40 Ways to Describe Your Beer

Five different beer stylesEven for experienced professionals, finding the right words to describe the flavor, aroma and texture of beer is difficult. Just as fermented grapes produce wine of many different colors, aromas and flavors, likewise beer displays distinctly different flavor profiles depending on the specifics of its fermentation. Understanding these differences delivers a fuller appreciation of the brewing process and new ways to describe your beer.

Flavor and the Brewing Process

Six elements in the brewing process determine the differences among all beers, German beers and otherwise:

  1. — the type of grains used for malting (base flavor)
  2. — the duration and temperature of the malting process (color)
  3. — the type of water, soft or hard (mouthfeel)
  4. — the wort content, aka the amount of dissolved particles in the mash (malty flavors)
  5. — the type, terroir and amount of hops in the beer (bitterness, hoppy, herbal flavors and froth crown)
  6. — the type of yeast used for fermentation, i.e. top-fermenting or bottom-fermenting yeast (fruity or spicy aromas)
  7. — the duration of and temperature during fermentation (alcohol content)

Learning New Ways to Describe Your Beer

Brewmaster smelling and tasting a beer from trial glassScientists at the Munich Technical University in Freising, the world’s oldest and one of the most-renowned brew master college located close to the Weihenstephan brewery, differentiate over 60 different flavors and, in fact, are able to visualize them with the help of a unique method of mass spectrometry.

Randy Mosher, author of Tasting Beer and Senior Instructor at the brewing college Siebel Institute of Technology in Illinois, has worked on the language of beer flavor. Mosher created a comprehensive vocabulary of beer flavors. Learn these and your beer talk will be greatly elevated! Here is his beer vocabulary list as published in All About Beer (Volume 39, March 2018), giving you 40 ways to describe you beer:

Earthy (Animal)

  • Fatty
  • Anilam/Fetid
  • Musky
  • Musty

Spicy (Phenol)

  • Harsh/Burnt
  • Peppery
  • Anise
  • Sweet Spice

Herbal (Vegetal)

  • Resiny
  • Dried Herb
  • Fresh Herb
  • Nutty
  • Cooked

Floral

  • Perfumy
  • Pungent
  • Herbacious
  • Fruity Floral
  • Dried Fruit

Fruity

  • Dried Fruit
  • Berry
  • Stone Fruit (such as cherry)
  • Tropical (such as pineapple)
  • Citrus

Malty (Mallard)

  • Gravity
  • Dry toast
  • Sweet toast
  • Caramel
  • Roast

Aged (Stale)

  • Papery
  • Meaty
  • Vinous (like wine)
  • Honey (waxy)

Chemical

  • Solvent
  • Alcohol
  • Plastic
  • Medicinal

Mineral

  • Minerals
  • Metallic
  •  
  •  

Acidic

  • Pungent
  • Soft

Sugary

  • Cooked
  • Raw

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