Flavor Factors

Identifying or categorizing beer based on flavor profile rather than style allows the beer to be in a more easily identifiable way with words like crisp, clean, bitter, fruity, tart, sour, or caramel.  By identifying flavors that people are familiar with, it’s easier to pick out a beer that suits their palates and also to pair with different foods.

The flavor profile is determined by the particular beer’s combination of carbonation, hops, malt, water and yeast.  The varying aspects of the brewing process and brewer’s personal touches and intent add the final notes that make each craft beer unique.  Color, aroma, carbonation, and body are the qualities that determine what the eyes, nose and palate will see, smell, taste, and feel with every sip of craft beer.

Color

Color comes mainly from the kilning and roasting of barley.  The boil time and brewing specifics will affect how much color the final beer takes on, as will filtration (if used).  Color plays tricks on the mind and palate, which identify dark with heavy, light with clean, and caramel (light brown) with sweet.  While these associations can sometimes be true, it is also possible to have a dark colored beer that tastes and feels light, a light colored beer that boasts rich and complex flavors, or a caramel colored beer that tastes dry and bitter.  It is best to let the final flavors develop on the palate before judging what affect the color has on the flavor profile.

Aroma

The aroma of craft beer comes mainly from the hops, malt, and yeast strain.  Of the three main senses (sight, smell, and taste), the aroma of the beer often has the most varied sensory response.  Aromas of alcohol, floral scents, fruit, leather, oil, sulfur, yeast and more can often sway what the palate will soon taste.

Carbonation

CO2 is a byproduct of fermentation, produced by yeast.  Less carbonated beers will sit heavier and longer on the palate, while more carbonated beers will invigorate the palate.

Palate/Body

The astringency, body, carbonation and finish contribute to the overall palate of a beer - the way it tastes and feels on the mouth and tongue.  Proteins and residual sugars from the malt, extracted during brewing and modified during fermentation, determine the final body of consistency of the liquid. 

TeKu Flavor Profiles

At TeKu Tavern we have broken out 7 major flavor profiles of craft beer.  Within each main profile there is a subprofile/grouping that further breaks down the beer’s flavor profile based on descriptive words.  Below are the 7 major categories

1.    Crisp & Clean

    Groupings: Clean/Delicate Fruit, Malt-Accented, Brisk Hop

2.    Hop - Hoppy & Bitter

    Groupings: Earthy & Dry, Malt Forward, Bold/Strong Hop, Herbal & Citrus

3.    Malt & Sweet

    Groupings: Toasty & Nutty, Fruit & Toffee/Caramel

4.    Dark & Roasty

    Groupings: Soft & Silky/Malty, Dark & Dry

5.    Smoke

    Groupings: Subdued Smolder, Spicy & Meaty

6.    Fruit & Spice

    Groupings: Bright & Yeasty, Dark

7.    Sour, Tart & Funky

    Groupings: Delicate, Fruity & Vinous, Earthy

 

Below is a further breakdown and description of the above flavor profiles for beer.

1.    Crisp & Clean

Crisp beers will present clean and refreshing on the palate.  They have a very delicate impact on the palate and can sometimes produce a feeling of dryness in the mouth.  They range in color from straw to amber, have low to medium abv’s, and are light to medium in body.  Crisp beers can cleanse the palate of flavors and leave it feeling refreshed when properly paired.  These beers should have simple and clean pairings focusing on a single dominant flavor to allow the palate to experience the notes of the beer.  Examples include spicy cuisine, light seafood, leafy greens and salads, sushi and roast chicken.

Clean/Delicate Fruit: While not particularly malty or hoppy, but a nice balance of hops and malt, the yeasts used in these beers can contribute flavors of green apple, pear, and berries.  The malt comes across smooth, while the flavors don’t linger on the palate.

    Notable Styles:

  • Cream Ale
  • English & American Blonde Ale
  • Belgian-Style Blonde Ale
  • Wheat Ale
  • Kolsch
  • Bohemian & German-Style Pilsner

Malt-Accented: Lacking the fruit and spice aromatics of most ales and showcasing a milder hop profile than Pilsners, these beers have notes of bread and biscuit on the palate, along with a crisp finish.

    Notable Styles:

  • Pale Lager
  • American Amber Ale
  • Amber Lager
  • Marzen / Oktoberfest
  • German-Style Maibock
  • Helles Lager
  • Vienna Lager
  • Helles Bock

Brisk Hop: By dry-hopping these beers, typically employing German & Czech grown hops (Noble Hops), these beers have a dryer and distinct hop bite in the finish, with spicy, herbal, and floral aromas.

