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Beer Terminology

  • Abbey-style

    A range of strong ale styles originating from Benelux monastic brewing traditions.

  • Acetaldehyde

    Green apple aroma, a byproduct of fermentation.

  • Additive

    Enzymes, preservatives and antioxidants which are added to simplify the brewing process or prolong shelf life.

  • Alcohol by weight

    Amount of alcohol in beer measured in terms of the percentage weight of alcohol per volume of beer, i.e., 3.2% alcohol by weights equals 3.2 grams of alcohol per 100 centiliters of beer. (It is approximately 20% less than alcohol by volume.)

  • Adjunct

    Fermentable material used as a substitute for traditional grains, to make beer lighter-bodied or cheaper.

  • Alcohol

    Ethyl alcohol or ethanol. An intoxicating by-product of fermentation, which is caused by yeast acting on sugars in the malt. Alcohol content is expressed as a percentage of volume or weight.

  • Alcohol by weight

    Amount of alcohol in beer measured in terms of the percentage weight of alcohol per volume of beer, i.e., 3.2% alcohol by weights equals 3.2 grams of alcohol per 100 centiliters of beer. (It is approximately 20% less than alcohol by volume.)

  • Alcohol by volume

    Amount of alcohol in beer in terms of percentage volume of alcohol per volume of beer.

  • Alcoholic

    Warming taste of ethanol and higher alcohol's.

  • Ale

    Beers distinguished by use of top fermenting yeast strains, Saccharomyces cerevisiae. The top fermenting yeast perform at warmer temperatures than do yeast's used to brew lager beer, and their byproducts are more evident in taste and aroma. Fruitiness and esters are often part of an ale's character.

  • All-grain

    A term used to describe the brewing process in which only malt grist is used with no malt extract added

  • All-malt

    A relatively new term in America. "All malt" refers to a beer made exclusively with barley malt and without adjuncts.

  • Alpha Acid

    A resin contained in the hop plant that is responsible for the bitterness in beer.

  • Alt Bier

    Copper colored, top-fermented beer made almost exclusively in Dusseldorf.  Hoppy, slightly bitter beer.

  • Amber

    Any top or bottom fermented beer having an amber color.  Amber ales are light to medium bodied and can be anywhere from light copper to light brown in color.  Flavorwise they can vary from the generic to serious craft brewed styles with extravagant hoppy aromas and full malt character.  Typically amber ales are quite malty but not heavily caramelized in flavor.

  • Anaerobic

    An organism, such as a bottom-fermenting lager yeast, that is able to metabolize without oxygen present.

  • Aroma hops

    Varieties of hop chosen to impart bouquet. (See Hops)

  • Astringent

    A drying, puckering taste; tannic; can be derived from boiling the grains, long mashes, over sparging or sparging with hard water.

  • Attenuation

    Extent to which yeast consumes fermentable sugars (converting them into alcohol and carbon dioxide).

  • Bacterial

    A general term covering off-flavors such as moldy, musty, woody, lactic acid, vinegar, or microbiological spoilage.

  • Balling Degrees

    Scale indicating density of sugars in wort. Devised by C J N Balling.

  • Barley

    A cereal grain that is malted for use in the grist that becomes the mash in the brewing of beer.

  • Barley Wine

    An exceptionally strong style of old English ale, typically dark, rich, fruity and malty.

  • Barrel

    A unit of measurement used by brewers in some countries. In Britain, a barrel holds 36 imperial gallons (1 imperial gallon = 4.5 liters), or 1.63 hectoliters. In the United States, a barrel holds 31.5 US gallons (1 US gallon = 3.8 liters), or 1.17 hectoliters.

  • Beer

    Name given alcohol-containing beverages produced by fermenting grain, specifically malt, and flavored with hops.

  • Bitter

    Bitter is an English specialty, generally denoting the standard ale, the “session” beer in an English brewers range.  They are characterized by a fruitiness, light to medium body and an accent on hop aromas more than hop bitters.  Colors range from golden to copper.

  • Bitterness

    The perception of a bitter flavor, in beer from iso-alpha-acid in solution (derived from hops). It is measured in International Bitterness Units (IBU).

  • Black and Tan

    A layered mixture of stout and lager or ale. The stout goes on top.

