Honey influences flavor through several mechanisms.
First, honey contributes its own flavor; second, honey has an impact on how the four basic tastes are perceived; and third, honey has a smoothing effect on the overall flavor profile.
The extent to which honey affects the flavor of beers depends upon the type of honey (floral source) used, the amount of honey added and the brewing technique applied.
Sensory research conducted for the National Honey Board has shown that honey can decrease the perception of sourness and bitterness.1 When added to beer, this means that honey tends to reduce the bitterness provided by hops (to which some consumers may object) without masking the desirable flavor components that hops provide. Brewers say that honey gives a nice “roundness” to the beer, which is very desirable.