ABV: Alcohol By Volume. ABV measures the percent of alcohol within a volume of liquid. Low ABV beers come in around 4.5%. Higher ABV beers are around 7-10%, or even higher.
Ale: One of the two beer categories, along with lager. Ales are brewed with yeast strains that ferment at warmer temperatures. These strains are called “top-fermenting yeasts,” because their metabolic process takes place near the top of the fermentation vessel. These types of yeast impart ales with fruity or spicy flavors, compared with lager’s emphasis on clean, crisp flavors. Ales are usually served warmer than lagers.
Amber: A catchall term for beers with lighter complexions. Typically, ambers focus on simple, balanced, toasted-malt flavors, sometimes with a light fruitiness.
American: With the recent craft-beer explosion centered in America, many new brewing styles took on “American” in their names, such as American Imperial Stout or American Double IPA. “American” commonly means more, bolder hops (and thus more bitterness) in a recipe, especially popular hop varieties grown in this country: Cascade, Chinook, Centennial, etc.
Barleywine: A very malty and flavorful beer, with the taste of alcohol up front and present. ABVs are in the 8-12 range. Barleywine as a style originated in Ancient Greece and evolved over the centuries. Today’s Barleywine recipes more resemble their 18th century equivalent: English “strong” beers, also of high ABV.
Belgian: A historic and traditional ale, high in flavor and complexity, and ranging in style from light to dark. The adjective “Belgian” in a beer’s name refers to recipes first written thousands of years ago by Old World brewers, many in Belgium, including Trappist monks who brewed these beers in their abbeys.
Black and Tan: A beer poured first as ½ pale ale/lager, then topped off with ½ stout, porter, or darker lager. Done correctly, the darker beer remains on top. Also commonly known as a “Half and Half,” especially in Ireland, where the term “Black and Tan” can have derogatory implications.
Blonde: A low-ABV ale that is easily approachable and drinkable. Blondes are usually a balance between malty and hoppy. These beers display the complexion of their name, and are sometimes called “golden ales.”
Bock: A German lager recipe dating back to the 1300s. Bocks are full-bodied, richly malty, well-hopped, and commonly taste of caramel. Their complexion ranges from copper to dark-brown. Traditionally a wintertime seasonal beer. In America, bocks are usually outsold by their stronger variant: doppelbocks. Originating in the German town Einbeck, the recipe took the name Bock in 187h century Munich, where locals pronounced the beer “ein Bock,” and then just “Bock.” ein Bock means “a Billy goat,” which is why some Bock labels include the image of a goat.
Body: The body of a beer is comprised of that beer’s thickness, consistency, and mouth-filling properties. Bodies are described on a scale from light- to full-bodied.
Bomber: A 22-ounce bottle of beer, usually made of glass and containing premium products. The average price range of craft-beer bombers is $6 to $20.
Bottle-conditioned: Beer with active yeast purposely left in the bottle, so that the yeast can continue the carbonation process after the beer is shipped out. These beers sometimes contain natural sediment at the bottom of the bottle. Bottle-conditioning allows the beer to remain freshly carbonated, and sometimes to develop over time, gaining complexity and flavor with age. Common to white or witbier beers.
Brewpub: A pub that brews its own beers and sells at least 25% of the product on-premise. It is common for these businesses to dispense beers directly from highly visual storage tanks. Synonymous with “brewhouse.”
Brown ale: Known mostly for their dark amber or brown color. Although the term derives from an alternative name for 17th century British “mild” ales, “brown ale” today can mean very different flavors. There are recipes with light hops and roasted caramel malts; others medium in ABV and hoppiness; and others that are both very hoppy and malty.
Cascade hops: The most widely used brewing hops in America. High in floral aroma and citric, fruity flavor. Developed in 1971 at Oregon State University. Common in American Pale Ales. Other popular American hops include Chinook and Centennial.
Cask-conditioned: Beers that are sealed in casks — containers made of wood, steel, or aluminum – while still going through the fermentation process. Brewers will serve “live beers” straight from these casks, containing still-active yeast (though the addition of other materials will settle out the yeast).
Contract beer: When a non-brewing business hires a brewery to make their beer for them. The non-brewing business will handle marketing, sales and distribution, while the brewery creates the product.