  • Black malt

    Partially malted barley roasted at high temperatures. Black malt gives a dark color and roasted flavor to beer.

  • Bock (or bok)

    Originally a dark German lager. These beers range in color from pale to deep amber tones and feature a decided sweetness on the palate.

  • Body

    Thickness and mouth-filling property of a beer described as "full or thin bodied".

  • Bottle-conditioning

    Secondary fermentation and maturation in the bottle, creating complex aromas and flavors.

  • Bottom-fermenting yeast

    One of the two types of yeast used in brewing. Bottom-fermenting yeast works well at low temperatures and ferments more sugars leaving a crisp, clean taste and then settles to the bottom of the tank. Also referred to as "lager yeast".

  • Breweriana

    Brewing memorabilia, such as old beer containers and advertisements.

  • Brewhouse

    The collective equipment used to make beer.

  • Brew Kettle

    The vessel in which wort from the mash is boiled with hops. Also called a copper.

  • Brewpub

    Pub that makes its own beer and sells at least 50% of it on premises. Also known in Britain as a home-brew house and in Germany as a house brewery.

  • Bright Beer Tank

    See conditioning tank.

  • Brown Ale

    The precise definition of Brown ales would depend on where you are in England.  It is nowadays much more closely associated with Northern England, specifically Tadcaster and Newcastle.  These medium-bodied reddish-brown beers are accented with a nutty character, a gentle fruitiness, and low bitterness.  Alcohol is moderate, a maximum of 5% ABV.  English style brown ales have become very popular with U.S. brewers.

  • Bung

    The stopper in the hole in a keg or cask through which the keg or cask is filled and emptied. The hole may also be referred to as a bung or bunghole. Real beer must use a wooden bung.

  • Butterscotch

    See diacetyl.

  • Cabbagelike

    Aroma and taste of cooked vegetables; often a result of wort spoilage bacteria killed by alcohol in fermentation.

  • CAMRA

    The Campaign for Real Ale. An organization in England founded in 1971 in order to preserve the production of cask-conditioned beers and ales.

  • Carbonation

    Sparkle caused by carbon dioxide, either created during fermentation or injected later.

  • Caramel

    A cooked sugar that is used to add color and alcohol content to beer. It is often used in place of more expensive malted barley.

  • Caramel malt

    A sweet, coppery-colored malt. Caramel or crystal malt imparts both color and flavor to beer. Caramel malt has a high concentration of unfermentable sugars that sweeten the beer and, contribute to head retention.

  • Cask

    A closed, barrel-shaped container for beer. They come in various sizes and are now usually made of metal. The bung in a cask of "Real" beer or ale must be made of wood to allow the pressure to be relived, as the fermentation of the beer, in the cask, continues.

  • Cask-conditioning

    Secondary fermentation and maturation in the cask at the point of sale. Creates light carbonation.

  • Chlorophenolic

    A plastic-like aroma; caused by chemical combination of chlorine and organic compounds.

  • Chill haze

    Cloudiness caused by precipitation of a protein-tannin compound at low temperatures, does not affect flavor.

  • Chill proof

    Beer treated to allow it to withstand cold temperatures without clouding.

  • Clovelike

    Spicy character reminiscent of cloves; characteristic of some wheat beers. Or, if excessive, may derive from wild yeast.

  • Conditioning

    Period of maturation intended to impart "condition" (natural carbonation). Warm conditioning further develops the complex of flavors. Cold conditioning imparts a clean, round taste.

  • Conditioning Tank

    A vessel in which beer is placed after primary fermentation where the beer matures, clarifies and, is naturally carbonated through secondary fermentation. Also called bright beer tank, serving tank and, secondary tank.

  • Contract beer

    Beer made by one brewery and then marketed by a company calling itself a brewery. The latter uses the brewing facilities of the former.

  • Copper

    See brew kettle.

  • Cream Ale

    A North American specialty that is somewhat a hybrid in style.  This style of beer is fermented like an ale at warm temperatures, but hten stored at cold temperatures for a period of time, much like a lager would be.  The resultant brew has the unchallenging crisp characteristics of a light pale lager, but is endowed with a hint of the aromatic complexities that ales provide.  Pale in color, they are generally more heavily carbonated and more heavily hopped than light lagers.

