Beer Doesn’t Have The Same Status As Wine
An educated wine lover is called an oenophile, but there is no equivalent lofty term for a beer drinker with the same level of enthusiasm and knowledge, which is a pity, because beer is very, very complicated once you go beyond your regular pint. Last week a small beer club asked me for some help via Skype
If you are a beer connoisseur and English speaking, then I’m going to take a wild guess and say that you’ve probably been stopped in your tracks more than once when at how to pronounce many of the European brews.
Some of the names are a relatively easy to make an educated guess on, but others, such as ‘Gueuze’ and ‘Hoegaarden’ are so far out there that you don’t know where to begin.
You either have to be a polyglot, or an accomplished finger pointer to get what you want.
The most popular are German, so I’ve added in a few pointers and hints on this language.
I’ve Grouped The Pronunciations By Language, Not By Style
I drink Erdinger and Windhoek lager, and I make a mean beef casserole with Guinness, but my knowledge doesn’t extend much further so I’m sticking to what I know here.
Apologies for the big spaces between the words and the audio – it’s a formatting issue I haven’t been able to sort out.
If you have any comments, I’d love to hear them, and if there are any beers I haven’t covered, let me know, and I will add them with pleasure.
German Quick Reference
Bier sounds pretty much like ‘beer’
‘ei’ sounds like ‘eye’;
‘ss’ or ‘β’ sounds like the ‘ss’ in ‘guess’
The German ‘z’ as a ‘ts’ sound
Note the difference between ‘weiss’ or ‘weiβ’ and ‘Weizen’ (which is an adjective which means ‘white’ in German. What appears to be the capital of a Greek Beta symbol ‘β’ is in fact something completely different: a German ‘sharp s’ or ‘Esszett’.
It is the equivalent of ‘ss’, and you can write a word spelled with it either way. Swiss Germans manage fine without the ‘sharp s’ symbol, but the Germans and Austrians still use it, so the orthography of the word will depend on where the beer comes from.
Also bear in mind that in German, nouns and adjectives, as well as pronouns and articles are declined, and the ending of ‘weiβ’ do vary accordingly (weissen, weisse, weissen etc). It’s still the same word.
Some readers who have traveled to German speaking countries are confounded because they confuse the adjective for ‘white’ with the verb ‘wissen’ which means ‘to know’ and starts out with ‘Ich weisse / weiβe’ which means ‘I know’.
One reader told me heard ‘Ich weisse’ in Germany, and thought it was a type of beer. Being quite the connoisseur, he was determined to try this new discovery with predictably hilarious results.
‘Weizen’ On The Other Hand, Is A Noun Which Means ‘Wheat’
An easy way of telling German nouns from adjectives and verbs is to look for capitalization: German nouns are always capitalized. Listen to the sound files and look at the phonetic spelling
Berliner Weissbier – behr/LEE/n[e]. Berliner Weissbier is a sour pale ale
Weissbier – VICE/beer. ‘Weiss’ means ‘white’ in German. ‘Weiss’ can also be spelled with an Esszett symbol (β). Weissbier and Weizenbier are the same type of beer, but note the difference in meaning between ‘Weizen’ and ‘weiss’.
Erdinger Weissbier Kristallklar – EHR/ding/[e]
Witbier – vit/beer. This is Dutch for ‘white beer’
Hoegaarden hoo/garden. The ‘oo’ is short, like in book. Don’t rhyme it with ‘go’
Weizenbier – VIE/ts[e] beer. ‘Weitzen’ means ‘wheat in German
Hefeweizen – HEH/f[e] VIE/t[en]. ‘Hefe’ means ‘yeast’. Hefeweizen beers are unfiltered, and pale and cloudy in appearance.
Paulaner Hefeweizen – pow/LAH/n[e]
Dunkelweizen – DOONG/kel VIE/ts[en]. ‘Dunkel’ means ‘dark’ in German.
Kristallweizen – kree/STAHL VIE/ts[e]n. Kristallweizen (‘crystal wheat’) is a filtered Weizen
Weizenbock – VIE/ts[e]nbock. Bock is a stronger style of beer. ‘Weizen’ indicates it is made with wheat
Eisbock – ICE/bock. Ice bock is a strong beer which is frozen during production. Water freezes before alcohol, so the ice crystals are drained off, leaving a brew with a higher alcohol content.
Hellesbock – HELL/[e]s bock – ‘Hell’ means ‘clear’ in German. ‘Helles’ is simply the neuter form of the adjective (if the adjective relates to a masculine noun, it would be ‘heller’).It isn’t related to the English fire and brimstone meaning of the word at all. My apologies if that’s ruined the experience for some of you 👿 It’s also known as ‘Maibock’.
Lager (along with the difference between ale and lager)
Watch out for ‘Gose’ – a tart beer from Leipzig in Germany. It does not rhyme with ‘nose’!!!
Bière de la Garde