Beer For Dummies
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Because beer is widely available in a variety of different styles, describing it isn’t as easy as it used to be. Knowing a handful of colorful beer descriptors comes in handy when discussing beer with others. Here’s a sample list to get you started:
  • Aggressive: Boldly assertive aroma and/or taste
  • Balanced: Malt and hops in similar proportions; equal representation of malt sweetness and hop bitterness in the flavor — especially at the finish
  • Complex: Multidimensional; many flavors and sensations on the palate
  • Crisp: Highly carbonated; effervescent
  • Diacetyl: Buttery or butterscotchy aroma or flavor
  • Estery: Fruity aromas
  • Floral: Full of aromas reminiscent of flowers
  • Fruity: Flavors reminiscent of various fruits
  • Hoppy: Herbal, earthy, spicy, or citric aromas and flavors of hops
  • Malty: Grainy, caramel-like; can be sweet or dry
  • Roasty/toasty: Malt (roasted grain) flavors
  • Robust: Rich and full-bodied
The following are two other terms commonly used to describe a beer, but they don’t describe taste:
  • Mouthfeel is the tactile sensory experience of the whole inside of the mouth and throat — warmth (alcohol) in the throat, dryness, carbonation, and so on — and includes a sense of body.
  • Body describes the sensation of fullness, or viscosity, of a beer on the palate, ranging from watery to creamy; beer is generally described as thin-, light-, medium-, or full-bodied.

About This Article

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About the book authors:

Marty Nachel is a beer educator, an award-winning homebrewer, a BJCP Certified Beer Judge, on the panel of professional beer judges at the Great American Beer Festival, and a former beer evaluator at the Beverage Testing Institute. He is also the founder and administrator of the Ale-Conner Beer Certification Program.

Steve Ettlinger is the author of seven books, most of which are about food and food-related subjects. His most recent is Twinkie, Deconstructed.

Marty Nachel is a beer educator, an award-winning homebrewer, a BJCP Certified Beer Judge, on the panel of professional beer judges at the Great American Beer Festival, and a former beer evaluator at the Beverage Testing Institute. He is also the founder and administrator of the Ale-Conner Beer Certification Program.

Steve Ettlinger is the author of seven books, most of which are about food and food-related subjects. His most recent is Twinkie, Deconstructed.

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