Merchant du Vin Talking About Beer
Talking About Beer
Maybe a little help putting your delight into words
Beer holds some of the world’s great flavors, and people often derive a large amount of pleasure sharing the delights with their friends or with their customers. It can be difficult to put some of the enthusiasm into words, but it can also be fun . . . and it is a necessity for someone like a server or bartender who is answering questions from a customer.
Beer flavors come from a combination of the ingredients and the techniques used in production, and the brewer’s skill in balancing these elements. It may make it easier to talk about beer flavors by breaking them down into some general categories: malt, hops, yeast, carbonation, body and ethanol. As you taste, think of words that create associations for you — they may help someone decide whether to try a new beer. Without too many technical beer-evaluation words, here’s a list that may help describe beer flavors:
- Words to describe malt flavors: Malty, biscuity, breadlike, grainy, rich, deep, roasty, cereal, cookie-like, coffeeish, caramelly, toffee-like, molasses-like, malt complexity, smoky, sweet, autumnal, burnt cream, scalded milk, oatmeal, rustic, layered.
- Words to describe hop flavor and bitterness: Piney, citrusy, grapefruity, earthy, musty, spicy, sharp, bright, fresh, herbal, zippy, lemony, newly-mown lawn, aromatic, floral, springlike, brilliant, sprucelike, juniper-like, minty, pungent, elegant, grassy.
- Words to describe fermentation flavors deriving from yeast: Fresh-baked bread, clovelike, bubblegum, yeasty, Belgiany, aromatic, tropical, subtle, fruity, clean, banana-like (and for some sour or extreme beers) horseblankety, earthy, musty.
- Words to describe conditioning (carbonation): Soft, effervescent, spritzy, sparkling, zippy, pinpoint, bubbly, gentle, low carbonation, highly carbonated.
- Words to describe body & mouthfeel: Rich, full, light, slick, creamy, oily, heavy, velvety, sweet, dry, thick, thin.
- Words to describe warm ethanol (alcohol) flavors from strong beer: Warm finish, heat, vodka, esters, pungent, strength.
In addition to the main components, there are beers with fruit, or chocolate, or coffee, or pumpkin, or spices added; there are beers with flavors from wooden casks and sometimes with influences from whiskey or port that may have been in the cask before it held beer. Keep it fun, but as you taste a beer try to remember the words that come to mind.
And if a beer really moves you – really excites you – go for all-out words: uplifting, exciting, encouraging, life-changing, amazing, dynamic, re-energizing, unbelievable, unearthly. . . if you felt that way when you tasted the beer, you can’t be wrong describing it that way.
News & Events
MdV & fine beer in the news
It continues to be a great time to enjoy fine beer in the US – more varieties and more flavors are out there, more places are offering fine beer, and the media continues to pay more and more attention to fine beer: The Philadelphia Daily News included Samuel Smith Oatmeal Stout in a Feb. 15 article on stouts; the Feb. ’08 Wine Enthusiast magazine ran a feature on Winter Beer Cocktails that included Samuel Smith and Lindemans; on Feb. 14 the Grand Rapids (MI) Press featured Ayinger Celebrator doppelbock in a Valentines Day article (with a bottle photo); and the Vue in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, wrote highly of Green’s in their Feb. 21 article on gluten-free beer.
In the World Beer Championships, as reported in the March ’08 All About Beer magazine, Ayinger once again dominated: Celebrator Doppelbock and Jahrhundert-Bier both tied for first in their categories; Oktober Fest-Marzen was second in a field of 25 Vienna Marzens.
A full current news listing is always on our news page here.
You can also check local beer tastings, dinners and festivals on our national events page. If you are interested in beer glassware, clothing and collectables we also have an online e-store.