The Bitter Truth about Beer Flavor Development


The difference between tasting and drinking is thinking, said Polly Barrett, director of flavors R&D and applied technology at Kalsec. During her presentation to NAFFS attendees at the Dog & Cask restaurant in New Jersey, Barrett outlined how flavor complexity is achieved in today’s diverse beer market.

Complex Flavor

The character of hops is a crucial element to the flavor of beers, Barrett explained, providing desired bitterness and lingering impression, as well as notes such as woody, grapefruit, linalool and geraniol. This character is a core piece of a flavor matrix of yeastderived (ex: diacetyl, isoamyl acetate and ethyl hexanoate), grain-derived (ex: bitterness and maltiness, smoky, vanilla, chocolate and caramel), off note (butyric, catty, “light-struck,” etc.), mouthfeel (astringency, metallic, tingling, numbing, etc.) and aging (acetaldehyde, papery, almond, etc.) characteristics. Other aromatic components include:

  • Hexoses for sweetness and flavor potentiation
  • Dextrins for smoothness, body and sweetness
  • Carbonic acid for tingling and acidity
  • Sulfates for drier bitter potentiation
  • Lactic, pyruvic, malic, succinic, fatty, caprylic, capric and isolvaleric acids for cheesy and sweaty-goaty facets
  • Phenolic substances like vanillin and catechin
  • 4-Vinylguaiacol, which offers a clove impression
  • b-Ionone for berrylike notes
  • b-Damascenone for tobacco character
  • Dimethyl sulfide for sweet corn
  • Hydrogen sulfide for rotten egg
  • 3-Methyl-2-butene-1-thiol for skunky character at ppt levels
  • Ethyl hexanoate for red apple and anise impressions
  • Isobutyl isobutyrate for pineapple and grape

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