    Notable Styles:

  • Kellerbier / Zwickelbier
  • India Pale Lager (IPL) / Hoppy Lager
  • Imperial Pilsner

 

2.    Hop - Hoppy & Bitter

These beers will have a solid malt base, but the hops will prevail as the dominant flavor with delicious aromas and pronounced bitterness from generous additions of hops.  These beer range from medium to full bodied, yellow to brown in color, and low to high abv’s.  Hops typically respond well to pairings with fatty foods, which can calm the hop flavors on the palate.  Aged/hard cheeses, fried foods, burgers, rich/intense meats, and deli sandwiches pair nicely.

Earthy & Dry: A lighter and drier malt bill/profile is intentionally used to focus on the hops.  Hop varieties used will give more herbal deep bittering notes along with earthy, hay-like, grassy, and woody hop flavors.

    Notable Styles:

  • Ordinary Bitter (English-Style Bitter)
  • English Pale Ale
  • English IPA
  • Belgian IPA
  • American IPA

Malt Forward: While the hops are still a driving force, these beers have a fuller malt profile and body.  Fruity flavors and caramel notes become present, but the balance of the flavor and finish will still lean toward the bittering of the hops, which are highly aromatic and suggest pine and tropical fruits.

    Notable Styles:

  • California Common
  • American Amber Ale
  • American Barleywine
  • American Imperial Red Ale

Bold/Strong Hops, Herbal and Citric: The malt character on these beers is milder along with a heavy use of intensely flavorful hops leads these to be brimming with hop-driven notes of citrus, resin and tropical fruit.  The aromas can overtake the senses at times, and the bittering units can be in excess of 100 IBUs. 

    Notable Styles:

  • American Pale Ale
  • IPA
  • Fresh Hop Ale
  • Imperial IPA

 

3.    Malty & Sweet

Malt driven flavors dominate the flavor profile of these beers.  The palate can expect a degree of sweetness and deep malty notes of nuts, toffee, caramel, toast, and dark fruits.  These beers range from copper to dark brown in color, from light to full bodied, and low to high abv’s.  Food pairings focus on highlighting the malt profile on the palate.  Pizza, root vegetables, blue cheese, cured meats, seared pork, poultry and game are pairing options.

Toasty & Nutty: These beers combine mild crisp notes along with very full/bready malt flavors.  Biscuity, nutty, and toasty accents are present.  Stronger versions can show a touch of caramel and roasted fruit, while the biggest begin to display dried fruits such as raisins, dates, and figs. 

    Notable Styles:

  • English Mild
  • Schwarzbier - Dark Lager
  • Dunkel Lager
  • English-Style Brown Ale
  • Dunkles Bock
  • Doppelbock
  • Eisbock

Fruit & Toffee/Caramel: While still focusing on the very sturdy malt presence and backbone, these beers possess a brighter dried-fruit note to the palate.  Mildly fruity aromas, caramelized/toffee-ish flavors are layered with notes of dried fruit, red apples, orange zest, and plums.

    Notable Styles:

  • English Bitter - Best Bitter
  • Scottish Ale
  • Irish Red Ale
  • French-Style Biere de Garde
  • English Special Bitter - ESB
  • Scotch Ale /Wee Heavy
  • Belgian Pale Ale
  • English Strong Ale
  • Wheatwine
  • English Barleywine

 

4.    Dark & Roasty

These beers focus their flavor profiles on dark roasted malts that contribute coffee and cocoa notes, along with a rich mouthfeel and very dark appearance.  From aroma to palate to finish, the roast of the malt comes through stronger than in other flavor profiles.  They can be medium-light to full bodied, from deep copper to black in color, and low to high abv’s.  Grilled/blackened pork, poultry, game, seafood, dessert, barbecue, and raw shellfish can all pair with them.

Soft & Silky/Malty: These beers tend to be dark and malty rich with a delicate bitterness.  They do not show intensely roasted qualities, but gravitate towards milk chocolate, hazelnut, raw tree nuts, latte, and coffee with cream.  The more intense these styles get, the more the fruit profile of dates and figs becomes present.

    Notable Styles:

  • Schwarzbier
  • Brown Porter
  • Robust Porter
  • English Oatmeal Stout
  • American Brown Ale
  • English Brown Ale
  • Sweet Stout
  • Oatmeal Stout
  • Imperial Brown Ale
  • Imperial Porter
  • Foreign Export Stout
  • Belgian Stout

Dark & Dry: The most roasty and driest of the dark beers.  Burnt grain, tar, dark chocolate and espresso are the dominant aromas.  Fruit flavors emerge in the strongest versions, often giving off aromas of plums, cherries, raspberries, and prunes.  These beers tend to be lighter on the palate, which allows the dry notes to come through.

