You love beer. We do too. So we get it. But have you ever tried to describe what you’re drinking to someone? Or would you like to be able to more accurately describe your favorite brew?
Beer has a language. It’s amazing, and complex. Here’s a short vocabulary primer on how to speak beer. It is by no means complete. Keep in mind, that each person “experiences” beer differently, so descriptions will vary between each of us. We think that just makes it more fun. Cuz we get to sit and talk about Beer!
Enjoy the list.
Accessible Means anyone should be able to drink this beer. No seasoned palate required.
Acidic Sharpness. Tastes just as it sounds. Can be a good and bad thing.
Aggressive A strong flavor that grabs you.
Alcoholic In beer, we’re looking for flavor, not a straight up jolt of alcohol.
Almonds Smell or taste of almonds, or almond candy.
Apple Apple smell or taste can be great in Ciders, but can be odd in beer.
Artificial As the word implies, some man-made flavors impart a chemical smell and taste.
Assertive Big flavor, or big alcohol hit.
Astringent Harsh, bitter, acidic. Puckers the mouth.
Backbone Refers to malt, “backbone” it’s about the grain used to balance the hops used.
Bacon Believe it or not…it can happen.
Balanced When nothing really stands out. Good or bad.
Banana Simple to understand.
Barnyard Earth, hay, mushrooms; common in saisons and lambics.
Big Sometimes used to describe high alcohol content or strong flavor.
Biscuit Bread like smell or flavor.
Bitter A sharp dryness.
Body Mouthfeel, texture, weight.
Bold Big flavor, big character.
Boozy Big punch of alcohol.
Bourbon like This is a great thing in Barrel aged beers.
Bready Flavors imparted by the Malt.
Brettanomyces AKA Brett. A wild yeast used in beer making that imparts a distinct flavor and aroma.
Bright Refers to color, smell, or taste. Something clean, light, fresh. Think citrus.
Bubblegum Just like it sounds.
Burnt Can be scorched grains or burnt wood.
Buttery Can signify something went wrong. But a little of this taste is a good thing.
Caramel Smelling or tasting like caramel.
Carbonated Can be a little or a lot.
Catty As in urine.
Chalky Dust, powder, odd mouthfeel.
Cheesy Smell or taste.
Chewy When it really coats your mouth.
Chlorophenolic Smells like plastic.
Chocolatey Smells like cocoa.
Cigar In smell or taste.
Citrus The smell or taste of any citrus.
Clean Simply easy to drink.
Cloves Smell or taste of cloves.
Cloying Overly sweet, sticky in your mouth.
Coconut Smell or taste of coconut.
Coffee Smell or taste of brewed coffee. (Not burnt coffee).
Colorful Implies a nice color or flavor.
Complex Implies a combination of things on this list.
Corked An odd smell when beer isn’t stored or corked properly.
Corn Smell or taste of sweet corn.
Crackers Implies a clean malt flavor.
Creamy Refers to mouthfeel.
Crisp Refers to mouthfeel, and bitterness.
Dark Refers to color and flavor. The opposite of Crisp.
Dark Fruit Think dates, cherries, and plums.
Deep Complex flavors.
Delicate Refers to a mild flavor or mouthfeel.
Diacetyl Butter or butterscotch flavor and a thickness on the palate.
Dirty Smells and tastes wrong.
Dissipate Refers to how the head behaves.
Doughy Smells or feels like bread dough.
Dried fruit Thinks raisins, cherries, and plums.
Dry Not sweet.
Earthy Smells like soil or forest floor.
Estery Fruity aroma or flavor.
Farm like Can be good and bad. Hay or grass.
Fine Delicate bubbles or delicate flavor.
Finish The taste that lingers in your mouth.
Firm Good flavor.
Flat Little to no carbonation, or little to no flavor.
Flowery Smells like flowers.
Fluffy Describes the head.
Foamy Think shaving cream.
Fresh Young non aged, or new beer. Or fresh hops.
Fruity Smells or tastes like fruit.
Full-bodied Can mean thick, or heavy in the glass, or big in flavor.
Gassy Too much carbonation.
Geraniol Smells like geraniums.
Grainy Can describe flavor, mouthfeel, or smell.
Grapefruit As it sounds. Smells like grapefruit.
Grassy Like a fresh cut lawn.
Greasy Refers to mouthfeel.
Green Not fresh, or not mature.
Harmonious Good balance and is often used to describe flavor/aroma combinations.
