How to Describe Beer Like a Pro

Happy friends drinking beer at a brewery

 

The beer scene has seen remarkable growth, transforming into a vibrant landscape filled with an astounding variety of flavors. From the bold bitterness of West Coast IPAs, to the explosion of tropical and citrus characteristics of Hazy IPAs, the array of choices is nothing short of spectacular.

However, with this vast array of options comes the challenge and the importance of knowing how to describe beer. This skill not only enhances your personal enjoyment but also enriches your conversations with fellow beer lovers. Being adept at articulating the nuances of your pint allows you to share experiences, recommendations, and even critiques more effectively.

Get a beer in hand, and let’s embark on this flavorful adventure, one sip at a time!

Key Takeaways

  • Identifying and articulating beer’s appearance, aroma, mouthfeel, and taste is fundamental to understanding its complexity.
  • Relating beer flavors and aromas to familiar experiences can significantly expand one’s beer-tasting vocabulary.
  • New Trail Brewing Company beers, inspired by outdoor adventures, offer a rich array of flavors to explore and describe.

The Basics of Beer Tasting

Beer tasting is like stepping into a world where every detail counts. Before the beer even grazes your lips, the adventure begins with its appearance and aroma. And once it does touch your lips, you encounter the mouthfeel. These initial steps are the pillars of understanding and appreciating the craft beer in front of you.

Appearance is where the story starts. A beer’s appearance can reveal much about its style and quality. From the thick white head of a freshly poured pilsner to the dense, almost opaque darkness of a stout, each visual cue hints at the flavors waiting to be discovered.

The clarity, color, and carbonation level observed can set the stage for what’s to come, making it a great starting point in how to describe beer.

Aroma takes the experience deeper. Before taking a sip, a deep inhale can uncover layers of beer vocabulary, from the citrusy punch of American hops to the subtle, banana-like sweetness suggested by certain yeasts.

Aromas can be a mix of hops, malt, fermentation by-products, and sometimes even adjuncts used during the brewing process. Describing these smells accurately requires attention and a bit of practice but pays off by setting expectations for the taste journey ahead.

Mouthfeel is about how the beer feels in your mouth, a direct precursor to taste that shouldn’t be overlooked. It ranges from the light carbonation and crispness of a classic lager to the velvety, creamy texture of a stout with low carbonation.

The body of the beer, whether it’s thin and refreshing or rich and full, can greatly influence your overall impression of the drink.

Describing Beer Like a Brewer

beer mug filled to the brim

 

For those looking to refine their beer description skills, the Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP) guidelines offer a structured and comprehensive approach. It’s a globally recognized program that sets the standard for evaluating and describing beer, helping both brewers and enthusiasts alike articulate the complexities of their brews with precision and clarity.

Appearance

The BJCP emphasizes visual evaluation. Note the beer’s color, the behavior and quality of its head, and its clarity. These visual cues are the first hints of the beer’s style and craftsmanship.

Color is quantified on a scale of 1 to 40+ SRM (Standard Reference Method), where your pale lager will have an SRM of 1-2, and Imperial Stouts will have an SRM at the top of the scale of 40+.

Aroma

Shift focus to the symphony of scents. The guidelines encourage identifying the source of aromas—be it the malt, hops, or the unique characters introduced by fermentation. Pinpointing these scents is akin to deciphering the beer’s DNA.

Mouthfeel

The texture, or mouthfeel, is essential in the BJCP’s approach. It examines the beer’s body and carbonation level, detecting nuances from creamy to astringent textures. This analysis lays the groundwork for taste exploration.

Overall impression

Finally, the holistic assessment of the beer’s balance and harmony. It’s an opportunity to reflect on how the elements interplay, crafting a memorable or sometimes challenging drinking experience.

Flavor and Aroma Descriptors

barley and hops on a wooden background

 

When you enter the beer world, your senses embark on an adventure, navigating through a kaleidoscope of flavors and aromas. Understanding how to describe beer—its taste, smell, and the lingering notes it leaves behind—can transform a simple drink into an immersive experience.

