Oct 31, 2022 - Food and Drink

Arizona's highest-ranking beer judge shares tasting tips

A man smiling in front of a row of cups.

Dennis Mitchell at the One Water Brewing Showcase. Photo: Jessica Boehm/Axios

The Valley is home to one of the world's best beer palates, and he's sharing his expertise to help us all appreciate our brews even more.

What's happening: Gilbert resident Dennis Mitchell is the president of the international Beer Judge Certification Program. He's the highest-ranking beer judge in Arizona and one of the top 30 in the world.

How it works: Sadly, becoming an official beer judge takes a lot more skill than just liking beer.

  • Multiple examinations and significant practical judging experience is required to reach Mitchell's rank.

I got to drink and judge alongside Mitchell last week for Scottsdale's One Water Brewing Showcase, which featured five beers crafted by local breweries using recycled water from Scottsdale.

Of note: Our judging panel awarded the blue ribbon to Goldwater and Four Peaks brewing companies, who teamed up to craft an exceptional wet hop lager.

The technique: Mitchell helped me and the other four amateurs on the panel by walking us through what to pay attention to on our first few sips.

  • Aroma: Could we smell the hops? Was the aroma overwhelming or alluring?
  • Appearance: A good porter shouldn't look like a Coors Light and a good lager shouldn't look like a Guinness.
  • Flavor: This one's obvious, but we slowed down on our first sip and appreciated what we did or didn't like about the flavor.
  • Mouthfeel: Was the carbonation too much or was it too flat? Was it thicker or thinner than we'd like it to be?

The intrigue: Mitchell said learning about beer styles and techniques can help understand what makes a good or bad beer and can help you to figure out what type of brews you like best.

Yes, but: Don't overthink it. Beer isn't meant for tasting — it's meant for drinking, he said. 🍻

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