Harsh Just like it sounds.
Hazy Not clear.
Head The foam on top.
Hearty Strong smell, or big taste.
Heavy Rich flavor, or strong alcohol.
Herbal Smell or taste.
Highlights The little things in color, aroma, or flavor.
Hollow Describes mouthfeel or body.
Honey Describes aroma or flavor.
Hoppy In aroma or flavor, think bitter, citrus, flowers.
Hot High alcohol content.
Husky Grainy, bitter.
Inky Describes color.
Intense BIG flavor, or alcohol.
Jammy Large dried fruit flavor.
Lactobacillus A bacteria linked to beer spoilage, but used purposely in sour beers.
Leathery Smells like leather.
Legs The liquid that sticks to the glass after swirling.
Lemony Aroma or flavor.
Light Aroma, taste, body, or style.
Lightstruck AKA skunky.
Linalool A terpene alcohol chemical smells like flowers or peaches.
Medicinal Just like it sounds.
Mellow Soft, calm and not complex in body or flavor.
Melon Smell or taste of ripe melons.
Mercaptan Sulfur or skunky smell.
Metallic Iron, rust, coins or blood. Not a good thing.
Mild In flavor, aroma, or alcohol.
Milky Feels and tastes like milk.
Minerals As the name implies, and it often is caused by the water used.
Molasses Smell, taste, aroma, or residue.
Moldy Mildewed, damp or decaying aromas.
Mousy A thick whipped looking head.
Mouthfeel How it feels in your mouth.
Musty Moldy, or like an old basement. Not a good thing.
Nutty In aroma or taste.
Oaky Vanilla, wood, butterscotch aroma or taste.
Oatmeal A good aroma in an oatmeal stout.
Oily If it feels slick in your mouth. Not a good thing.
Ortho-Chlorophenol If it tastes like Band-Aids. Not a good thing.
Overtones The up-front smells and tastes.
Oxidation Describes a cardboard aroma or flavor. Never good.
Oxidized Means stale.
Peaty If the malt is smoked with peat it will smell earthy, like soil.
Peppery Smell or taste of peppercorns.
Perfumy Really floral.
Persistent Something that lasts. Head, aroma, flavor.
Phenolic Chemical or plastic smell or taste. Not good.
Powerful Big alcohol. Mostly a bad thing.
Rancid Rotten aroma, or taste.
Refined Can mean filtered. Can also mean high skill level by brewer.
Refreshing It satisfies your thirst.
Resinous Smells or tastes like pine.
Rich A full flavor.
Roasty Dark, bitter taste or aroma.
Robust Full-bodied and strong in mouthfeel, flavor, alcohol or composition of the three.
Rocky Big, Big, head.
Saccharine Very sweet.
Salty Tastes of salt.
Sediment Little bits floating in or settling at the bottom of the glass.
Sharp In your face flavor. Bitter or acidic.
Sherrylike Smells or tastes like Sherry.
Skunky Smells or tastes like Sulphur.
Smoky Aroma or taste of wood smoke.
Smooth Soft mouthfeel or light alcohol.
Soapy Just eww.
Soft Good mouthfeel, less aggressive carbonation.
Solventlike Chemical smell and burns your throat. A bad thing.
Sour Acidic flavor that puckers your mouth.
Spicy Hot or aromatic spice aroma or flavor.
Stale Flavors of cardboard, dirty diapers, rotter stuff. Always bad.
Sticky Sweetness that lingers in your mouth.
Sulfidic Rotten egg aroma. Always bad.
Sulfitic A burnt rubber aroma. Always bad.
Sweet Smells or tastes like Cane sugar.
Syrupy Really thick and sweet.
Tannic Think dry wine. Astringent.
Tannins The things that cause tannic flavor.
Tart Nice sour flavor.
Texture How it feels in your mouth.
Thin Can describe mouthfeel or complexity.
Toasty Smells or tastes like bread.
Toffee Smells or tastes like the candy.
Turbid Cloudy appearance
Undertones The nuances of beer.
Vanilla Aroma or flavor of Vanilla
Vegetal Aroma or taste of celery.
Viscous Mouthfeel or body
Warm Strong alcohol
Watery Light mouthfeel or body.
Winelike Flavor or mouthfeel.
Woody Aroma or flavor.
Worty Sweet and flat.
Yeasty Aroma or flavor biscuits.
Young Not quite mature in aroma or flavor.
Zesty Big carbonation or big citrus.