  • Decoction

    Exhaustive system of mashing in which portions of the wort are removed, heated, then returned to the original vessel.

  • Dextrin

    The unfermentable carbohydrate produced by the enzymes in barley. It gives the beer flavor, body, and mouthfeel. Lower temperatures produce more dextrin and less sugar. While higher temperatures produce more sugars and less dextrin.

  • Diacetyl

    A volatile compound in beer that contributes to a butterscotch flavor, measured in parts per million.

  • DMS

    Taste and aroma of sweet corn; results from malt, as a result of the short or weak boil of the wort, slow wort chilling, or bacterial infection. -- Dimethyl sulfide, a sulfur compound.

  • Dopplebock

    A high-gravity bock, extra strong, rich and weighty that is characterized by an intense malty sweetness. Dopplebocks were first brewed by Paulaner monks in Munich. At the time it was intended to be consumed as “liquid bread” during Lent.

  • Dortmunder Export

    Well balanced, smooth and refreshing. Dortmunders tend to be stronger and fuller than other pale lagers or Munich Helles styles. They may also be a shade darker and a touch hoppier. The style originates from the northern German city of Dortmunder.

  • Dosage

    The addition of yeast and/or sugar to the cask or bottle to aid secondary fermentation.

  • Draft (Draught)

    The process of dispensing beer from a bright tank, cask or, keg, by hand pump, pressure from an air pump or, injected carbon dioxide inserted into the beer container prior to sealing.

  • Dry-hopping

    The addition of dry hops to fermenting or aging beer to increase its hop character or aroma.

  • Dubbel

    Abbey style definition and can mean two fermentations. Usually a dark beer.

  • Dunkleweizen

    Dark German wheat beer, usually served cloudy with conditioning yeast.

  • EBC

    European Brewing Convention. An EBC scale is used to indicate colors in malts and beers.

  • Eisbock

    A strong German lager in which ice forms in the final stages of secondary fermentation, thus concentrating the alcohol.

  • Enzymes

    Catalysts that are found naturally in the grain. When heated in mash, they convert the starches of the malted barley into maltose, a sugar used in solution and fermented to make beer.

  • Ester

    A volatile flavor compound naturally created in fermentation. Often fruity, flowery or spicy.

  • Estery

    Aroma or flavor reminiscent of flowers or fruits.

  • Exchanger

    Equipment usually used after the boil for cooling wort quickly before yeast can be pitched in the wort.

  • Extract

    Sweet syrup that can be purchased in a sealed bag or can. The mashing and lautering processes have been performed by the extract manufacturer. Beers made from extracts are easier and quicker to make than ones made from grain. The negative side of using extracts is the loss of ingredient freshness, as well as the loss of strict control of the brewer’s end product.

  • Fahrenheit (degrees)

    F = ((Cx9)/( 5) + 32.

  • Fermentation

    Conversion of sugars into ethyl alcohol and carbon dioxide, through the action of yeast.

  • Final specific gravity

    The specific gravity of a beer when fermentation is complete (that is, all fermentable sugars have been fermented).

  • Fining

    An aid to clarification; a substance that attracts particles that would otherwise remain suspended in the brew.

  • Filter

    The removal of designated impurities by passing the wort through a medium, sometimes made of diatomaceous earth (made up of the microscopic skeletal remains of marine animals). Yeast in suspension is often targeted for removal.

  • Firkin

    A measurement or container of beer, which equals one quarter of a barrel (40.9 liters).

  • Framboise

    A lambic flavored with raspberries.

  • Fruity/Estery

    Flavor and aroma of bananas, strawberries, apples, or other fruit; from high temperature fermentation and certain yeast strains.

  • Goblet

    A glass that is bulbous so as to allow warming from the hand, which releases the fine aromas and flavors of the beer.

  • Golden Ale

    A strong Belgian-style of ale, of which Duvel is the best-known example.

  • Grainy

    Tastes like cereal or raw grain.

  • Gravity

    See specific gravity.

  • Grist

    Brewers' term for milled grains, or the combination of milled grains to be used in a particular brew. Derives from the verb to grind. Also sometimes applied to hops.

  • Hand Pump

    A device for dispensing draft beer using a pump operated by hand. The use of a hand pump allows the cask-conditioned beer to be served without the use of pressurized carbon dioxide.

