Tasting Terms

There are plenty of ways to say a beer is incredibly good (opulent, breathtaking, divine) and woefully bad (disjointed, unpleasant, gross), but how do you describe that spicy-fruity-creamy sensation in your hefeweizen? Browse our list of helpful beer descriptors below, and get prosaic about your beer.

Also, consult DRAFT's guide to off flavors, here.

accessible  Easy to drink by beer experts and novices alike; crowd-pleasing.
  
acidic  Tasting of acid; sharp. Common in styles like saison, but inappropriate in many others.
  
aftertasteThe taste that remains on the palate after beer has been swallowed. Synonymous with "finish."
  
aggressive Forceful in flavor and/or mouthfeel.
  
alcoholicTasting of alcohol. Acceptable in a style such as barleywine, but an off flavor in many others.
  
almondlike Tastes or scents of almonds or (slightly sweeter) marzipan.
  
apple Tastes or scents or apples. Appropriate in ciders, but an off flavor in many other beer styles. See “Acetaldehyde” and “acetic acid.”
  
artificial Unnatural in flavor, smell or character, such as a simulated berry taste in fruit beers.
  
assertive Powerful in flavor, scent or alcohol.
  
astringent Harshly husky or grainy. Common in rye beers.
  
backbone Usually referring to malt, “backbone” describes the support grains lend to balance a hoppy beer.
  
bacony Having the scent or flavor of bacon; common in rauchbiers.
  
balanceA state of levelness in a beer in which no single flavor or element is prominent. Also, even in hop and malt characteristics.  
  
bananalike Contains or evokes notes of bananas or banana esters. See “esters” and “estery.”
  
barnlike, barnyard Earthy, haylike, musty nuances; common in spontaneously fermented beers such as saisons and lambics. An off flavor in other styles. Also called farmlike and horselike.
  
bigCasually used to describe a beer with a high alcohol content or extreme flavor.
  
biscuity A slightly toasty, sweet, breadiness, akin to a biscuit. Do not confuse with biscuit malt.
  
bitter Marked by a sharp dryness derived from hops’ alpha acids or roasted malts. A noticeable flavor of hops, can denote lack of balance (but not always). Malts can offer a range of bitterness from dark chocolate to roasted coffee to rye graininess to ashy; hops offer a more direct, pucker-inducing bitterness.
  
bodyThe composition of a beer's mouthfeel, texture, weight and carbonation.
  
bold Conspicuous, overt and large in character.
  
boozy Having an overstated aroma or flavor of alcohol.
  
bourbonlike Showing qualities of or similar to bourbon; desirable in bourbon-barrel-aged beers.
  
bready The flavor of whole-grain or white bread, derived from malt.
  
Brettanomyces An invasive yeast favored in Belgian beer styles that lends a distinct sour funk to beer. Often called simply “Brett.”
  
bright Having a sense of clean, not-too-dry hops; often associated with hops’ citrus flavors. May also refer to a colorful, non-hazy appearance.
  
bubblegum Contains or evokes notes of pink bubblegum; common in weizens.
  
burnt Scorched in taste or flavor, or having a scent or taste akin to scorched wood.
  
buttery A buttery flavor often signifies diacetyl—an off flavor—but very low levels (akin to a chardonnay’s butteriness) is acceptable.
  
caramely Having the scent or taste of caramel.
  
carbonated The degree to which of carbon dioxide (which gives beer its effercesence) is dissolved in beer. A highly carbonated beer may be zippy, prickly or Champagnelike, while less carbonated beers are creamy, velvety or smooth.
  
carbonationThe amount of carbon dioxide in beer, which gives the beverage effervescence.
  
catty Musty, urinelike aroma; see “oxidized.”
  
chalky A dusty, powdery or overly sedimentary mouthfeel.
  
cheesy A cheeselike off flavor caused by old hops; see “Trans-2-nonenal.”
  
chewy Having a thick, viscous, palate-coating body with abundant maltiness.
  
