Words for beer.
Beerology, zythology.

Dany Griffon

Jean-Paul Hébert


When the word "beer" is evoked, Frenchies' usual replies are "foam", "hops", "conviviality" ... The emergence of craft breweries has created a great craze, the perception of beer is changing, the terminology is evolving, and new words are buzzing. Of course, many of them are Anglo-Saxon, IPA (India pale Ale), IBU (International Bitterness Unit), and Craft beer, these latter almost untranslatable into French as home-beer or semi-industrial beer, sometimes given abusively!

French words for beer My friend beero

If you want to write a word ... use the pen of the friend beero (* a french lyric "By the light of the moon,  my friend Pierrot, Lend me your quill, To write a word ...").

In May 2018 the happybeertime blog announced the good news: the words biérologie and zythologie were to be included in the 2019 editions of the dictionaries petit Larousse illustré and petit Robert. The proposed definitions are sober. Biérologie: study of beer and zythologie: synonym of biérologie. It's a bit short ...; it's finally a recognition of the importance of beer's status in society. What a long way traveled by the lovers of beer culture.

Bierologie - Zythologie
Larousse Robert Bierology
International beer tasting : Beer Bir Bjor

Introduced as new disciplines in France, these new words are however well known in their Anglo-Saxon form: beerology. The book by Mirella AMATO published in Canada in 2004 attests to this fact. In the USA, one of the most famous anthropological museums in the world, the Museum of Man in San Diego, presented a temporary exhibition entitled "Beerology" in 2014. Posters exploring the history, Inca practices, the role of Mesopotamia, Chinese beers, etc. were complemented by lectures and beer tasting sessions. Due to its success, the temporary exhibition has been prolonged until summer 2015.

San Diego Museum of Man. Beerology


If the word beerology appeared several decades ago, the word biérologie appeared in French only in 2003 thanks to our Belgian-Quebecois friend Mario D'Eer. In his book "Atlas mondial de la bière", he introduced the concept of beerology. His works published in Quebec, including "Ales, lagers, lambics" and "Epousailles bières et fromages", has contributed to the dissemination of beer culture, not forgetting his collection of almost 500 aphorisms on beer, "La bière philosophale". It is due time to pay tribute to the inventor of the word "biérologie" in France: Ronny Coutteure. For this Belgian-born actor, beerology "is the art of making bubbles speak with erudition, insight and humour". In his "ferme des hirondelles", a café-theatre, in Fretin, suburb of Lille, he presented his show (available on DVD): "Eloge de la bière". La voix du Nord published the text in 1997. Today, to pay homage to this pioneer of beer culture, a Giant of the North in his effigy animates the festivals of Lille. Ronny, the beer-loving poet, a kind-hearted man, always willing to help, left us in 2000, victim of a burn-out. The "ferme des hirondelles" perpetuates his benevolent humanism and his attachment to the North of France, a country of traditions and loyalties.

Giant of Lille picturing Ronny Couteure

In France, beer, supplanted by wine, has only been defended from a cultural point of view by a few authors. They mapped out the first tracks, which are now becoming highways of knowledge. Thanks to Berger, Dubois, Dutin, Colin, Delos, Eyer, Gocar, Guingamp, Hell, Marziou, Taveneaux, Urion, Voluer for having played the pioneers. Elisabeth Pierre, the magazines Bière Mag and Bières et Mets have carried on the work of disseminating knowledge that has allowed beerology to become known and recognised. In 2020, numerous publications were issued on beer, breweries and beer tasting.

The spread of beer culture began with the creation of museums. The beer museum in Stenay in the Meuse, now called the European museum, is due to the initiative of the late historian Philippe Voluer. The French brewery museum in Saint Nicolas de Port, under the impetus of the indefatigable Benoit Taveneaux, is still making a major contribution to spreading beer culture. For more than 40 years, the volunteers, initially recruited from the former teachers of the Nancy brewing school, have cleared the first paths.

Today, thanks to their books, their summer courses, their workshops, their permanent and temporary exhibitions, and their brewing demonstrations in their "piccolo brasserie", they contribute to enhancing the image of beer in France. Craft brewers owe them a lot. The annual meeting of the brewer's exhibition in Saint Nicolas de Port with its conferences and its competition to reward craft beers is a "must". It has been a success for 23 years. Since 2018, due to its success, this event is now hosted at the exhibition centre in Nancy.

Concours national de bière

To spread the beer culture, let's also mention the beer friends from the now on region "Hauts de France". Their quarterly publication for more than 35 years "La gazette des Amis de la bière" testifies to the brewing dynamism of their region, without forgetting the history and the celebration of beer lovers thanks to La Ghilde des Edwards Cervoisiers.

Alongside the outpouring of goodwill for the promotion of beer and its culture, the Heineken France group played an important role through the monthly distribution of a booklet: "Tendance bière". A friendly "Frimousse" frog described beer in a playful and relevant way. Under the impetus of Hervé Marziou, described by journalists as the gentleman taster, the word "biérologie" appeared in 2005 through prestigious events framing the biérologie competition. Created by Heineken in 2005, this competition, supported by the French Ministry of Education, is aimed at pupils and students who have reached the age of majority and are in vocational training for CHR (Café-Hotel-Restaurant) branch.

Beerology at Beaubourg

The aim is to improve knowledge about beer, how it is made, how it is tasted, and even the words used to talk about it. In 2015, Heineken presented the results of a contest for the general public at the Palais Brongniart (Palais de la Bourse) in Paris. Heineken's initiative has made a significant contribution to the development of a quality approach to the serving and tasting of beers.