Let’s explore the rich vocabulary that captures the essence of beer to expand your sensory lexicon.

Ways to Describe Malt Flavors

Malts provide the foundation of beer’s flavor profile, offering everything from the light, crisp sweetness of a pilsner to the deep, rich complexity of darker beers. Describing malt flavors starts with recognizing the range from “biscuity,” reminiscent of freshly baked bread, to “caramelly,” evoking the sweet, burnt sugar notes of caramel.

Here’s a broader spectrum to consider:

Biscuity/Bready: Think of the comforting aroma of bread straight from the oven or the crisp, toasted edges of a biscuit.

Caramelly: This captures the sweet, rich essence of caramel, from the light touch of burnt cream to the deep, molasses-like richness found in some strong beers.

Toffee-like: A notch above caramel, offering a buttery, sweet complexity reminiscent of toffee candy.

Roasted malts: Bring forth images of coffee and dark chocolate, offering a range from mild to intense bitterness of charred wood.

Malt complexity: Encompasses nuances like nutty, grainy, or even the sweetness of scalded milk, contributing layers of depth to the beer.

Hops

Hops infuse beer with a vast array of aromas and flavors, from the refreshing zest of citrus to the earthy undertones of pine. They contribute not just to the beer’s smell but also to its bitterness, balancing the sweetness of the malt.

Here are some hop descriptors:

Citrusy: Notes of lemon, orange, or grapefruit, bringing a bright, refreshing fruit character.

Spicy: Think of the warmth and kick of spices like black pepper, clove, or even the aromatic sharpness of juniper.

Floral: Delicate aromas reminiscent of a blooming garden, offering a soft, perfume-like quality.

Piney/Resinous: Evokes the crisp, fresh scent of pine needles or the sticky, aromatic quality of resin.

Earthy: Grounded aromas that might remind you of a newly mown lawn or the richness of forest floor.

Fermentation: The Wildcard of Flavors

Fermentation introduces a world of unique flavors thanks to the magic of yeast. From the basic, doughy essence of fresh-baked bread to the complex bouquet of fruity esters, fermentation flavors are diverse:

Fresh-baked bread: The wholesome, comforting aroma of bread highlights yeast’s fundamental role.

Fruity esters: Yeast can produce flavors ranging from apple, pear, and banana to more exotic fruits, adding a lively, fruity character to the beer.

Spicy phenols: These can include clove-like warmth or peppery zest, adding a spicy layer to the beer’s profile.

Wild yeast characters: Flavors like barnyard, horse blanket, or cheese, indicative of wild or sour beers, introduce an intriguing, often acquired taste.

Warm ethanol: The sensation of alcohol warmth, which can range from a gentle caress to a bold, warm finish, often found in stronger beers.

Expanding your vocabulary

Relating beer flavors and aromas to familiar foods and spices is a fantastic way to enrich your descriptive abilities. This exercise not only enhances your tasting sessions but also fosters a deeper connection with what you drink.

Challenge yourself to identify the different elements in beer, using your experiences to build a personal glossary of flavors and aromas.

Conditioning and Body in Beer Descriptors

Diving into the nuances of craft beer reveals the significant roles that conditioning and the beer’s body play in shaping its overall profile. These aspects, often overlooked, are key to understanding and appreciating the full spectrum of what a beer can offer.

Conditioning is the sparkle in your sip

Conditioning, closely related to carbonation, is the process that imparts the beer with its sparkle and fizz, fundamentally affecting its texture and how the flavors are perceived.

Carbonation levels can vary widely across different styles, from the gentle effervescence of a British ale to the lively, bubbling zest of a highly carbonated Belgian tripel.

Descriptors for carbonation include:

Effervescent: A lively and vibrant carbonation that tingles on the tongue, often found in lighter, refreshing beers.

Soft: A more subdued, gentle carbonation that smooths out the drinking experience, common in richer, heavier beers.

Prickly: Sharp and intense carbonation that can enhance the perception of a beer’s bitterness and aromatic profile.