    Notable Styles:

  • Irish Dry Stout
  • American Black Ale
  • American Stout
  • Imperial Stout
  • Robust Porter
  • Black IPA
  • American Brown Ale

 

5.    Smoke

These beers incorporate malts soaked over various wood fires, or aged in Single Malt Scotch Whiskey Oak barrels.  They range from medium-light to full bodied, can be deep amber to dark brown in color, and may be medium to medium-high abv.  They are typically milder brews, except the often dramatic smoky flavors.  Pairs well with raw fish, game meats, and pork cuts.

Subdued Smolder: The smoked flavor is more subtle for styles within this category.  Prevalent toasty and/or roasty malt flavors against the woody, peaty, or spicy smoked notes.

    Notable Styles:

  • Smoked Beer
  • Steinbrau
  • Smoked Porter

Spicy & Meaty: Heavily smoked, sausage-like flavors are prevalent.  Bonfire aromas overlay a range of subtler flavors, from biscuity malt to bananas, nutmeg, and clove, to raisins, toffee and nuts.

    Notable Styles:

  • Rauchbier

 

6.    Fruit & Spice

These beers are most notable for the bold fruit and spice flavors they possess.  The spice flavors are derived from the yeast and can be supported by adding additional, complimentary spices.  To enhance the fruity notes present, actual fruit puree or fruit may be added to the beer.  They may be sweet, semi-dry, or dry, but are never overly bitter.  Abv ranges from low to high, body is low to high, and color ranges from golden to dark brown, and sometimes takes on the added fruits color.  Pairings include crab, mussels, lobster, lighter fish, cured meats, sausages, salads, poultry, pizza, and spicy cuisine.

Bright & Yeasty: Brighter fruit notes are present like tart apple, pear, peach, orange, lemon, banana, and apricot.  Bubblegum is also a common aroma as well as spices like clove, pepper, vanilla, coriander, cinnamon, and nutmeg.  Darker and stronger versions may show malt notes of toast, caramel, toffee, and deep dark fruit.

    Notable Styles:

  • Kristalweizen
  • Witbier
  • Hefeweizen
  • Belgian Blonde Ale
  • Saison
  • Gruit Ale
  • Belgian Golden Strong Ale
  • Belgian Tripel
  • Belgian Strong Pale Ale

Dark: Darker fruits qualities come out in these beers, like fig, raspberry, prune, raisin, cherry, plum, and strawberry.  Some are downright vinous, sharing aromatics akin to red wine.  Spice aromatics are present as notes of clove, pepper, rose, nutmeg, cinnamon, and even a hint of smoke in some cases.  Malt flavors are more present in these styles and can strengthen the overall body of the beer and show through with notes of chocolate, caramel, and nutty.

    Notable Styles:

  • Dunkelweizen
  • Belgian Dark Ale
  • Belgian Strong Dark Ale
  • Belgian Dubbel
  • Weizenbock
  • Belgian Quadruple

 

Sour, Tart, & Funky

These beers have a wide range of flavor profiles showing rustic, funky, barnyard, farmhouse, leather, hay, grass, earthy and winey notes.  Some are rather light and elegantly acidic, some are darker and vinous, while others are exceedingly funky and sour.  They can be light to medium-full bodied, range in color from straw to dark brown, and may be extremely low to quite strong in alcohol.  These beers are often aged in wood and can be blended with other styles to deepen their complexity.

Delicate: Gentle/mild acidity, lighter malts, and lighter bodies make these refreshing and crisp.  They are delicately tart with bright citrus (lemon, orange) notes, lack a prominent funky character, and leave the palate almost bone dry and often have a gentle citrus finish. 

    Notable Styles:

  • Berliner Weiss
  • Gose
  • Faro

Fruity & Vinous: The most wine-like of all the Tart & Funky beers.  Pronounced acidity is blended with fruity aromas of cherry, plum, apricot, peach, plout, strawberry, raspberry, and black currants, sometimes resulting from an actual addition of fruit.  Notes of caramel from the malt can be detected, and if the beer has been barrel-aged notes of caramel, vanilla, toffee, and toast can be present.

    Notable Styles:

  • Flanders Oud Bruin
  • Flanders Red Ale
  • Wild Ale
  • American Brett Beer
  • Traditional Fruit Lambic

Earthy: Typically quite sour and funky, and sometimes aged in oak barrels, these beers possess intense rustic qualities of earthy, farmhouse, grassy, barnyard, leather, and horsey notes.  Milder fruit notes in the aroma are common such as peaches, strawberries, apricots, and grapes.  The carbonation level in these beers will often be higher and can have a refreshing quality on the palate.

    Notable Styles:

  • Saison
  • American Brett Beer
  • Belgian Gueuze Lambic
  • Traditional Unblended Lambic
  • Wild Ale