  • Hang

    Lingering bitterness or harshness.

  • Hard Cider

    A fermented beverage made from apples.

  • Heat Exchanger

    A mechanical device used to rapidly reduce the temperature of the wort.

  • Hefe

    A German word meaning "yeast". Used mostly in conjunction with wheat (weiss) beers to denote that the beer is bottled or kegged with the yeast in suspension (hefe-weiss). These beers are cloudy, frothy and, very refreshing.

  • Hogshead

    Cask holding 54 imperial gallons (243 liters ).

  • Hop back

    Sieve-like vessel used to strain out the petals of the hop flowers. Known as a hop jack in the United States.

  • Hops

    Herb added to boiling wort or fermenting beer to impart a bitter aroma and flavor.

  • Hop Tea

    Used as an alternative to dry hopping to give beer a very aromatic quality.  A hop tea is made by boiling a pint of water with 2 oz. of pelletized hops, then adding it, cooled and stained, to the secondary fermenter.

  • Hoppy

    Aroma of hops. Does not include hop bitterness.

  • Infusion

    Simplest form of mash, in which grains are soaked in water. May be at a single temperature, or with upward or (occasionally) downward changes.

  • IBU

    International Bitterness units. A system of indicating the hop bitterness in finished beer.

  • IPA

    India Pale Ale. Heavily hopped strong pale ale originally brewed in the UK for shipping to colonies. Nowadays it is a hoppy, light colored ale.

  • Irish Moss

    Made from algae. A natural additive used to produce a clear beer.

  • Keg

    One-half barrel, or 15.5 U. S. gallons. A half keg or, 7.75 U. S. gallons, is referred to as a pony-keg.

  • Kolsch

    An ale from Cologne, Germany. Has the color of a pilsner with some of the fruity character of an ale. This is achieved with the use of top fermenting yeasts and pale pilsner malts.

  • Kräusening

    The addition of a small proportion of partly fermented wort to a brew during lagering. Stimulates secondary fermentation and imparts a crisp, spritzy character.

  • Kriek

    A lambic flavored with cherries.

  • Lacework

    Mark resembling lace that is left on side of glass by the head as the beer is drunk.

  • Lager

    Beers produced with bottom fermenting yeast strains, Saccharomyces uvarum (or carlsbergensis), which feremnt at colder fermentation temperatures than ales. This cooler environment inhibits the natural production of esters and other byproducts, creating a more crisp tasting product.

  • Lagering

    From the German word for storage. Refers to maturation for several weeks or months at cold temperatures (close to 0°C /32°F) to settle residual yeast, impart carbonation and make for clean, round flavors.

  • Lambic

    A light fruity Belgian-style ale, which uses stale hops to avoid bitterness and ferments with wild yeast.

  • Lauter

    To run the wort from the mash tun. From the German word to clarify. A lauter tun is a separate vessel that is used to do this job. It uses a system of sharp rakes to achieve a very intensive extraction of malt sugars.

  • Lauter Tun

    See mash tun.

  • Length

    The amount of wort brewed each time the brew house is in operation.

  • Light-Struck

    Skunklike smell; from exposure to light.

  • Liquor

    The brewer's word for water used in the brewing process, as included in the mash or, used to sparge the grains after mashing.

  • Maibock/Pale Bock

    Medium to full-bodied lagers whose alcohol content can vary widely, but typically 5-6% ABV. The color can vary from a light bronze to a deep amber and are characterized by a sweet malty palate and subtle hop character.  This is a Bock style that traditionally makes a spring appearance in May as a celebration of a new brewing season.

  • Malt (ing)

    The process by which barley is steeped in water, germinated than kilned to convert insoluble starch to soluble substances and sugar. The foundation ingredient of beer.

  • Malt Extract

    The condensed wort from a mash, consisting of maltose, dextrins and, other dissolved solids. Either as a syrup or powdered sugar, it is used by brewers, in solutions of water and extract, to reconstitute wort for fermentation.

  • Malt Liquor

    A legal term used in the U.S. to designate a fermented beverage of relatively high alcohol content (7%-8% by volume).

  • Mash

    (Verb) To release malt sugars by soaking the grains in water. (Noun) The resultant mixture.

