Tuesday 11 March 2008

That taste on the tip of your tongue

I’ve been roaming around the beer blogs lately, researching and getting ideas, and today I came across something I wish I’d found a couple months ago. Stan Hieronymus at Appellation Beer posted a list of very useful words for describing the flavours in beer. He found it on the Merchant du Vin site, so I think I’m safe reposting it here in turn:
1. Words to describe malt flavors: Malty, biscuity, breadlike, grainy, rich, deep, roasty, cereal, cookie-like, coffeeish, caramelly, toffee-like, molasses-like, malt complexity, smoky, sweet, autumnal, burnt cream, scalded milk, oatmeal, rustic, layered.

2. Words to describe hop flavor and bitterness: Piney, citrusy, grapefruity, earthy, musty, spicy, sharp, bright, fresh, herbal, zippy, lemony, newly-mown lawn, aromatic, floral, springlike, brilliant, sprucelike, juniper-like, minty, pungent, elegant, grassy.

3. Words to describe fermentation flavors deriving from yeast: Fresh-baked bread, clovelike, bubblegum, yeasty, Belgiany, aromatic, tropical, subtle, fruity, clean, banana-like (and for some sour or extreme beers) horseblankety, earthy, musty.

4. Words to describe conditioning (carbonation): Soft, effervescent, spritzy, sparkling, zippy, pinpoint, bubbly, gentle, low carbonation, highly carbonated.

5. Words to describe body & mouthfeel: Rich, full, light, slick, creamy, oily, heavy, velvety, sweet, dry, thick, thin.

6. Words to describe warm ethanol (alcohol) flavors from strong beer: Warm finish, heat, vodka, esters, pungent, strength.

Now, if I’d had that list when I started this blog a few months ago, it would have really helped my tasting notes. For some of the early tastings, I felt I was flailing around a bit for words to describe the flavours and aromas. This would have offered a bit of a guide at least.

Interestingly, I think my fellow tasters and I managed to find a lot of the flavours mentioned here, and we’ve been noting them on this blog -- even some of the weirder ones. We found clove, bubblegum and grapefruit in Chimay Tripel for example, and we discovered florals, herbs and mint in Deus.

I do notice this list doesn’t include my current favourite beer flavours, gingerbread and malt-loaf, which we found in Westvleteren 8, Westvleteren 12, and Achel Brune Extra. Worth adding those descriptors to the first point on this list, I think.

Continuing my research, I noticed someone had a comment on Appellation Beer mentioning the “beer flavour wheel”, so I looked that up and found a great example of the wheel at BeerandPoetry.com, which explains its origins:

“The Beer Flavor Wheel was developed by Dr Morten Meilgaard. It was subsequently jointly adopted as the flavor analysis standard by the European Brewery Convention, the American Society of Brewing Chemists, and the Master Brewers Association of the Americas.”

A homebrewer's website takes this further, with expanded descriptions of the flavour wheel points. Almost scientific, that. Again, I could have saved myself a lot of trouble if I’d known about all this sooner. But then, maybe my taste discoveries wouldn’t have been quite so much fun.


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