As a result of the booming beer renaissance, not only do we have a tasty abundance of easy-to-pronounce beers like IPA, porter, and stout on tap, but indeed other increasingly popular traditional beer styles from around the world that many people are still trying to figure out how to say.
But not to worry.
In this brief beer-style pronunciation guide, we take a quick look at the correct way to say ten commonly mispronounced beer styles (including some audio clips) so that the next time you see one of these delicious brews on the draft list, you can order it with confidence.
The Beer Syndicate Guide to…
Pronouncing Beer Styles
Hefeweizen: This popular, albeit often mispronounced, beer style originated centuries ago in Germany and literally translates as “Yeast (Hefe) Wheat (Weizen)”; the name refers to the fact that the yeast is left unfiltered in this cloudy wheat based beer. You might hear some English speakers refer to this beer as “hef” (the official drink of the Playboy Mansion), which of course is shorthand for how the whole word is typically mispronounced: “Heffa-Why-Zen.” Good beer. Bad pronunciation. Try this instead: “Hay-Fa-Vy-T’sen” where the “Vy” is like “Eye” with a “V” in front of it.
However, most Germans refer to Hefeweizen as “Weissbier” or “Weißbier” (White Beer). Both spellings of “Weissbier” are acceptable and both words are pronounced the same: “Vice Bee-Eh”. That capital “B” looking symbol in the word “Weißbier” (ß) is called an “Eszett” or “scharfes S” (sharp S), and can either be written as “ß” or “ss”, and is sometimes referred to in English as a “long s”.]
Berliner Weisse: Speaking of popular German beer styles, the tart Berliner Weisse beer style has been making a big splash in the U.S. as of late, but are you saying it correctly? Many English speakers say it the wrong way, like this: “Burr-Len-Er Whys”. Here’s how it’s actually pronounced: “Bear-Lean-Er Vice-Eh”.
Lambic/Lambiek: On the subject of sour beer, you might hear a lot of people pronouncing “Lambic” as, well, “Lam-Bic”. But in Belgium (the place where the Lambic beer style originated), Lambic is brewed by both French and Dutch speakers, and in either language, Lambic is pronounced closer to “Lahm-Beek” (“beek” like a bird’s beak). In fact, in Dutch it’s spelled “Lambiek” where the “biek” part of the pronunciation becomes all the more apparent (listen below).
Most English speakers are probably more familiar with the French spelling “Lambic”, which probably helps explain why we generally incorrectly pronounce it as “Lam-Bic”. (Below is an audio clip of the French version.)
Kölsch (Koelsh): This light and refreshing ale comes to us from the German city of Cologne (or Köln in German— hence the name of the beer style), and is admittedly a tough one to pronounce because there is no sound equivalent in English for the two little dots (umlaut) over the letter “o” that looks like a little surprised face in the word “Kölsch”. Even so, this is how to say it wrong: “Coal-Sh”. This is closer to correct: “K’ul-Sh”.
But you might see why someone would pronounce the word “Kölsch” with emphasis on the “O” because it’s almost as if the little “ö” in the word is subliminally prompting you to make an “O” shape with your mouth. I mean if the little surprised face (ö ) is doing it, we should too, right? Ohhhhhh…
Gueuze/Geuze: This sour beer style hails from Belgium, the land of predominately French and Dutch speakers. But in this case, not only are there two common spellings for this word, but also two different ways to pronounce it, neither of which are “Goo-zz”. The easier of the two variations to pronounce is the French version spelled “gueuze” and pronounced “G’ugh-zz”. (Audio clip below.)
The Dutch spell it “geuze” and the pronunciation is a little trickier for English speakers, but give it a try: “Heww-Za”, where the “eww” part is pronounced like when a little kid expresses disgust as with “Eww gross!” (Audio clip below.)