  • Mash Tun

    A tank where grist is soaked in water and heated in order to convert the starch to sugar and extract the sugars and other solubles from the grist.

  • Maltose

    A water soluble, fermentable sugar contained in malt.

  • Mead

    Meads are produced by the fermentation of honey, water, yeast and optional ingredients such as fruit, herbs, and/or spices. According to final gravity, they are categorized as: dry (0.996 to 1009); medium (1010 to 1019); or sweet (1020 or higher). Wine, champagne, sherry, mead, ale or lager yeasts may be used.

  • Medicinal

    Chemical or phenolic character; can be the result of wild yeast, contact with plastic, or sanitizer residue.

  • Metallic

    Tastes tinny, bloodlike or coinlike; may come from bottle caps.

  • Microbrewery

    Small brewery generally producing less than 15,000 barrels per year. Sales primarily off premises.

  • Milk Stout

    Originally a stout brewed with lactose, which only partially ferments, producing a very sweet, nutritious, beer.

  • Mouthfeel

    A sensation derived from the consistency or viscosity of a beer, described, for example as thin or full.

  • Munich Helles

    A style of lager from Munich which is very soft and round on the palate with a pale to golden hue. These beers tend to be quite malty with subtle hop character.

  • Musty

    Moldy, mildewy character; can be the result of cork or bacterial infection.

  • Old Ale

    A vague UK style, covering various traditional strong, rich ales. Overlaps somewhat with barley wines.

  • Original gravity

    A measurement of the density of fermentable sugars in a mixture of malt and water with which a brewer begins a given batch.

  • Oxidized

    Stale flavor of wet cardboard, paper, rotten pineapple, or sherry, as a result of oxygen as the beer ages or is exposed to high temperatures.

  • Pale Lagers

    These are the standard international beer style. This style is the generic spin-off of the pilsner style. Pale lagers are generally light to medium-bodied with a light to medium hop impression and a clean, crisp malt character. Alcohol content is typically between 3.5-5% ABV.

  • Pasteurization

    Heating of beer to 60-79(°C/140-174°F to stabilize it microbiologically. Flash-pasteurization is applied very briefly, for 15-60 seconds by heating the beer as it passes through the pipe. Alternately, the bottled beer can be passed on a conveyor belt through a heated tunnel. This more gradual process takes at least 20 minutes and sometimes much longer.

  • Phenolic

    Flavor and aroma of medicine, plastic, Band-Aids, smoke, or cloves; caused by wild yeast or bacteria, or sanitizer residue.

  • Pilsner

    The original clear, pale lagers, (originally from Pilsen). Nowadays characterized by the citrusy Saaz hops and bubbly body. The hallmark of a fresh pilsner is the dense, white head. The alcohol level is typically around 5% ABV. Classic pilsners are thoroughly refreshing, but are delicate and must be fresh to show their best.

  • Pitch

    To add yeast to wort.

  • Plato, degrees

    Expresses the specific gravity as the weight of extract in a 100 gram solution at 64°F (17.5°C). Refinement of the Balling scale.

  • Porter

    Thought to originate from the mix of sour and young beer drunk by porters working in the London stations and docks.  Nowadays taken to mean a dark bitter beer, half way between a bitter and a stout.

  • Priming

    The addition of sugar at the maturation stage to promote a secondary fermentation.

  • Pub

    An establishment that serves beer and sometimes other alcoholic beverages for consumption on premise. The term originated in England and is the shortened form of "public house".

  • Publican

    The owner or manager of a pub.

  • Quadrupel

    Abbey style definition. Very strong, 10% abv, chewy, dark and fruity beer.

  • Real Ale

    The term used by CAMRA for traditional cask-conditioned ale.

  • Regional specialty brewery

    A brewery that produces more than 15,000 barrels of beer annually, with its largest selling product a specialty beer.

  • Reinheitsgebot

    "Purity Law" originating in Bavaria in 1516 and now applied to all German brewers making beer for consumption in their own country. It requires that only malted grains, hops, yeast and water may be used in the brewing.

  • Saccharomyces cerevisiae

    See Top-fermenting yeast.

  • Saccharomyces uvarum

    See Bottom-fermenting yeast.

