Beer 101: Beer Glossary

Words to know before popping the top at your next beer exam.

ABV (Alcohol By Volume): The worldwide standard for measuring the amount of yummy alcohol in beer.

Alcohol: CH3CH2OH. It gets you drunk.

Ale: Any beer produced using top-fermenting yeast.

Barleywine: An English beer noted for distinct malt flavors and alcohol that ranges from 8-12 percent ABV.

Barm: The foaming yeast that appears at the top of the fermenting beer.

Barrel: 36 imperial gallons in England; 31 gallons in the U.S..

Bock: A heavy, malty lager with little to no hops, traditionally brewed in winter to be drunk at the dawn of spring. Or whenever.

Bottle Conditioned: This is when brewers add more yeast and sugar to the beer when it is bottled. This produces more alcohol and carbonation, and can add toasty yeast flavors and fortify the beer for longer aging.

Brettanomyces: Often avoided in beer and wine making thanks to the off-putting earthy aromas it produces, some Belgian and craft brewers (and homebrewers) utilize this yeast to produce innovative beers.

Cask Conditioned: This is unfiltered beer that is pumped into special casks with its yeast and dispensed straight from the cask.

Doppelbock: A stronger bock, originally brewed by monks who wanted a chewier brew to as a meal substitute during fasts.

Dry Beer: Beer in which almost all sugar has been fermented.

Dry Hopping: The addition of hops after the boil, during fermentation. This often brings more aroma and les bitterness to the final product.

Dunkel: Literally means dark and is used used in reference to German wheat beer, or, more commonly to dark lagers.

Grist: Grain – malted or unmalted – that’s been milled.

Gueuze: A lambic blended with younger and older brews.

Hefe: Yeast, in German.

Helle: It means pale, the opposite of dunkle in German wheat beer.

Hogshead: 54 imperial gallons.

Hops: A flower from a vine related to cannabis, hops add bitterness, preservative properties and can add floral, herbacious and resiny aromas to beer.

IBU (International Bittering Units): The recognized standard for measuring the bitterness in beers, which can range from 0 to 100, with the majority of beers below 50.

IPA (India Pale Ale): A strong, highly hopped ale that originated in England as a means to protect the beer on long sea voyages to India.

Lager: Beer made with bottom-fermenting yeast.

Lambic: Traditionally a Belgian brew, it also refers to most beers made with wild fermentation.

Malt: Grain – usually barley – that has been soaked until it germination, then cooked and dried. This generates sugar production in the grain, which are caramelized during heating.

Malt Liquor: Any American beer with an ABV higher than 3.2%, although most people think of malt liquor as amped up, mass-produced, American style pale lager.

Mead: A beer-like beverage fermented from honey.

Noble Hops: Four varieties of hops have been categorized as “noble”: Hallertau, Saaz, Spalt, Tettnang.

Original Gravity: The concentration of sugar in the wort, prior to fermentation.

Pasteurization: Heating to high temperatures to kill micro-organisms and yeast.

Pilsner: Czech lager that was one of the first clear, light beers.

Saccharomyces: Traditional yeasts used in making lagers and ales.

Trappist: Beer brewed under the auspices of Trappist monasteries, currently limited to just six breweries.

Witbier: Literally white beer, this is an unfiltered wheat beer often infused with citrus peel and coriander.

Wort: The pre-fermentation liquid — full of sugar and other compounds - that will become beer.

Yeast: Little beasties that eat sugar and expel alcohol and CO2. Nasty business, but god love ‘em.

Zymurgy: The study of fermentation, especially in beer-making.

Thanks to Joey Redner of Cigar City Brewing for correcting some of our entries. 

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