With craft beer, brewpubs, home brewing and craft breweries all the rage, it can be a bit overwhelming if you're not familiar with beer terminology. It can also be slightly intimidating when you want to experience the newest brewery in town, but you're not sure what all of the technical lingo means, and you'd like to place your order with confidence.
Check out our Craft Beer 101 terminology glossary. It will help you understand the basics about craft beers and brewing, and get you well on your way to being a "beer geek."
ABV - A number associated with each type of beer that states the percentage of alcohol by volume (technically speaking - the amount of alcohol in beer in terms of percentage volume of alcohol per volume of beer); always higher than alcohol by weight.
ABW - A number also associated with each type of beer, which measures the percentage weight of alcohol per volume of beer.
Adjuncts - An unmalted fermentable ingredient, such as sugar or honey. It's used to increase the alcohol or add to the flavor. Adjunct grains, such as corn, rice, oats, wheat or rye, can be added to lighten the flavor of the beer.
Ale - Ales are beers made with top-fermenting yeast. They are typically fermented at warmer temperatures than lagers, and are often served warmer. Ales absorb some of the byproducts from the fermentation which cause can a fruity or eatery nose or flavor.
Ale yeast - A top-fermenting yeast used to make ales. Ale yeast ferments at warmer temperatures (close to room temperature). The many varieties of ale yeast used for different flavors and aromas make it popular among craft brewers.
Barley - A cereal grain that is malted for use in the grist that becomes the mash in the brewing of beer.
• Bomber - A 22-ounce bottle of beer.
• Can - Typically 12 or 16 ounces, cans have recently become more popular with craft brewers because the beer is never exposed to light, and cans are more airtight than bottles, preventing oxidation.
• Cask - A closed, barrel-shaped container for beer, which come in various sizes and is usually made of stainless steel or aluminum.
• Growler - Growlers are usually ½ gal (64 oz) or 2L (68 oz) in volume and made of glass. Brewpubs often offer growlers to sell beer to go. Often a customer will pay a deposit on the growler but can bring it back again and again for a refill, or can purchase the growler outright.
• Keg - A large vessel for serving beer on draft. Kegs come in many shapes and sizes. The typical keg is ½ barrel or 15.5 gallons. A pony keg is ¼ barrel or 7.75 gallons. A corny keg is 5 gallons. One gallon of beer yields ten and a half 12 oz. servings.
Bitterness - also IBU and BU - In beer, the bitterness is caused by the tannins and iso-humulones of hops. Bitterness of hops is perceived in the taste. The amount of bitterness in a beer is one of the defining characteristics of a beer style. It is measured in International Bitterness Units (IBU).
Bock - A very strong lager traditionally brewed in winter to celebrate the coming spring. Full-bodied, malty, well-hopped.
Body - Thickness and mouth-filling property of a beer described as "full or thin bodied."
BOP (Brew on premises) - Businesses that rent their facilities for do-it-yourself brewers to come in and brew their own beer.
Breweriana - Brewing memorabilia, i.e. old beer containers, advertisements and signs.
Brewpub - A restaurant that brews and serves its own beer on premises.
Cold filter - As an alternative to pasteurizing, beer can be passed through a filter fine enough to remove the suspended yeast and stop fermentation. Preserving more beer flavor than pasteurization, cold-filtered beers are often incorrectly called "draught."
Color - The hue or shade of a beer, primarily derived from grains, sometimes derived from fruit or other ingredients in beer. Beer styles made with caramelized, toasted or roasted malts or grains will exhibit increasingly darker colors. The color of a beer may often, but not always, allow you to anticipate how a beer might taste. It's important to note that beer color does not equate to alcohol level, mouthfeel or calories in beer.
Conditioning - The process of maturing and carbonating the beer. It is the last step before the beer is ready to drink. Carbonation can be added through natural conditioning in the bottle, cask or conditioning tank. Beer can also be force-carbonated.
Contract Brewing - A company that markets and owns all rights to a beer brand but has the brand brewed at another company's brewery.
Craft Brewery - According to the Brewers Association, an American craft brewer is small, independent and traditional.
• Small - Annual production of 6 million barrels of beer or less (approximately 3 percent of U.S. annual sales). Beer production is attributed to the rules of alternating proprietorships.
• Independent - Less than 25 percent of the craft brewery is owned or controlled (or equivalent economic interest) by a beverage alcohol industry member that is not itself a craft brewer.
• Traditional - A brewer that has a majority of its total beverage alcohol volume in beers whose flavor derives from traditional or innovative brewing ingredients and their fermentation. Flavored malt beverages (FMBs) are not considered beers.
Draught beer - Beer drawn from kegs, casks or serving tanks rather than from cans, bottles or other packages. Beer consumed from a growler relatively soon after filling is also sometimes considered draught beer.
Export - Any beer produced for the express purpose of exportation.
Fermentation - The chemical conversion of fermentable sugars into approximately equal parts of ethyl alcohol and carbon dioxide gas, through the action of yeast. The two basic methods of fermentation in brewing are top fermentation, which produces ales, and bottom fermentation, which produces lagers.
Filtration - The passage of a liquid through a permeable or porous substance to remove solid matter in suspension, often yeast.
Head Retention - The foam stability of a beer as measured, in seconds, by time required for a 1-inch foam collar to collapse.
Hops - Herb added to boiling wort or fermenting beer to impart a bitter aroma and flavor.
• Aroma hops - Varieties of hop chosen to impart bouquet.
• Dry hopping - The addition of dry hops to fermenting or aging beer to increase its hop character or aroma.
• Wet hopping - The addition of freshly harvested hops that have not yet been dried to different stages of the brewing process. Wet hopping adds unique flavors and aromas to beer that are not normally found when using hops that have been dried and processed per usual.
IBU - International Bitterness Units. A system of indicating the hop bitterness in finished beer.
Kraeusening - The addition of a small proportion of partly fermented wort to a brew during lagering. Stimulates secondary fermentation and imparts a crisp, spritzy character.
Lager - Lagers are any beer that is fermented with bottom-fermenting yeast at colder temperatures. Lagers are most often associated with crisp, clean flavors and are traditionally fermented and served at colder temperatures than ales.
Malt - The process by which barley is steeped in water, germinated ,then kilned to convert insoluble starch to soluble substances and sugar. The foundation ingredient of beer.
Mash - The porridge-like blend of water and grist at the beginning of the brewing process that releases sugars for brewing.
Microbrewery - A brewery that produces 15,000 barrels or less of beer a year.
Nanobrewery - a scaled-down microbrewery, often run by a solo entrepreneur, that produces beer in small batches.
Priming - Addition of sugar to promote a secondary fermentation.
Racking - Transferring the wort into another container. Beer is racked from the primary fermenter to the secondary fermenter.
Regional brewery - A brewery that produces 15,000 to 500,000 barrels of beer a year.
Shelf Life - The length of time after bottling, three to four months for most American beers, before a beer begins to spoil.
Wort - The sugary solution that is collected from the mash and then boiled. Beer is called "wort" until it has been fermented, at which point it becomes beer.
Zymergy - The science or study of fermentation.