Beer Flavor Descriptors - How Beer Tastes

Beer Flavor Descriptors are a common vocabulary used by most beer enthusiasts when describing or reviewing beer. Check out the beer flavor wheel above for a more defined set of flavor descriptions.  As described in the Evaluating Beer page on this website, the method of evaluating beer can be broken down into four basic sensory methods. These include:

  • Smell
  • Sight
  • Taste
  • Touch or Feel


To truly enjoy your beer tasting experience, you should use all of your senses. What follows is a list of some common beer flavor terminology broken down into the above categories.

Beer Flavor Descriptors: SMELL

  1. Basic Notes in Beer: malty, grainy, sweet, corn-like, hay, straw, graham cracker, bicuity, caramel, toast, roast, coffee, espresso, burnt, alcohol, tobacco, gunpowder, leather, pine, fresh cut grass

  2. Dark Fruit Aromas: raisins, currant, plum, dates, prunes, figs, blackberry, blueberry

  3. Light Fruit: banana, pineapple, apricot, pear, apple, nectarine, peach, mango, prickly pear

  4. Citrus Notes: lemon, lime, orange, tangerine, clementine, grapefruit, Curaçao orange peel, lemon zest

  5. Other Acidic-Type Aromas: metallic, vinegar, copper, cidery, champagne-like, astringent, chlorine

  6. Spices, Yeast, etc: phenolic, white pepper, clove, anise, licorice, smoked bacon, fatty, nutty, butterscotch, vanilla, earthy, woody, horsey, fresh bread, saddle, musty, barnyard

SIGHT

  1. Beer Color: honey, caramel, russet red, brown, root beer, amber, chestnut, dark red, apricot, orange, black, burnt auburn, garnet, ruby, copper, deep gold

  2. Beer Clarity: brilliant, hazy, cloudy, turbid, opaque, clear, crystal, bright, dull

  3. The Beer's Head: persistent, rocky, large, fluffy, dissipating, lingering, white, off white, tan, frothy, delicate.  To help with the beer's head retention, try adding flaked wheat or add flaked barley.

 TASTE

  1. Beer Notes: roasted, bready, bitter, sweet, spicy, fruity, chocolate, caramel, toffee, coffee, malty, tart, subtle, woodsy, earthy, sulfuric

  2. Intensity: assertive, mild, bold, balanced, robust, intense, metallic, harsh, complex, delicate, refined, hearty

  3. How Beer Taste Evolves: rolls into…, evolves into…, dissipates to reveal…, displays..., underlying…, suggests hints of…, fades to...

  4. The Beer's Finish: dry, fruity, sweet, alcoholic, warming, bitter, acidic, buttery, wet, quenching, lingering

 TOUCH OR FEEL

  1. A Beer's Mouthfeel: smooth, silky, velvety, prickly, tingly, creamy, warming, viscous, hot, astringent, oily

  2. Beer's Carbonation Level: spritzy, champagne-like, prickly, round, creamy, light, gassy, sharp, delicate

  3. The Beer's Body: full, heavy, dense, viscous, robust, medium, balanced, medium-light, light, delicate, wispy

The more you practice the art and science of evaluating beer, the more beer flavor descriptors you will acquire. These are but a few and you may find many beer flavor descriptors of your own.

Go Back to Evaluating Beer

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