Exploring the world of craft beer is an exciting adventure, but it can get confusing, especially when bartenders and your beer geek friends start throwing around unfamiliar terms in casual conversation. Here are the most important craft beer terms defined:
ABV: Alcohol By Volume; indicates the amount of alcohol in beer.
Adjuncts: Un-malted grains or sugars that create different flavors and colors in the finished product, including oats, rye, wheat, rice, corn, honey and other sugars.
Ale yeast: Top-fermenting yeast that ferments at close to room temperature. The many varieties of ale yeast provide a wide spectrum of flavors and aromas to impart in ales.
Aroma hops: Are added at the end of the boil, producing lower bitterness and more aroma.
Bittering hops: Added at the beginning of the boil, producing higher bitterness and less aroma.
Boil: Boiling typically lasts 60 minutes and stops the enzymes activated during the mash, removes certain compounds from the wort, and sterilizes it. The boiling process is also the time to add hops. Although an hour is typical, it can vary by brewer. Dogfish Head 90 minute IPA, for example, is boiled for 90 minutes.
Bomber: A 22-ounce bottle of beer.
Cask (aka Firkin): A barrel-shaped vessel conditioning and serving beer. Often used for small batches and special brews.
Conditioning: The last step before beer is ready to drink where it matures and carbonates. Beer can be bottle conditioned, cask conditioned, or tank conditioned. Some brewers force-carbonate their beer.
Dry-hopped: Addition of hops after the boil, before, during or after fermentation, producing extra aroma without more bitterness.
Fermentation: After boiling, wort is cooled and transferred to a sterile fermenter, where yeast is added, fermenting sugars and producing alcohol and CO2. Different yeasts yield distinctly different flavors to beer.
Gravity: Measurement of sugar in beer. Original gravity is measured before fermentation and final gravity after. Alcohol content is calculated using original and final gravity measurements.
Growler: A glass jug used to take beer to go from breweries. Typically 64oz but sizes can vary
Head retention: How long the foam lasts after a beer is poured. The head exhibits aroma that are not found after the head has died down, so a beer with long-lasting head is ideal.
Hoppy: Strongly exhibiting the flavor and aroma of hops. A beer can be both hoppy and malty.
Hops: Green, cone shaped flowers dried and used to add bitterness and aroma to beer. Popular varieties include: Cascade, Centennial, Amarillo, Chinook, Saaz, Northern Brewer, Willamette, Mt. Hood, Goldings, Tettnang, Fuggles, Northern Brewer and Hallertau. Aromas vary but often resemble citrus, pine resin or flowers.
IBU: International Bittering Units. Measures the bitterness of beer.
Imperial: larger versions of a style of beer–not in volume, but in certain characteristics. Also called ‘double’ as in Double IPA.
Lager yeast: Bottom-fermenting yeast that ferments in cellars and other cool environments between 40º to 50º F.
Malt: The base grain for all beer, almost always made from barley. Malt is created by soaking barley in water and allowing it to germinate before drying and kilning it. The process of soaking barley in water, allowing it to germinate, then drying and kilning it enables the production of enzymes, which convert starch into fermentable sugar during the brewing process.
Malty: Strongly exhibiting the qualities of the malt. Malty flavors and aromas often described as grainy, barley-like, syrupy, roasty, fresh sweet toasty bread, and burnt sugar. Maltiness is not a measure of the sweetness. A beer can be both hoppy and malty.
Mash: Created when malt and adjunct gra_ins are steeped during the brewing process, usually at 150º F or more. Steeping activates enzymes in the malt, which convert to sugars, most of which will be fermented by the yeast.
Mouthfeel: How thin, thick, watery, or silky a beer feels in your mouth.
Session: Beers high on flavor but lower on alcohol content made for extended periods of drinking.
Wet-hopped or fresh-hopped: Using fresh, not dried, hops to produce unique flavors and aromas.
Wort: Sugary solution collected from the mash to be boiled. Beer is called “wort” until fermentation.