10 ans de concours de bierologie

Under the impetus of craft brewers, often young, qualified and full of imagination, meetings of beer lovers and "beer" events have multiplied throughout the country. There is no region or department that does not have a meeting of brewers and beer lovers. Let us mention as examples the ode to beer created on the initiative of students from the AFPA in Carcassonne in the middle of the Portel Les Corbières wine centre and the friendly meeting of Gambrinus and Bacchus on the occasion of Saint Patrick's Day at the Assas cooperative cellar near Montpellier.

Aude à la bière Patrick (Irish beer Patron) mets Bacchus Beer Festival ... and wine



Beer tasters often prefer the term zythology. So what is it really? The word has been used for a long time in Belgium to designate a connoisseur of beer culture and as a corollary a taster, i.e. a beerologist! In Belgium, the title of "zythologist" is protected by an access to the profession in Flanders, whereas it is not yet protected in Wallonia. The best known Belgian zythologist is a strong personality: Sven Gatz. Minister of Culture, Media, Youth and Culture in 2014, this bilingual Fleming became in 2015 the general manager of the Belgian brewers' federation, whose headquarters are located in the brewers' house on the main square in Brussels. Appointed in June 2019 as Minister of Finance and Budget despite his beer consumption, he did not escape the Covid in 2020!

The etymology of the word refers to the Greek words zythos (beer) and logos (study, discourse). Zythum, the last word in French dictionaries for ages (1933?), refers to Egyptian beer from the time of Greek colonisation, around 50 BC; did Cleopatra drink it? In France, the words zythologie and zythologue bring a nuance in relation to the tasting of beer and its corollary the association of beers and food or to use a trendy term: the food pairing. Today, a lager-style beer, ZYTHOS, is marketed in Greece.

Brewery in ancient Egypt Zythos VAP

Beerologists and zythologists have in common the knowledge and appreciation of beer. In Canada, the first "beerologist" certification was developed by cousin D'Eer in 2004, and taken over by the MBière school of the Mondial de la bière. A hundred or so beerologists have been certified. In France, an increasing number of private individuals, institutions and groups offer courses and workshops to develop skills in the field of beerology. There is, however, no national or international school of beerology. Also, the qualifications are not protected and any person can call himself or herself a beerologist or zythologist. In Germany, the term "biersommelier" is preferred. The Doemens certification is well known and there is even an association of graduates from this institution.


In France, the term beer sommelier is rarely used. Elisabeth Pierre, author of the Hachette beer guide and the first woman to call herself a zythologist, has been working for several years to raise awareness of the possible pairings between beer and food.


Food and beer pairing.

Even though beer has entered the culinary college of France in 2019, it is still rare to see on restaurant menus suggestions for the choice of beer to accompany a dish. Yet beer can accompany almost any dish. A white beer is ideal for fish and raw vegetables, while an amber beer will develop the toasted flavours of a grilled chicken. A lager will go very well with a nice rib of beef, for example, and the combination of dark beer and chocolate cake is truly magnificent.

Recipes for cooking with beer have been rediscovered and new preparations are flourishing. The historic Belgian book by the Knights of the Fourquet was succeeded by the book by Robert Dutin, known for his guidebooks: "Cooking with beer".

Cooking in Gambrinus's country Cooking with beer Beer on the menu

Today the quarterly magazine: "Bières et Mets" promotes the beer culture under its gastronomic angle. Local beer recipes are rediscovered and the creations of chefs and craftsmen are highlighted. In issue 94, spring 2019 of the Gazette des Amis de la Bière, Jérôme Hennebelle-Goemans writes a paper on the pairing of northern cheeses and beers. He suggests 4 pairings between the mildest and strongest cheeses. The pairings, as our friend Mario D'Eer would say, involve fresh goat's cheese, camembert, mimolette and maroilles. We are in the middle of the terroir and the beers are from the region. He defines the basic rules: serve the same beer with the one used to cook the dish, know the beer, never hesitate to talk to the brewer or the cellarman. Cautious, he concludes: "Have fun, be curious, and make your own pairings according to your tastes and desires. In short, enjoy yourself".

Even if the 2018 campaign of the French brewers' association: "Brassons les idées reçues" (Let's brew the preconceptions) has promoted a new approach to gastronomy associating beers and food, there are still not many restaurants in France offering on their menus beers to be associated with the dish. Our Spanish and Italian friends, particularly with the slow food movement, are ahead of our restaurant owners.

Brassons les idées recues Los cervecistas Alhambra reserva 1925

If you are a beer lover you can enter the biosphere of beerology. You will then arrive in bieronomy, a magical country where biocracy has come to power to allow you to become true locabibibuvores, also known as biérolocavores, depending on the local dialect. You will be able to satisfy your desire for beer tourism and discover regional beers selected by the most talented beer experts. They will offer you extraordinary beer evenings that will tantalise your taste buds and highlight the most delicious beer and food combinations. Beer therapists who know the benefits and virtues of beer will look after your health, provided that you only consume them wisely and in moderation. To quote the Belgian saying: "A beer brewed with knowledge is savoured with wisdom.

Whatever the term used: beerologist or zythologist, let's be happy to see that the beer culture is developing and is finally giving this thousand-year-old beverage its letters of nobility. Let's not forget that beer, according to Ronny Coutteure, is good for your health, it's good for your mood and it's above all liquid friendship.


Jean-Paul Hébert and Dany Griffon authors of  « Toutes les bières moussent –elles ? » éditions Quae. A book voted 1st best in the world by the XXVéme Gourmand Awards 2020 de gourmand-awards.

Jean-Paul Hébert
10/05/2021  Jean-Paul Hébert