  • Saccharomyces carlsbergensis

    See Bottom-fermenting yeast.

  • Saison

    Saison beers are distinctive, specialty beers from the Belgian province of Hainuat.  They were originally brewed in the early spring for summer consumption. Carbonation ensues from a secondary fermentation in the bottle. The color is classically golden-orange and the flavors are refreshing with citrus and fruity hop notes.

  • Salty

    A table salt flavor; experienced on the side of the tongue.

  • Schooner

    Type of glass tapering from top to bottom.  Generally used for lagers.

  • Schwarz Beer

    Originally brewed in Thuringia, a state in eastern Germany, these lager style brews were well known to be darker in color than their Munich counterparts. Often relatively full-bodied, rarely under 5% ABV, these beers classically feature a bitter chocolate, roasted malt note and a rounded character.

  • Secondary fermentation

    Stage of fermentation occurring in a closed container from several weeks to several months.

  • Shelf life

    Describes the number of days a beer will retain it's peak drinkability. The shelf life for commercially produced beers is usually a maximum of four months.

  • Solventlike

    Reminiscent of acetone or lacquer thinner; caused by high fermentation temperatures.

  • Sour/Acidic

    Vinegarlike or lemonlike; can be caused by bacterial infection.

  • Specific gravity

    A measure of the density of a liquid or solid compared to that of water ((1.000 at 39°F (4°C)).

  • Sparge

    To spray grist with hot water in order to remove soluble sugars (maltose). This takes place at the end of the mash.

  • Squares

    Brewers' term for a square fermenting vessel.

  • Steep

    The process of soaking specialty grains in a nylon or muslin bag in water at between 150-170 degrees F in order for the sugars contained to be added to the wort.

  • Stout

    A black or dark brown beer originating from Ireland. This is brewed with soft water like a lager, but with top fermenting yeast like an ale. Its color comes from the highly roasted barley, which also imparts its characteristic bitterness.

  • Sweet

    Taste like sugar; experienced on the front of the tongue.

  • Sulfurlike

    Reminiscent of rotten eggs or burnt matches; a by-product of some yeasts.

  • Tart

    Taste sensation cause by acidic flavors.

  • Terminal gravity

    Synonym for final specific gravity.

  • Top-fermenting yeast

    One of the two types of yeast used in brewing. Top-fermenting yeast works better at warmer temperatures and are able to tolerate higher alcohol concentrations than bottom-fermenting yeast. It is unable to ferment some sugars, and results in a fruitier, sweeter beer. Also known as "ale yeast".

  • Trappist Ale

    According to EX law, trappist ale may only come from six abbeys of the trappist order that still brew beer on their premises.  Five are in Belgium and one is in Holland.  Although the styles may differ widely between them, they all share a common trait of being top fermented, strong, bottle conditioned, complex and fully flavored brews.  Trappist Ales are among the most complex and old fashioned of beers that one can find.

  • Tripel

    Abbey style definition. Pale, strong ale, 9% abv. Can mean three fermentations.

  • Tun

    Any large vessels used in brewing. In America, "tub" is often preferred.

  • Units of bitterness

    See IBU.

  • Vienna Style

    The classic amber to red lager, which was originally brewed in Austria in the 19thcentury.  They have a very malty toasted character and a hint of sweetness.  On the beer label the terms “fest marzen” or “Oktoberfest” generally imply the Vienna style.

  • Vinous

    Reminiscent of wine.

  • Weissbier

    Cloudy, pale German wheat beer.

  • Winter Ales

    Spiced winter ales are popular hybrids among U.S. craft brewers. Typically, they are strong ales that have had some spice added during the brewing process. True to their name, they make ideal sipping beers with which to ward off winters chill and get a dose of seasonal spices.

  • Winy

    Sherry-like flavor that can be caused by warm fermentation or oxidation in very old beer.

  • Wort

    The solution of grain sugars strained from the mash tun. At this stage, regarded as "sweet wort", later as brewed wort, fermenting wort and finally beer.

  • Wort Chiller

    See heat exchanger.

  • Yeast

    A micro-organism of the fungus family. Genus Saccharomyces.

  • Yeasty

    Yeastlike flavor; a result of yeast in suspension or beer sitting too long on sediment.

  • Zymurgy

    The science of study of fermentation.

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