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
Märzen: In 1553, a Bavarian brewing ordnance decreed that beer may only be brewed between Sept. 29 and April 23. Märzen was brewed in March (the German word for March is “März”, hence the beer style “Märzen”), and was designed to last the summer months with the last bottles being served during the Oktoberfest celebration towards the end of September. This is why the Märzen beer style is sometimes also called “Oktoberfestbier”.
The wrong way to say “Märzen” is like this: “Mars-in” (like a hotel on Mars: The Mars Inn). The more accurate way is like this = “Mare-Tsen” where “Mare” is pronounced like the English word “mare” (an adult female horse). Remember it like this: “The old mare loves Märzen”. (Audio clip below.)
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).
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.)
Gose: This now popular salty sour treat originates from the city of Goslar in Northern Germany. The commonly wrong way to say it is like this: “Goes” or “Gohs”, like in the sentence “Joe goes to the bar.” The right way is “Gohs-Eh”, with emphasis on the “O” like the healthy breakfast beverage Mimosa.
Bière de Garde: One of the very few beer styles of French origin, Bière de Garde means “beer for keeping/storing” (beer for guarding), and was traditionally a farmhouse ale from Northern France which was brewed to a stronger alcohol content at the end of the brewing season and thus could be stored or kept (guarded) for subsequent distribution during the warmer months.
The wrong way to pronounce this historical beer is “Beer Day Guard”. The closer way to say it is like this: “Bee-Y’Air D’Guard”, where “Bière” sounds like the French name “Pierre”, like the former Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau. The French word “de”, which usually means “of” but is here translated as “for”, sounds more like “duh” than “day”.
Rauchbier: Classical Rauchbier is a historical specialty smoked beer originating from Bamberg, Germany, with the Schlenkerla brewery producing the gold standard of the style. Literally translated as “smoke beer”, the beer style is traditionally made with malt smoked over beech wood, and the beer itself can vary from somewhat smoky to bbq in your mouth, depending on the proportion of smoked malt used (sometimes up to 100%).
When it comes to pronouncing the style, the wrong way is like this: “Rausch Beer”. Closer to correct is like this: “Rauk Bee-Eh” where the “R” in “Rauch” is rolled like in Spanish. But if you really want to sound like a native speaker, try pronouncing “Rauch” like this: “Rau” (roll that “R”), and then make a noise like you would when you’re about to hock a small loogie. (Audio clip below.)
Piwo Grodziskie: Speaking of smoked beer, this once well-known oak-smoked light wheat beer originated from the town of Grodzisk Wielkopolski, which is located in modern day western Poland. When it comes to the Polish language, the tricky part, at least for most English speakers, is that letters in Polish words don’t always behave like they do in English. Take for example the Polish word for “beer” which is “Piwo”. It’s not pronounced “Pee-Woah”, but rather “Pee Voh” (which, by the way, is how you say “beer” in many other Slavic languages including Russian, Croatian, Bosnian, Czech, Serbian, Ukrainian, and a few others).
So now we’ve got the first word down. “Grodziskie”, on the other hand, is a little tougher because you have to remember to roll the “r” like you would in Spanish, but also because of the “dz” letter combination which in Polish turns out sounding closer to how you might say “gee” in English as in “Gee, Polish is tricky”.
Let’s put it altogether: “Pee-Voh Grow-Jees-K’ya”. (Did you remember to roll the “r”?)
Still a little tricky? Luckily there’s an equally acceptable alternative name for Pivo Grodziskie commonly used in German-speaking countries. That name is “Grätzer” and is pronounced “Great-Sir”. (One of the rare occasions that a German word is the easier way to go, and probably the name you’ll see being used to call this beer in most English-speaking countries too.)
[Fun fact: The linguistic term for the “dz” sound in Polish is called the “voiced alveolo-palatal sibilant affricate” and is transcribed as d͡ʑ. Try saying that term ten times fast. Or even once.]
DIPA: DIPA, or “Double IPA” (not “Dark IPA), is one of the more popular American contributions to the beer styles, but since we’ve heard it pronounced as “Dip-Ah”, “Dee-Pah”, and also spoken out as “Double IPA”, we’ll leave it up to the public to decide.
Now you know they “correct” way to say these beer styles (or at least the way a native speaker would say them). But here’s your dilemma: Do you say these beer styles closer to how they were intended in hopes that the bartender at the craft beer bar knows the correct pronunciation too, or do you assume that the bartender doesn’t know how to say the beer style and you mispronounce the beer incorrectly on purpose?
Or worse yet, what if someone overhears you pronouncing the beer style correctly and accuses you of being a beer snob? Would you ever live down the shame?
This is why I still pronounce “Merlot” as “Mer-Lot”.
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Hi, I’m Dan: Beer Editor for Beer Syndicate, Beer and Drinking Blogger, Gold Medal-Winning Homebrewer, Beer Reviewer, AHA Member, Beer Judge, Shameless Beer Promoter, and Beer Traveler. Interests? Beer.