Flat: Minimal to no carbonation, which can lead to a smoother, sometimes syrupy mouthfeel, though often considered a flaw unless stylistically appropriate.

The body is the substance of the sip

The body of a beer refers to its weight and fullness on the palate, an attribute that can range from light and quenching to rich and substantial. The body is a critical factor in the beer’s overall balance, influencing how the flavors and aromas meld and linger. Descriptors for the body include:

Light: Easy and refreshing, these beers glide across the palate and are often highly drinkable.

Medium: Offering a balanced, more substantial feel, medium-bodied beers are versatile, bridging the gap between light and rich experiences.

Full: Rich and enveloping, full-bodied beers provide a dense, often creamy texture that can carry intense flavors and a warming alcohol presence.

Watery: Lacking in substance, these beers may leave something to be desired in terms of depth and complexity.

When you can understand and articulate how conditioning and body influence a beer’s character, you can paint a more vivid picture of your experiences.

Sensory Exercises for Enhancing Beer Descriptions

four different craft beers lined up with numbers on each side

 

Mastering the art of beer description is akin to training your palate, a skill that improves with practice and exposure. Here are practical exercises designed to sharpen your ability to identify and articulate the myriad characteristics of beer.

Broaden your beer horizons

The most enjoyable way to enhance your descriptive skills is by tasting a wide array of beers. Venture beyond your go-to favorites to explore new styles, from sour beers to bold, extreme brews.

Pay attention to how the conditioning and body of each beer play into its overall profile. Use the provided descriptors to pinpoint these characteristics and relate them to your sensory experience.

Focus tastings

Organize tastings focused on a single aspect of beer, such as hop flavor, malt complexity, or carbonation levels. By isolating one characteristic, you can hone in on the nuances and develop a finer appreciation and vocabulary for that element.

Compare and contrast

Select two beers that differ in one key aspect, such as body or conditioning, and taste them side by side. This direct comparison can highlight the impact of these characteristics on the beer’s flavor, aroma, and mouthfeel, making it easier to identify and describe them in future tastings.

Keep a beer journal

Document your tasting experiences in a beer journal, noting not just the flavors and aromas but also your observations on carbonation and body. Over time, this record will become a valuable resource, reflecting your growing expertise and the broadening of your sensory palette.

Sip, Describe, Explore: Your Next Adventure Awaits

Ready to put your newfound beer description skills to the test? Begin with ours. Each New Trail Brewing Co. beer is a homage to the wild, untamed beauty of the outdoors, designed to be the perfect companion on any adventure.

Come visit our tasting room or take our beers with you. Whether you’re scaling a peak, winding down a trail, or just enjoying the sunset, our beers are crafted to enhance every moment.

Discover the beer that speaks to your spirit of adventure. Here’s to finding new paths and the ideal beers to journey with you. Raise a glass to your next adventure with New Trail Brewing!

And for any questions you may have, get in touch with us!

Frequently Asked Questions

How would you describe the taste of beer?

The taste of beer can range widely, from the bold bitterness of West Coast IPAs and the sweet, malty flavors of ambers to the tartness of sours. It’s a complex blend of hops, malt, yeast, and additional flavors like citrus or spice, depending on the beer style.

How do you write a good beer description?

A good beer description captures the appearance, aroma, taste, and mouthfeel of the beer. Use vivid, specific language that evokes familiar tastes and smells, and don’t forget to mention the beer style and any unique ingredients or brewing techniques.

What describes beer?

Beer is described by its style (IPA, stout, lager, etc.), flavor profile (bitter, sweet, sour, etc.), aroma (citrusy, floral, earthy, etc.), appearance (color, clarity, foam), and mouthfeel (light, medium, full-bodied). These elements combine to give each beer its unique character.

How do you describe the aroma of beer?

The aroma of beer can include a wide range of scents, from hop-derived notes like pine, citrus, and floral to malt-driven aromas like bread, caramel, and chocolate, as well as yeast-contributed fragrances such as banana, clove, or barnyard. Describing beer aroma involves identifying these specific scents.

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