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I know there are certain words experts use when they talk about wine. Categories of taste, colour etc.

This is of course a matter of creativity and subjectivity, like describing a beer as “chocolaty” or “nutty” despite there being no chocolate or nuts in it.

But is there an established vocabulary in beer-tasting? Where could I find a list of words, and a description of these properties? For beer, what are the magic words so abundantly found in wine culture?

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I found this pretty amazing infographic at popsci. Most of them seem pretty clear, but for context reading some of the BJCP Style Descriptions might help you out. But really, describe it however it tastes to you even if the word isn't commonly used in beer tasting. There are some hop varieties that, to me, smell and taste like raw green onions rubbed on feet so I just say that.

  • Wow that wheel is amazing, thank you. And the style descriptions pretty much covers the official vocabulary, I guess. – Philipp Sep 29 '15 at 7:22
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You judge a beer based on visual, aroma, taste, mouthfeel; and descriptive terms generally fall into these categories.

Visually you might describe the color of the brew (amber, golden, inky black, hazy, clear), the color and retention of the head, how the beer poured. Aroma might be described by smell of hops (floral, citrusy, resiny, piney, etc.), or malts (caramel, toffee, smoke, chocolate, etc), or other aromas present (molasses, booze, soy sauce, oak).

Describing taste opens up even more potential terminology, but don't be shy to use whatever terms or comparisons best describe the flavor for you. Think of tasting beer as an evolution of flavor in your mouth: describe how it hits your tongue; how the flavor builds, morphs, and leaves; and the aftertaste. You might use any word you would to describe the flavors of food and more to describe beer (Sweet, salty, sour, tangy, raisins, dough, bread, bacon, spicy, herbal, etc).

Finally, for mouthfeel, you're looking at words describing the texture and consistency; so ones like smooth, rich, chalky, gritty, effervescent, thick, syrupy, etc., are very useful when appropriate.

  • Thank you for this explanation. The evolution part was very inspiring :) – Philipp Oct 1 '15 at 18:47
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There was a lexicon written, but it does not seem that it ever made it to the public.

Trained tasters have fairly similar tastes, as that is what makes them so important. Thus they will know the difference between roasty, coffee, dark chocolate, cocoa, white chocolate, coffee with milk, latte.

The beer descriptors (I think) are a lot more down to earth. (To quote CBR) If beer had a wine vocabulary, we would say simcoe is feline, as opposed to cat piss! :p

Listen to podcasts like Dr Homebrew, Brewing With Style and Craft Beer Radio. They rate the beers, providing amazing insight to the vocabulary of a beer judge as well as the judging process.

  • Actually, beer enthusiasts commonly use cat piss to describe that unpleasant twang. – Jayhal Dec 6 '15 at 15:36
  • Yes, that is what I said. :) They were commenting on how wine people describe things using "fancy" words, whereas beer people use down to earth words. – Atron Seige Dec 7 '15 at 12:57
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    Sorry, misinterpreted. I think part of what you're saying is due to pretension, for sure. – Jayhal Dec 7 '15 at 14:10
  • No worries @Jayhal. That is the wonderful part of text only; so easy to misinterpret. :) – Atron Seige Dec 7 '15 at 14:22

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