Restaurant Beer Education


This outline discusses common aesthetic, taste and flavor components associated with major parts of the wine and beer making processes. Part 1 discusses the similar processes involved in producing craft beer and better wines.

Taste and Aroma Sources

Both beer and wine have aroma and flavor components derived from (a) ingredients, (b) fermentation and (c) aging.

  1. A.  Ingredients

  2. BulletWine has two flavor-determining ingredients:

  3. 1.the grape varieties and vintage of the grapes in it,

  4. 2.the type of yeast.

  5. BulletBeer, on the other hand, has four flavor-determining ingredients:

  6. 1.the amount and types of grains,

  7. 2.the amounts and types of hops,

  8. 3.the type of yeast,

  9. a lesser extent, the water used may also affect the final flavor.

  10. Additionally, if any supplemental ingredients are added, such as herbs, spices or fruits, these will also affect the aroma and flavor of the resulting beer or wine.

  11. B.  Fermentation

  12. The type of yeast and the temperature and techniques of fermentation will add flavors and aromas to both wine and beer. For example, if you smell something like apricot, melon or tobacco in a wine or beer, this is a most likely created by the fermentation. A hot fermentation temperature produces more deeply fruity and spicy aromas and tastes. A cool or cold fermentation produces cleaner and lighter flavors. The bottle conditioning process used in some specialty ales to add carbonation to the bottle, somewhat like the Champagne process, will also have a small affect the taste of the finished product. While yeast handles the primary fermentation, sometimes brewers and vintners encourage secondary bacterial fermentations that add additional aromas and modify flavors. The malolactic (non-yeast) secondary fermentation that wines often undergo definitely changes their tastes. Brewers are also known to modify a beer’s flavor by adding lactobacillus, which makes a beer tart (acidic).

  13. C.  Aging

  14. Aging techniques add both flavor and aroma components. Certainly the most noted aging technique is aging in wood. It adds distinctive notes to both wine and beer. French oak produces the signature vanilla extract aroma. Other complex flavors are derived from the slower chemical changes that take place in the aging process. More prevalent in wine, certain aromatic compounds evolve over time to provide a less fruity, more mature bouquet. Flavors of oxidation, also a product of aging, can be noticed in both beer and wine. When an ale is aged in a fresh whiskey barrel, it also adds spiritous notes to the beer.

Specific Flavors, Aromas and Colors


Brewers and vintners often choose to not ferment out all the sugars in their beer or wine. Residual sugar in both wine and beer makes the beverage have a softer or sweet taste. Beers are more likely to have a bit of sweetness as a flavor component than are table wines, in part because beer often contains extra sugars, not found in grape juice, that are largely unfermentable by the brewing yeast used. Softer or sweeter wine styles are typically produced by stopping the fermentation process (removing the yeast) before all the sugar has been converted.

Fruity, floral, herbal, spicy and just plain nuttiness

  1. BulletThe apple, pear, apricot, cherry, and banana fruity aromas and tastes characteristic of some beer styles (many ales) are byproducts of fermentation and not from added fruit. The pungent citrus-grapefruit aroma in many American IPAs, however, comes from the hops and not fermentation. In wine, the fruity or even jammy aromas (esters) can come from both the fermentation process and the grape varieties themselves. In both beer and wine, aging tends to lessen the fresh fruit-like aromas.

  2. BulletGrassy, herbal or piney aromas and flavors in beer mostly come from the hops. Certain hop varieties are known for that. In wine, these flavors are mostly associated with certain grape varieties (like a grassy Sauvignon Blanc) and are also somewhat dependent on fermentation techniques.

  3. BulletFloral aromas in beer come most often from the hops, namely a group of hop varieties known as noble hops, traditionally used in better European lagers. In wine, floral aromas are most often associated with a particular grape variety, such as Riesling.

