreeable, although a bit aggressive in flavor.However, with my recent sinus issues I was reminded that maybe it wasn’t them, but me.Aroma is essential to the enjoyment of beer.The suggestion of citrus, herbs, and pine from the hops will influence the flavor of the beer when sipped.The suggestion of coffee, bitter chocolate, dark fruit and grain will affect how the malt profile is perceived when it rolls across your tongue. However, our senses are very easily fooled, as you may recall the classic grade school exercise where a blindfolded student has a pear placed under their nose while being fed a piece of apple.When asked what they were eating, invariably they respond that they tasted a pear.Scent informs your tongue. A clogged nose is one problem, but many people are surprised to discover that antihistamines will also affect your palate.They dull the senses, drying out the membranes that transmit odors to the receptors that transmit them to your brain. I thought on that while sipping the beers at Ode in El Paso.I wasn’t giving them a fair shake by trying them with a runny nose.They were all well made and any sharpness of flavor may have been my own misperception, being ill informed by aroma.I look forward to revisiting their beer (and the delicious food) on another trip to El Paso.In the meantime, I can certainly vouch for their Scotch Ale and Witbier, both of which were delicious even with my sensory limitations.

One other benefit of traveling out of state (which can be hard to do in Texas) is that I can grab a few beers I can’t get locally.My first purchase on arrival in Tucson was a classic IPA, Two Hearted Ale from Bell’s Brewing in Michigan. It’s got a muted citrus aroma with a distinct grapefruit rind bite, but also a very evident pine resin character.The bitterness in the flavor is very assertive, with a mid-palate bite and a lingering flavor that is matched by a strong malt backbone into the finish.It doesn’t hurt that it’s 7% ABV and is in convenient 16 ounce cans, that let you enjoy an extra few sips of this classic ale.Wishing you all clear sinuses and good beer in the New Year!

The author:

Bev Blackwood II is the Southwest Brewing News Contributing Editor for Texas and has been covering Texas beers for 17 years An award winning home brewer, Bev has also brewed professionally at St. Arnold Brewing Company and was part of the team that brought home Saint Arnold’s first Great American Beer Festival gold medal in 2007. A long time member of Houston’s premiere homebrew club, the Foam Rangers, Bev teaches their Beer Judge Certification Program course and has also taught at Rice University’s Glasscock School of Continuing Studies.

The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the author's alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of Ora Media, LLC, its affiliates, or its employees.

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