Chlorophenolic   A plasticlike, chemical-smelling aroma.
  
chocolaty Having the flavor or scent of chocolate. Derived from chocolate malt and, more rarely, cocoa.
  
cigarlike Evocative of tobacco in taste or aroma.
  
citrusy Having the smell or taste of lemon, lime, orange or grapefruit; typically obtained from hops or esters.
  
cleanEasy-drinking and without off flavors or undesirable traits.
  
clovelike Smelling or tasting of cloves; derived from yeast esters.
  
cloyingSticky, tacky or sickly sweet in taste and mouthfeel. In beer, often the result of excess malt or a lack of hops.  
  
coconut Having the taste or scent of coconut; usually a characteristic of oak aging.
  
coffeelike Having the smell or flavor of roasted coffee beans or brewed coffee. Not burnt.
  
colorful Having a notable hue, or multifaceted in flavor.
  
complex Multifaceted in flavor and/or smell.
  
corked Having the slight taste of cork; denotes a beer that has been aged improperly or was sealed with a faulty cork.
  
cornlike Contains or evokes tastes or smells of sweet corn; acceptable in styles that feature corn as an adjunct, such as light lagers.
  
crackerlike Having a crisp, clean malt flavor akin to crackers, as in pilsners.
  
creamy Having the smooth consistency of cream, applicable in beer to head or mouthfeel.
  
crisp Dry and firm in bitterness, mouthfeel or flavor.
  
dark In appearance, deep brown or black in color; in flavor, rich with flavors and absent of light fruity or spicy notes.
  
dark fruit Bearing the scent or taste of plums, figs, dates, cherries and/or grapes.
  
deep Heavy or complex in flavor.
  
delicate Mild, soft or dainty in flavor or mouthfeel.
  
DiacetylUsually an off flavor, but a desired characteristic of some English ales. Identified by a butter or butterscotch flavor and a milkiness on the palate (sometimes, soapy or oily flavors are present, too). Caused by cold, interrupted or inhibited fermentation.
  
dirty Contains off flavors or undesirable traits.
  
dissipate In head, to fade.
  
doughy   Having the flavor or texture of uncooked bread dough.
  
dried fruit Having the flavor or scent of raisins, prunes and/or dried cherries.
  
dry Lacking sweetness or a refreshing quality on the palate.
  
earthy Having a smell or flavor of soil or woody vegetation.
  
esteryRich with fruity esters.
  
farmlike Earthy, haylike, musty nuances; common in spontaneously fermented beers such as saisons and lambics. An off flavor in other styles. Also called "barnyard" or "barnlike."
  
fine Small in flavor or bubble size.
  
firm Solid in flavor.
  
flatIn mouthfeel, with low or no carbonation; in flavor, a lack of complexity.
  
flowery Possessing a scent of flowers; derived from hops and/or esters.
  
fluffy In head, a puffy, airy, marshmallowlike or cloudlike consistency.
  
foamy In head, a frothy, latherlike consistency.
  
fresh Recently made or non-aged beer. Or, containing just-harvested hops.
  
fruity Having the flavor or aroma of fruit or fruit characteristics. Fruity tastes may include those of particular fruits such as banana, apple, orange, plum or berries, or may comprise fruit in the general sense.
  
full-bodied Heavy in weight, body, flavor or viscosity.
  
gassy Over-carbonated.
  
Geraniol An alcohol derived from essential oils used for flavoring; a floral, gerianiumlike scent.
  
grainy Having the scent of flavors of grain, cereal, rice or barley; in mouthfeel, having a particulate texture (see “sediment”).
  
grapefruity Having the scent or flavor of grapefruit; usually credited to hops.
  
grassy Similar in taste or smell to a field or just-mowed lawn.
  
greasy Oily in mouthfeel; usually an off-flavor but typical in rauchbiers.
  
green Not matured to optimal quality.
  
harmonious Well-balanced; in beer, the term is often used to describe two or more distinct flavors or smells that mingle pleasantly, such as citrus, banana and coriander notes in weizens.
  
harsh Jarring, severe or abrasive.
  
hazy Cloudy or opaque, sometimes due to floating sediment.
  
head The foam atop the liquid in a glass of beer.
  
hearty Substantial, robust or strong in taste, smell or body.
  
heavy Full-bodied and alcoholic.
  
herbal Containing or having the properties of herbs; plantlike in smell or taste.
  
highlights Nuances displayed in a beer’s color or flavor; nearly-black stouts may have garnet highlights, and an Oktoberfest may have golden highlights.
  
hollow Empty or unfulfilling in malt profile, mouthfeel or body.
  
honey, honeylike Posessing flavors of or akin to honey; common in lambics, weissbiers and gueuzes.
  
hoppy Generally, having a high quantity of hops or hop characteristics; bitter, floral, citrusy, herbal or puckering in aroma or flavor. Having the character of hops. It can refer to high hop aroma, flavor and bitterness.
  
horselike Earthy, haylike, musty nuances; common in spontaneously fermented beers such as saisons and lambics. An off flavor in other styles. Also called "barnyard" or "barnlike."
  
hot Excessively alcoholic.
  
husky Astringent, grainy bitterness.
  
inky Dark or near-black and opaque or murky; usually linked with stouts and porters.
  
intense Powerful in flavor, aroma and/or alcohol.
  
jammy Wealthy with preserved fruit flavor.
  
