Beer Glossary

To at least give the appearance that you know what you’re talking about when it comes to beer, here are the important terms to remember.  Don’t see a term that should be in here?  Please drop us a note to let us know.



Ale beer usually has unique flavours that are softer. This type of beer uses the top-down fermenting process to create intense flavours and aromas. Examples include Pale Ale, Brown Ale, Heffeweizen, Stout, and Porter.


The appearance of beer can give away many of the secrets of a beer before the beer has been tasted. Look for things like carbonation, clarity or turbidity (cloudiness), and the colour of the beer to describe the appearance.


How a beer smells. When the beer experts taste a beer they describe the aroma as one of the most important characteristics of a beer. The aroma of a beer usually helps someone determine the type of malt or barley used and other fermentation byproducts. The aroma helps a beer drinker identify unique features and specialty beers like honey or maple.


Similar to the wine terminology, body refers to the weight of the beer. A heavy beer like a stout would be described as being heavy in body while a lager general has a lighter body.


A “clean” tasting beer is a beer that does not have harsh smell, mouthfeel or aftertaste. For less experience beer drinkers “clean” beers are easier to drink but often lack body and aroma. Clean can also be used to describe the appearance of a beer.


When we use the term consistency, we usually refer to the flavour and aroma of a beer. The beer consistency is sometimes suspect in some import beers due to freshness and quality control. Large Canadian beer companies offer beers that are consistent in taste, aroma, and availability. This is what makes the beer appealing to many beer drinkers.


Similar to the term clean, crisp describes a beer that has a smooth finish with minimal aftertaste. This crisp taste is prevalent in many beers that are labeled “dry” or “dry filtered”.


Draught beer is beer taken directly from the keg or storage vat and served to the customer in a beer glass, stein or mug. This beer is usually un-pasteurized helping to release more of the flavours and aromas of the beer.


The final stage of tasting a beer used to determine sweetness and bitterness of a beer. This is the most important part of tasting a beer because this helps you formulate your opinion of a beer. The beer “finish” is also the term used to describe the aftertaste of a beer.


A beer is considered fizzy when it has a high carbonation level similar to champagne. Some low-carb beers have fizzy characteristics in taste and appearance.


It is important to select the appropriate glassware when tasting beer. Glassware can increase the appeal of a beer by concentrating aromas, increasing head retention, and also improve visual appeal. Always ensure the glassware is hand-washed in mild soap and rinsed thoroughly.


Harsh is a term used to describe overwhelming tastes, aromas or mouthfeels. This descriptor can describe a variety of negative aspects of a beer including the hops, carbonation level, or overwhelming finish.

Head Retention

Head Retention is the term used to describe the amount of foam (or head) a beer has when poured into a glass. If a beer has good head retention, it usually has a fuller body or more carbonation. To increase head retention pour your beer into a suitable glass that will help increase head formation.


When a beer is described as hoppy, it usually refers to an obvious hop smell or taste in the beer. For many, the term hoppy is a negative descriptor, while for others, it is what makes beer distinct!


A keg is a large container used to store beer. Some brewers use kegs like Cask beers (traditionally a wooden barrel) use to store beer until the maturation process or fermentation process has completed.


Lager beer has a crisp clean taste that is less intense than ale beer. Lager beers are the typical beers brewed by North America companies. Lager beers use bottom-up fermenting. These beers include Helles, Pilsner, Amber Lager, Dark Lager and Bock.


During the middle stage of tasting a beer the expert taster can determine the hops and unique flavours of a beer.


This is the term used to describe how a beer feels in your mouth. Good descriptors for mouthfeel include “dry”, “crisp”, “smooth”, “clean”, “full”, “rich”, “effervescent”, “carbonated” and “harsh”. Mouthfeel can help you determine the “body” of a beer ranging from light to full bodied beer.


The pasteurization process is used to preserve beers to increase storage life. This process takes away from some of the natural flavours in beer.


Much like pasteurization, preservatives are additives used to increase beer shelf life and freshness. Preservatives are a necessary evil for most beers that have to be transported over long distances or beer that does not remain refrigerated.


The initial taste of the beer. The start of a beer is when a person determines the mouthfeel and the carbonation level