  4. BulletSpiciness is another byproduct of fermentation. Depending on the combination of the specific yeast and ingredients, a number of spice-like aromas may occur. The characteristic clove aroma of a good Hefeweizen is produced by the fermentation process, as are the black pepper and anise notes often detected in dark red wines. A clove or cinnamon aroma in white wines is most often associated with aging in oak barrels.

  5. BulletChocolate is a great aroma to find in wine and beer. If it appears in your Porter or Stout, it has come from the dark roasting of the malts used to make it (unless the label actually says it has chocolate or cocoa nibs added). If it’s in your Cabernet Sauvignon, chocolate it’s comes from a combination of fermentation and barrel aging.

  6. BulletButter is often a tell-tale characteristic of a Chardonnay that has purposely undergone a secondary, malolactic fermentation. But If you taste butter in beer, and you are not drinking an English Pale Ale, chances are it’s a flaw. In wine the butter is a byproduct of a bacterial, rather than yeast, fermentation process. In beer a strong butter or butterscotch flavor can be caused by a rushed brewing process or a bacterial infection.

  7. BulletNutty aromas are more common in beer than in table wine. In beer the nuttiness is most often associated with ales made from well-toasted malt. Brown Ales may be particularly nutty. In wines, nuttiness is mostly associated with fortified, barrel-aged dessert wines such as sherries and ports, but may also be found in an occasional red table wine.

Bitterness and Astringency

  1. BulletBitterness in beer is mostly attributed to the hops, though some can also come from dark roasted malts and tannins in the husks of the barley malt.

  2. BulletBitterness and astringency in wine are associated with a high tannin content and and are more common in certain red wines. Tannins (or phenolics) in wine come from fermenting the juice with the grape skins, stems, and seeds and from aging in wood barrels.


  1. BulletWines often have an acidic tartness as a major flavor component. Most beers do not. Grapes have good quantities of naturally occurring fruit acids (most importantly, tartaric acid) that add a tart flavor to wine. Beers typically don’t have that tart component because regular malt and hops are not acidic.

  2. BulletCertain traditional beer styles do get a lactic acid tartness from special bacterial fermentation techniques that are in addition to the yeast fermentation. Good examples include Guinness Stout, Belgian Lambics, Flemish Red and Flemish Brown Ales, and Berliner Weisse. Today, craft brewers are also experimenting with souring many other types of beer.


  1. BulletBeer gets its most of its color from the grain used to produce it. Beer malts are toasted to different degrees, ranging from pale, to caramel, to reddish, to brown and black. Depending on the ratios of the different malts added to the mash, beers pick up a corresponding color. Some color may also added during the boiling of the wort. A longer boil can cause some caramelization of the malt sugars and darken the beer a bit, especially one that starts with pale malts.

  2. BulletIn winemaking, if the juice is fermented with the grape skins in the tank, wine picks up color from the skins. Darker red colors are related to the amount of color chemicals in the grape skin and to the length of time the wine sat on the skins in the fermenter. For juice that is fermented without the skins, the resulting wine is typically white, whether the grapes were white, red or black.

  3. BulletLighter-styled beers, usually golden in color, are more similar to lighter-styled white wines in that their flavors are more subtle and they have less immediate flavor impact in the mouth. Many darker beers are more similar to big red wines in that they have big, rich, full flavors. One caveat here is that, if heavily hopped, even lighter colored beers can have quite a bold flavor impact.


Wine & Beer Similarities, Part 2

See a brewery when visiting wine country

Wine isn’t the only tasty beverage fermenting in the tanks of Napa and Sonoma counties. Nor is wine the only local product to take gold at prestigious international competitions. And wineries aren’t the only ones with interesting, educational tours.

Why not take in a great artisan brewery on your next trip to California’s wine country. Many of the microbreweries have tours and tasting rooms that welcome your visit.

Wine Country Beer is your guide to finding the best local breweries in the northern and central coastal areas of California. Sample world-class, award winning beers. Learn more about the brewing art and the master crafts people who make it happen.