Understanding the Flavors of Beer

Beer is one of the world’s most popular alcoholic beverages, with many styles available to consumers. Despite being comprised of just grain, water, hops and yeast, beer is a complex beverage and small changes in ingredients or the brewing process can have big impacts on the final product.

The key to understanding beer is knowing what flavors are imparted by each ingredient and how the brewing process can impact those flavors. While there are several different methods of brewing, all involve combining grain with hot water to create the base liquid of a beer called wort. The wort is then cooled before it is added to the yeast to start fermentation. Once fermentation is complete the beer is conditioned or aged to add body and flavor.

Malt flavors can be imparted by the type of malt used in a brew and how it is roasted. A beer that tastes malty has a sweet flavor and is generally described as tasting like bread, biscuit, toffee or caramel. Depending on the type of malt used in the beer it may also have notes of coffee, chocolate or fruit.

Hops are also a key component in the flavor of a beer. Adding hops to the brewing process can contribute bitterness, citrus or floral notes and some beers have flavors that are similar to those of fruits such as pear or banana due to the use of particular hop varieties such as Columbus or Chinook.