Lactobacillus A bacteria linked to beer spoilage, but used purposely in sour beers.
  
leathery Having an aroma of leather.
  
legs Traces of liquid that stick to the glass after swirling a beer.
  
lemony Tastes or scents of lemon; usually refers to an herbal tang or lemongrass note in hops.
  
light Insubstantial or dainty in weight; can refer to a beer’s scent, taste, body or alcohol content, or to the beer itself.
  
lightstruck An off flavor characterized by a sulfuric, skunky aroma, typically due to a reaction between hops’ alpha acids and sulfur compounds in the presence of sunlight or electric light, indicating the presence of 3-methyl-2-butene-thiol. Clear, green and blue bottles are most at risk for lightstruck flavors. Also called "skunky."  
  
linaloolA terpene alcohol chemical naturally occurring in various flowers and herbs (including hops) that yields a pleasant floral (or sometimes peach) aroma in beer.  
  
medicinal Akin to medicine or chemicals in aroma or taste.
  
mellow Soft, calm and not complex in body or flavor.
  
melonlike Having a taste or aroma suggestive of ripe melons.
  
MercaptanThe common name for 3-methyl-2-butene-thiol. A compound causing a sulfuric, putrid, skunky aroma, typically due to a reaction between hops’ alpha acids and sulfur compounds in the presence of sunlight or electric light. Clear, green and blue bottles are most at risk for developing Mercaptan.
  
metallicAromas or tastes similar to iron, rust, coins or blood. Its presence has a number of causes: rusty pipes or water, high malt roasting temperatures or staleness. Usually an off flavor.
  
mild Not overwhelming in flavor, aroma, alcohol or body.
  
milky Creamy and similar to milk in taste or texture; acceptable in some styles, but also an off-flavor. See “diacetyl.”
  
minerally Having notes of rocks or minerals; similar to hard water, which is often the source of the taste.
  
molasses Having a smell or taste akin to the thick, syrupy residue formed during sugar refinement
  
moldy Mildewed, damp or decaying aromas.
  
mousselike, moussy Thick, almost whipped appearance in head.
  
mouthfeel The body, weight, viscosity and texture of a beer in one’s mouth.
  
musty Mildewed, moldy or damp in aroma. An off-flavor.
  
nutty Having the scent or flavor of nuts; in beer, usually walnuts, hazelnuts and almonds.
  
oaky Bearing the characteristic vanilla, woody, butterscotch and/or toasty flavors of oak.
  
oatmeal An acceptable flavor or aroma in oatmeal stouts. The addition of oatmeal in the brew also lends a smooth, silky quality to the mouthfeel.
  
oily Slick in mouthfeel; usually an off-flavor.
  
Ortho-Chlorophenol An off flavor and a phenolic compound. With a taste akin to Band-aids or bearing a medicinal quality, Ortho-Chlorophenol may appear from bacteria, but also from chlorinated water or sanitizers.
  
overtones The more obvious characteristics, aromas and flavors of beer.
  
oxidationProlonged exposure to oxygen, which gives beer a cardboardlike flavor and/or aroma. Almost always an off flavor.
  
oxidized Synonymous with "stale." An off flavor that transpires when beer is exposed to oxygen or high temperatures, or is otherwise past its prime. Stale or oxidized flavors come in a variety of permutations—papery or cardboardlike, akin to rotten produce, diaperlike, leathery, sherrylike and bready are common forms.
  
papery See “stale” and “Trans-2-nonenal.”
  
peaty  Bearing the essence of peat, standard in bears featuring peat-smoked malt.
  
peppery Having scents, flavors or alcohol characteristics of peppercorns.
  
perfumy Floral in aroma.
  
persistent Lasting; in beer, referring to head or a flavor nuance.
  
phenolic Plastic or chemical in taste or scent; acceptable in low levels in some beer styles, but usually an off flavor.
  
powerfulAlcoholic, tasting heavily of alcohol. Acceptable in styles such as barleywine, but an off flavor in many others.
  
rancid Offensive or rotten in odor or taste; an off flavor.
  
refined Made pure or clear by a filtering process; edited or polished in flavor; colloquially, sophisticated or superior.
  
refreshing The sensation of satisfying thirst; an antonym of dry.
  
resinous Having pine- or saplike tastes or aroma.
  
rich Indulgent or full in flavor.
  
