Soy Sauce & Smoked Sausage: Do our preconceptions of a beer get in the way of the experience?

I was having a few swift halves in North Bar the other day whilst waiting for Colette to finish work. When she arrived and sat down next to me she instantly said “You smell like a German Sausage”, which sounds like a pretty rude (and a little bit crude) thing to say until you know what I was drinking; a Schenkerla smoked Marzen beer.

It’s a beer I love, and one which admittedly does have a huge savoury smoke aroma which lingers like crazy on your breath. Essentially, it tastes great but it makes you stink.

But what was interesting was that I always thought this beer tasted of Bacon, but it doesn’t. Colette is totally right (I imagine that statement will be printed out and stuck on the fridge before long) because it doesn’t taste of Bacon at all, it tastes and smells of smoked sausage.

The thing is, I remember reading about the beer on Tom’s blog, and then later about Mikkeller’s Beer Geek Bacon which also used Rauch Malt, and thinking “I wonder if it really does taste like Bacon?”. So when I first tasted the Schlenkerla I already had the notion in my head, and the savoury smokiness was enough for me to go “It does taste like Bacon!”.

My point is that my preconceptions of the beer led me off on a bit of a tangent, and sometimes it seems impossible to push past what I think something will smell or taste like, to get at what it actually is like.

Another great example of Colette’s superior nose, or perhaps why it’s good to get a non-beer-geeks opinion for perspective, was her judgement of Black Tokyo* Horizon, i.e. “It smells like Soy Sauce”. I don’t think I would have ever spotted that lingering savouriness behind all that sweet malt if she hadn’t pointed it out. But seriously, try for yourself and smell it again.

Soy Sauce.

It’s there if you look for it.

p.s. Ghostie wrote an excellent post on a similar subject recently, but he talked more about whether spending £25 on a bottle of beer tricks your brain into thinking the beer is amazing. It’s well worth a read.


  1. It can be a good and bad thing sometimes when people put other flavours in your head. For instance I had those two Japanese beers the other night and Rick suggested flavours for one of them. He was completely right in his observations and it was probably not something I would of picked out if I had not been told. While this may have been a good learning exercise, that's all I could taste for the rest of the bottle - not that it was too much of a bad thing. Good post, thanks for the link.

  2. I try to avoid reading reviews of a beer immediately prior to drinking it, though of course the descirptors could still be stuck there from previous viewings. Io think we have preconceived ideas about a lot of beers, whetehr that just be from colour or style cues or what you may expect a brewery's beer to taste like.
    I always get bacon when i drink rauch marzen but less so on the weisese or urbock. Tokyo* was full of soy sauce and balsamic vinegar but less so in the black tokyo horizon i thought.

  3. I think preconceptions are always there, but it's not always bad. What I really like is when my preconceptions are exceeded.

    Just by being told the beer style on the bottle or badge we have a preconception - if it says IPA we imagine citrus, if it says stout we think dark and roasty. I think it's like that with every beer.

    And it sounds like your other half is similar to mine and has a better nose than me! I'm always shoving glasses at her face and telling her to sniff!