How To Talk Beer
In some ways, beer is a lot like wine. Mainly when it comes to describing it. And most of the time, I find myself completely clueless to what the true aficionados are talking about. For example, do you know what they mean when they say a beer has a 'clean finish' or that 'funky' or 'dank' are not bad things? Hopefully this will shed some light on the subject.
What is a hoppy beer?
- No, they didn't mispronounce 'happy'. Hops are one of the key ingredients in beer. They contribute a large part to the 'flavor' and aroma of the beer. For example, common hop characteristics include pine, floral, spicy, and citrus, among many more. While the hops do contribute to a beer's bitterness, beer can have strong hoppy flavors and aromas without tasting particularly bitter, or vice versa.
What does it mean when a beer is described as having a clean finish?
- The term "clean" is used to describe sweet and richness qualities of a beer. A clean beer is not rich or sticky.
If a beer is a described as a coffee or chocolate beer, does that mean it has chocolate or coffee in it?
- Not necessarily. Coffee or Chocolate terms are most often used in describing stouts and porters. While many of these are brewed with actual coffee or have added chocolate or chocolate flavor (especially when it's in the name), suggestion of coffee or chocolate can be added to the beer thanks to the dark malts used to make the beer.
You just heard someone call a beer dank or funky. That can't be a good thing, right?
- Actually, it's okay, if not somewhat preferred in some beers. The terms really come from what hops were used. Dank beers have a bold woodsy, earthy character, where funky beers have a ripe almost leathery smell, and it can be a staple in many 'sour' beers.
Wait, what's a sour beer?
- Sour beers are now considered their own style of beer nowadays. It's all thanks to the unique fermentation process using a different yeast and bacteria. Like you'd expect, its a bit acidic and "mouth-puckering" in flavor, and also very dry.
What's a smoked beer?
- The malt used to make that beer was kilned over a wood fire, and absorbed some of the smokey flavors in the process. It might make it taste like the beer was brewed over a campfire.
All wheat beers are about the same, right?
- Nope. There's the standard wheat, and the Bavarian wheats. The two use different yeasts, with the Bavarian having a more banana like or clove/spice like flavor.
- Ester is another flavor used to describe beer. An ester flavor would be a light fruit taste, often like banana or pear. This mostly comes from stressed yeast, which for some beers can be a very, very bad thing.
Did you ever hear someone complain about their beer having a strong alcohol taste, and you were thinking "gee, isn't that the point?"
- No, it's not. And it's also not usually a good thing, unless a specific boozy flavor is supposed to be there, like in a bourbon or brandy flavored beer.
This just scratches the surface. Want to go a bit deeper? Check out this list. And then, make sure you're ready to test your knowledge at Corridor On Tap, Saturday, November 21st at the Doubletree. Sample from over 100 beers, and discover all new flavors, aromas, and a new vocabulary.