roasty, roasted Having the dark, bitter taste or aroma of roasted (heated) malt.
  
robust Full-bodied and strong in mouthfeel, flavor, alcohol or composition of the three.
  
rocky Big-bubbled and mountainous in head.
  
saccharine Excessively sweet.
  
salty Tasting of saline or table salt.
  
sediment Small particles suspended in liquid that settle at the bottom of the glass when not agitated. In beer, the material is yeast and protein particles, and most common in aged or bottle-conditioned beers.
  
sharp Abrupt, penetrating or piercingly strong in acid, hop bitterness or other flavors.
  
sherrylike Akin to sherry in taste or smell; common in old ales, but a possible indicator of staleness in other styles.
  
silky See “smooth.”
  
skunky An off flavor characterized by a sulfuric, skunky aroma, typically due to a reaction between hops’ alpha acids and sulfur compounds in the presence of sunlight or electric light, indicating the presence of 3-methyl-2-butene-thiol. Clear, green and blue bottles are most at risk for lightstruck flavors. Also called "lightstruck."  
  
smoky Having smells and tastes of smoke. Usually derived from smoked or roasted malt, but sometimes from oak aging. Desirable in rauchbiers.
  
smooth Flowy, creamy or soft in mouthfeel, body or alcohol presence.
  
soapy Having a scent or taste by soap. An off flavor or defect.
  
soft Smooth and non-abrasive in mouthfeel or carbonation.
  
solventlike An off flavor identified by a sharp, acrid scent and an unpleasant burning sensation in the swallow. Usually caused by high fermentation temperatures, and sometimes, wild yeast.
  
sour A tart, sharp, usually acidic and sometimes puckering flavor appropriate in beer styles such as lambics and Berliner weisses.
  
spicy Having strong tastes or aromas of spices; hot or flavorful from spices. Derived from alcohol and some yeasts, but usually a result of spices added directly to beer, like those in the spice/herb/vegetable beer category.
  
stale Synonymous with "oxidized." An off flavor that transpires when beer is exposed to oxygen or high temperatures, or is otherwise past its prime. Stale or oxidized flavors come in a variety of permutations—papery or cardboardlike, akin to rotten produce, diaperlike, leathery, sherrylike and bready are common forms.
  
sticky Cloying or tacky in sweetness or mouthfeel.
  
sulfidic Bearing the putrid, rotten-egg aroma of sulfide. An off flavor.
  
sulfitic Having a burnt-rubber or -match aroma of sulfites, once used as preservatives in beer and still naturally occurring in wine. An off flavor.
  
sweet Having flavors or aromas of natural or table sugar. May be appropriately sweet or unpleasantly so.
  
syrupy Cloyingly, thickly sweet.
  
tannic Strong in tannins; dry, astringent or puckering in taste.
  
tanninsPlant polyphenols that cause a dry, astringent sensation in beer.
  
tart A pleasantly sharp, sour flavor.
  
textureSynonymous with "mouthfeel."
  
texture Synonym for “mouthfeel.”
  
thick Dense and weighty in mouthfeel, body and/or complexity.
  
thin Sparse and light in mouthfeel, body and/or complexity.
  
toasty Having malt aromas or tastes akin to toasted bread.
  
toffee Caramel, buttery scents or tastes evocative of English toffee.
  
Trans-2-nonenal An off flavor typified by tastes of paper or wet cardboard, usually detected in old or stale beer. Developed during aging, the compound can be thwarted by minimizing air in aging containers and bottles.
  
treacle The British name for molasses; or, something cloyingly sweet.
  
turbid Opaque, cloudy or muddled in appearance.
  
undertonesSubtle but noticeable nuances in the aroma and flavor of beer.
  
vanilla Tastes or scents of vanilla; common in Flanders red ales and oak-aged beers.
  
vegetal Tastes or scents of vegetables or plants such as celery or cooked greens.
  
viscous Thick or weighty in mouthfeel or body.
  
warm, warming Featuring strong alcohol characteristics that appear to heat the mouth, throat or chest.
  
watery Notably thin in mouthfeel or body.
  
winelike Vinous in flavor or mouthfeel; a desirable trait in sipping beers like Flanders red ales and oud bruins.
  
woody Contains wood smells or tastes; common and desirable in wood-aged beers.
  
worty Tasting of wort—flat and very sweet.
  
yeastyHeavy with yeast, or  yeastlike in taste or aroma; usually biscuity.
  
young Not yet aged to its optimal flavor.
  
zesty Stimulated or lively in carbonation or citrus notes.
  



ADVERTISING