Using the Palate Deck
Happy Halloween! It’s been a week and a half since the Palate Deck launched, so it’s high time for an update.
Some of you have been curious about how the Palate Deck might work with beers you’re able to buy, wherever you are. I’d like to start including a preview of widely-available beers in future updates so I can walk you through the process of using the Palate Deck to evaluate them. Let’s start with a Quebec beer that is well known throughout the world, Unibroue’s Fin du Monde.
This flavorful Belgian-style tripel is packed with fruit and spice, and carries some serious weight at 9% ABV. Its complexity makes it a great way to show off how the Palate Deck can adapt to your experience level with beer tasting.
Here’s a basic tasting mode. If you (or friends you’re sampling with) are new to beer tasting, you can keep it simple and focus on generals without getting wrapped up in specifics. Pull out the color cards and the Tasting Family cards (20 cards in total) and simply play the ones that match the beer.
Fin du Monde is a hazy golden color, and the spicy fruity notes are prominent along with some sweet flavor and a noticeable alcohol character. You might only be able to match 3 or 4 cards, but maybe you’ll find 7 or 8 that match; either result is okay.
That may be as far as you want to go, and that’s enough to get a feel for what the Palate Deck can offer. But you may also notice during the conversation that you naturally gravitate toward breaking it down further.
I mentioned Fin du Monde was hazy, and conveniently there’s a card for that. It’s also a frothy beer when first poured, with big carbonation that almost pushes the cork straight out of the bottle as soon as you remove the wire cage on top. Combine those two attributes with the golden color, and we can start marking out how this beer looks.
In addition, the sweetness and the alcohol presence are primarily noticed while tasting, but the fruit and spice notes come out strong as soon as the bottle is opened. By forming columns and aligning the tasting cards with the evaluation cards, I can start building up a better picture of how this beer tastes.Since there are clarifying tasting notes printed on each of the family cards, what commonly happens is that you’ll find your group picking out more specific aromas and flavors from the cards that help describe the beer in more detail.
So in this case, I was able to identify the spicy character as pepper, and the fruit as being a split between stone fruit and citrus. Additionally, the sweetness struck me as leaning slightly in a vanilla direction.
Once you’re comfortable with describing beer to this level of detail, the second deck of cards gives you even more evaluation tools and the ability to dive into a huge variety of specific tastes.
By using the intensity scale I can show whether I’m perceiving something as light or strong. I can also start describing the physical sensation of the beer, known as mouthfeel. And with more specific tasting cards, I can call out that stone fruit character as being peach-like.
With 108 cards, the two decks provide a lot of nuance and detail. They don’t cover every situation however, so stay tuned for the next update where I shed some light on the Second Edition.
Over the past week the promotional push has kicked into high gear, which is starting to pay off in the form of coverage from various sources. Here are a few:
The Palate Deck is almost 30% funded with 200 backers so far, and Kickstarter even featured it as a “Project We Love” last week.
This is a great start, but there’s still a long way to go. You may or may not be aware that Kickstarter project funding is all or nothing — if the funding goal isn’t met, no funding is issued, and the Palate Deck is not able to go to print as planned.
Your assistance so far by backing this project is hugely appreciated! If you’d like to further help the Palate Deck succeed, consider spreading the word. If you’re a bar or a brewery, your loyal patrons may be interested in their own take-home copies. If you’re a beer drinker, let your local breweries and taprooms know they should have a few copies on hand for their patrons. And no matter who you are, anyone can help make sure their beer-loving friends know about the Palate Deck so they can get in on it too.