Brewing with the Aurochs: Mouthfeel

Beer…is a mouth full. With such a popular topic, there is a lot to talk about. This wonderful drink transcends many areas of expertise: food, flavor, art, science, memory, quality, and more. Academic disciplines aside, beer drinkers discuss all types of topics over brew, including family, friends, sports, news, significant others, and politics. Many a friendship and an argument has started over a beer.

Similarly, brewing beer is an art of passion, but one deeply rooted in science. It is our therefore our hope that he next time you sit down to enjoy a brew, you will better appreciate, and be able to talk about, one key aspect of beer: Mouthfeel.

Like beer, mouthfeel may seem simple, but is actually quite complex and transcends many aspects of the beer. Mouthfeel is sensed by touch and is not a part of taste or aroma. It is a essentially the texture of the beer.

The major components of mouthfeel are body (or fullness), carbonation, and “afterfeel,” but there are many factors that contribute to mouthfeel including temperature, astringency, and acidity. The main contributors to mouthfeel in beer are raw ingredients and processes. One distinguishable example is the creamy, palate smoothing texture of “nitro” beers, or beers served on nitrogen, such as Guinness. Unfortunately, “nitro” beers have not made it into the world of gluten-free beer, but that doesn’t mean it won’t happen someday soon…

Anyway, the ingredients and brewing processes impact the density and viscosity (think thickness) of the beer through residual sugars, proteins, and to a lesser extent minerals in the water. Carbonation is a product of yeast, which creates carbon dioxide while it eats the sugars in wort. Afterfeel is a very complex topic. One example is the oiliness associated with oats in beer. And mouthfeel is not unique to beer–it is also associated with the tannins in wine and dryness in ciders.

In the next two weeks, we’ll break mouthfeel down to it’s two primary contributors: carbonation and body. These two qualities are often confused or used interchangeably, though they are actually quite different. We’ll dive deeper into the science of each and explain how the ingredients and processes affect how you enjoy your brew.

In the meantime, now that we’ve tamed the topic of mouthfeel, it is time to refill that glass and enjoy another mouthful of a great brew.