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

This article is from the book:

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.

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