Double IPA: Another American-craft innovation, double IPAs are brewed with significantly more hops. To balance the extra bitterness created by the hefty increase of hops, double IPAs often include much more malts and greater alcohol content. Due to the latter, these beers have higher ABVs, usually over 6%. The term “double” has also come to mean “stronger” for other styles.
Doppelbock: The stronger variant of the traditional German bock, a doppelbock has sweet flavors of toasted caramels, chocolates, and/or dark fruits. As a historic nod to 14th century German Bavarian monks who brewed this stronger style and named it “Salvator” (Savor), doppelbochs today will sometimes have the affix “tor” at the end of their name.
Draught beer: Beer served from a keg or cask, rather than a bottle or can.
Dry-hopping: When a brewer adds hops after the primary fermentation process to increase the hoppy aroma and flavor of a beer, without dramatically increasing the bitterness normally brought on by extra hops. This technique is more common in ales than in lagers.
Golden Ale: See: Blonde
Growler: A half-gallon (64 oz.) glass jug sold at breweries to customers who want to buy beer-to-go. A “squealer” is the 32 oz. version of a growler. Customers can usually bring growlers and squealers back to brewers to purchase more beer-to-go.
Hefeweizen: A German — and perhaps the most well-known — wheat beer. Roughly translated to “with yeast and wheat,” Hefeweizens have a yeasty, banana-like taste, often spicy, with vanilla notes. Medium-bodied with a silky mouth feel, unfiltered, cloudy in appearance, with a pale to light-amber color.
Hops/Hoppy: Hops are the cone-like female flower off the Humulis Lupulus plant or vine. Primarily used to add bitterness to beer, hops also can impart additional flavors and aromas. Moreover, they inhibit bacteria growth during the brewing process. There are over 100 varieties of hops harvested across the globe. The use of hops in brewing dates back to 600 BC in Egypt.
IBU: International Bitter Unit. A measuring scale for the bitterness of a beer. More IBUs usually means more hops.
Imperial: Although this term derives from dark, heavy British beers brewed heavier and hoppier for the Russian imperial court in the 1700s, in America the term has become generalized to mean a stronger version of any given style, such as Imperial IPA, Imperial Stout, etc. Imperials tend to have ABVs near or in the double digits.
IPA: India Pale Ale. If you think the name means it was brewed in India, you’re close. IPAs were originally brewed for India, by Britain, in the 19th century. IPAs contain higher hoppiness and ABVs, because stronger beers stood a better chance of surviving the 19th century oceanic voyage from Britain to India. In the modern craft-beer boom, IPAs have emerged as one of the most popular styles, especially in more recent years.
Lager: The other category of beers, along with ale. Lagers are brewed with yeast strains fermented at colder temperatures. These strains are called “bottom-fermenting yeasts,” because their metabolic process takes place near the bottom of the fermentation vessel. The low fermentation temperatures reduce yeast byproducts, creating a clean, crisp flavor, as opposed to the flavor focus on spices and fruits in ales. Lagers are usually served colder than ales.
Lambic: A traditionally sour, dry, sometimes-cidery beer produced by “spontaneous fermentation” (as compared to controlled forms of fermentation) through exposure to wild yeasts and bacteria. Fruits are sometimes added for flavor. “Straight” Lambic recipes can produce earthy, leathery and honey flavors. Historically, Lambics originate in the Pajottenland region of Belgium.
Malts/Malty: Barley or other grains that have been soaked in water to induce germination, and then kilned to convert insoluble starches into the fermentable sugars required to make beer. Malty beers taste of toastiness, biscuit, nuts, toffee or caramel.
Microbrewery: As defined by the Brewers Association: A brewery that produces less than 15,000 barrels of beer per year, with 75% or more of its beer sold off-site.
Nitro: Adding nitrogen to beer to create a smoother, creamier product with a finely bubbled head. Guinness Stout is the most common version of this technique.
Noble hops: Traditional European hops that are produced only in four small areas: Hallertau, Spalt and Tettnang in Germany, and Saaz in the Czech Republic. Noble hops are soft, refined, and prized for their subtle, less-bitter, somewhat spicy flavors. Strains of “nearly noble” hops either exhibit characteristics similar to, or were bred from, those four “noble” areas.
