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The A to Z of beer

Take a look at our guide to some of the creative and colourful terms used to describe beer flavours. 

Alcohol – alcohol is more than the fun part of beer, it aids mouthfeel, perceived sweetness, and, in big beers, a heat that adds to the flavour dimension.

Banana – a common aroma given off by certain yeast strains and most pronounced in German wheat beers and Belgian ales.

Cat-pee – yes, this is an acceptable term to describe hop aromas that are musky, astringent and dank (see below).

Dank – a rich, sweaty, herbal, lush aroma from hops.

Ester – aroma created by yeast during fermentation, can range from apple to pear or clove to pepper.

Funk – used to described the barnyard, rustic aroma created in some sour-style beers.

Grassy –  especially cut grass, an aroma associated with hops.

Hoppy – used interchangeably to describe bitterness as well as some of the more elegant hop oils found in pale ales and IPAs.

Isovaleric acid – a fatty acid found in hops which can deliver a cheese aroma, or sometimes revealed as a sweaty sock smell. As with many things in beer sometimes it’s a fault and sometimes it’s meant to be there (in a good way).

Juicy – often used to describe the malt base of beer but can be used to describe a beer high in hop oils.

Kola nuts – not a recognised beer flavour per se but sometimes used as a flavour additive; cola-flavoured beers are on the rise.

Leather – a welcome effect of age on dark, rich beers which can take on the characters of port or sherry.

Mango – ripe, sweet mango exhibits some of the lush pungency of hops.

Nutty –  the kilning of certain malts delivers a distinct nuttiness to beers like brown ales.

Oily – a beer with lots of late hop additions or high alcohol content (or both).

Pine – a common aroma most associated with American hops.

Quaffer – a sessionable, easy-drinking beer where the flavour is not too intense.

Roast – describes the aroma of a beer which uses a lot of dark malts.

Sauvin – New Zealand hop du jour, with flavours reminiscent of sauvignon blanc grapes.

Tart – describes the acidity found in most sour beers and many wheat beers.

Umami – brothy, savoury, slightly salty flavour found in darker beers.

Vanilla – often added to beers as a flavour but can come through as a background note in sweet stouts.

Warm – a beer high in alcohol delivers a gentle heat.

XPA – Stands for extra pale ale – a pale ale that is extra-pale in colour but also has extra hops.

Yeast – the magic ingredient that turns wort into beer and delivers a plethora of flavours depending on type.

Zesty – a good descriptor for brisk, spicy hop or yeast flavours. Also for Zythophile – or beer lover – which you must be to have read this far!