DRIVEN BY EXPERIENCE, BACKED BY SCIENCE
The Beer Flavor Map is scientifically aligned with the sensory research of the last four decades, accounts for new complexities in brewing science and is accessible for brewing professionals and consumers alike. This approachable tool serves as an intuitive memory aid to help the user identify and thoroughly describe a wide range of possible beer flavors. The map encompasses sensory terms appropriately integrated into the three key senses that impact beer flavor: taste, aroma and mouthfeel. By aligning industry experience in sensory with peer-reviewed scientific research, the resulting tool is an objective reflection of the current state of beer flavor knowledge. Whether you are a professional brewer, an industry insider or a craft aficionado, the Beer Flavor Map will help you effectively communicate your experience.
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The Story of the Beer Flavor Map
The Beer Flavor Map was dreamed up on a cold and dreary night, sitting in the coveted window seat of Denver's Beast & Bottle. Nicole, a brewing outsider, had been directed to the trusty beer flavor wheel for a taste event, and recognized immediately the scientific inaccuracies. She pressed Lindsay to share the history of the wheel with her and the justification for why it was still in use. While a cold rain battered the window behind her, and candle light illuminated her face, Lindsay began.
In the 1970s, representatives from the American Society of Brewing Chemists, the European Brewing Convention, and the Master Brewers Association of the Americas, developed a system of flavor terminology to identify, define and communicate attributes in beer. The terminology system they developed is universally recognized as the beer flavor wheel. Despite the huge advance in standardization that this work allowed at the time, they recognized that their contribution was only the beginning. They specifically made a call-to-action to the brewing industry to continue the task they had begun, and regularly update the beer flavor wheel-- but it didn't happen. Although there have been great advances in both brewing and sensory science, the most recognized tool in the beer flavor toolkit has largely remained stagnant.
She concluded, "It's not so much that people don't know it's shortcomings it is just that the wheel is the best we have." With few exceptions, it turns out, there hadn't been any changes to the beer flavor wheel in decades.
Inspired by the original call-to-action 40 years ago, and by discussions with leaders in the brewing community where complacency with the flavor wheel and it’s shortcomings has become mainstream, Lindsay and Nicole thought "If not us, who?" and "If not now, when?" They don't remember what they ate, or what they drank, but both of them remember the moment Nicole's eyes lit up and she said, "Let's do it!" That was Sept 10, 2014.
It took a year and a half of pouring over scientific papers, tracking down elusive reports, cross-referencing resources and ultimately working with a graphic designer to reach the point where the authors were ready to propose a radically different model. Cheers to that and the resulting Beer Flavor Map.
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