Pale ale: Ales brewed with lightly roasted “pale” malts, which creates more of a balance between hops and malts than in hop-dominated India Pale Ales. The pale-malt recipe also results in a lighter color. First brewed in the 1700s. American Pale Ales like the trend-setting Sierra Nevada Pale Ale contain more hops (especially American hops) than their counterparts in other countries.
Pilsner: The most common beer worldwide, pilsners are pale lagers that are typically crisp, clear, low-ABV, light-bodied and refreshing. Most American “big beers” – Budweiser, Coors, Heineken, Pabst Blue Ribbon, etc. – are pilsners. The name derives from Pilsen, a Czech Republic city where the brewing style originated in 1842.
Porter: Rich, dark, roasted, malty beers, brewed with brown, black, pale, or chocolate malts. Can be dry and pleasantly acidic. Originated in London in the 1700s when the palates of beers drinkers began to evolve dramatically. The name porter may originate from the beer’s popularity among transportation workers (or porters) in London from that period. Comparatively less dark and less dry than stouts, a similar style.
Red ale: Typically a crisp, heavier, maltier, more-caramel version of the pale ale, with varying degrees of hoppiness, particularly at the finish. The name comes from the roasted malts that can give these ales a reddish, coppery appearance. Oftentimes synonymous with amber ale.
Reinheitsgebot: Also known as the German Beer Purity Law of 1516, this law in the Holy Roman Empire and its successor state, Germany, regulated the ingredients of beer to just water, barley and hops. Yeast was amended into the law in the 18th century, after Louis Pasteur discovered yeast’s role in fermentation. The Reinheitsgebot held until being replaced in 1993 by a new law that allows slightly more ingredients. However, many German brewers claim to adhere to Reinheitsgebot regulations.
Rye beer: A style of beer in both ales and lagers brewed with Rye malt in the recipe. These beers usually have a grainy, hearty flavor with a “kick” to it, are dark in color and low in ABV.
Scotch ale: Also known as a Wee Heavy, Scotch ales are the stronger, maltier version of Scottish ales. Flavors tend to be caramel and/or nutty. Mild hops and a clean, smooth composition, and colors that are copper to dark brown.
Scottish ale: A traditional Scottish beer that focuses on sweet malt flavors and is low on hops. The longer brewing process creates flavors of burnt sugar and dark, bitter molasses, plus a deep-red, coppery color.
Sediment: Some sediment in a beer bottle is perfectly normal. This is usually the result of bottle-conditioning, in which brewers add additional yeast and sugar into the bottle to continue the carbonation process as the beer ages and grows more complex.
Session beer: A beer of lower ABV and lighter body that a drinker may consume multiple of in a single session of drinking.
Sour: A beer brewed to have an acidic, tart, or sour taste. Lambics are sours, and the style overall is seen mostly in Belgian beers.
Stout: Born out of Arthur Guinness’ 18th century attempts to brew heavier and darker products to counter the rising popularity of British porters in the Irish beer market, stouts are darker in color and dryer in taste than porters. Common flavors include sweet, caramel, chocolate, toffee, toasty, roasty or burnt. The mouth feel is smooth and silky, the body is medium to full, and the color is medium brown to black. American stouts are much more hoppy than their Irish or British counterparts.
Strong: A beer with higher ABV, and more malts and/or hops.
Wet hops: Hops used in brewing that are fresh off the vine and unprocessed, meaning they must be used immediately (within 24 hours or so) after their fall harvest. The flavor and aroma of wet hops are freshly vibrant, like just-picked greens, and mellower and more delicate than normal bitter hops.
Wheat beer: Recipes with splits around 30% wheat, 70% grain, wheats have a clean grain flavor and a bigger, longer-lasting head when poured into a glass. The mouth-feel is smooth and silky, with a long finish. Unfiltered wheats leave yeast in “suspension,” or floating throughout the beer, causing a pale, cloudy complexion. Due to its unobtrusive flavor qualities, wheat makes for a good base grain from which brewers can add their own unique flavors and twists.
White: A white beer – or witbier – is a wheat-heavy ale descended from Medieval-era Belgium and the Netherlands. Unfiltered, and spiced with coriander, orange, or other light flavors. Low ABV and light-bodied. Often served with an orange slice. The name comes from their light, pale, cloudy complexion, typically caused by bits of yeast and wheat purposely left floating throughout the beer.
Witbier: See: White