Beer Terminology


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Additive Enzymes, preservatives and antioxidants which are added to simplify the brewing process or prolong shelf life.
Adjunct Fermentable material used as a substitute for traditional grains, to make beer lighter-bodied or cheaper.
Aerobic An organism, such as top fermenting ale yeast, that needs oxygen to metabolize.
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 weight 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 yeasts 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-malt A relatively new term in America. "All malt" refers to a beer made exclusively with barley malt and without adjuncts.
Altbier A German style brown ale which is conditioned for a longer than normal period of time. The extended conditioning mellows out the ale's fruitiness and produces an exceptionally smooth and delicate brew. The color ranges from amber to dark brown, medium in carbonation with a great balance between malt and hops.
Amber Any top or bottom fermented beer having an amber color that is between pale and dark.
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 A very strong and often intense beer. Lively and fruity, sometimes sweet, sometimes bittersweet. From amber to dark brown in color, with aromas and flavors ranging from intense fruits to intense hops.
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 Bitterness of hops or malt husks; sensation on back of tongue.
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 & Tan A blend of a dark ale with a light ale or lager.
Black malt Partially malted barley roasted at high temperatures. Black malt gives a dark color and roasted flavor to beer.
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".
Break material The break is the point in brewing when proteins coagulate making a clearer beer. This happens both when the wort gets boiled as well as when it chills quickly (see hot break and cold break). The material formed is called either break or break material. It is generally accepted that the more break you can get (or force) the better.
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 Maltier and sweeter on the palate than a Mild Ale. Color can range from reddish brown to dark brown. Some versions will lean towards fruity esters, while others tend to be drier with nutty characters. All seem to have a low hop aroma and bitterness.
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.
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Cabbagelike Aroma and taste of cooked vegetables; often a result of wort spoilage bacteria killed by alcohol in fermentation.
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 plasticlike aroma; caused by chemical combination of chlorine and organic compounds.
Chill haze Cloudiness caused by precipitation of 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 mild, pale, light-bodied ale, made using a warm fermentation (top or bottom) and cold lagering or by blending top and bottom-fermented beers. Low to medium bitterness. Low hop flavor and aroma.
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.
Doppelbock A relatively strong, very full-bodied German lager. They range in color from dark amber to nearly black, and dark versions often have slight chocolate or roasted characters.
Dortmunder Export A pale golden lager exhibiting a classic clean character with notes of biscuity malts. Bitterness is akin to a German Pilsner with an aromatic aroma. Mouthfeel is firm and even, with an overall dry tone.
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 Characterized by a unique taste of an understated bitterness, a fairly heavy body, pronounced fruitiness and cereal character.  Dubbel beer is bottle-conditioned meaning that the beer is unfiltered and the final conditioning of the beer takes place in the bottle
Dunkleweizen A darker German wheat beer with complex malts and a low balancing bitterness. Most are brown and murky (from the yeast). The usual clove and fruity (banana) characters will be present, some may even taste like banana bread.
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EBC European Brewing Convention. An EBC scale is used to indicate colors in malts and beers.
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 Volatile flavor compound naturally created in fermentation. Often fruity, flowery or spicy.
Estery Aroma or flavor reminiscent of flowers or fruits.
Ethanol The form of alcohol produced by yeast during fermentation.
Fermentation Conversion of sugars into ethyl alcohol and carbon dioxide, through the action of yeast.
Final specific gravity 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 English unit of measure for beers and ales. A firkin is nine ale or beer gallons or approximately 41 liters
Framboise A Belgian lambic beer that is fermented using raspberries. Most framboise beers are quite sweet
Fruity/Estery Flavor and aroma of bananas, strawberries, apples, or other fruit; from high temperature fermentation and certain yeast strains.
Golden Ale Characterized by fruit and floral aroma, pale color and a substantial amount of alcohol content
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.
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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.
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.
Imperial IPA Imperial IPA, Double IPA or DIPA is a strong, often sweet, intensely hoppy version of the traditional India Pale Ale. The flavor profile is intense all-round. The balance is heavily towards the hops, with crystal and other malts providing support.
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 Originally brewed only in Cologne, Germany, this style is light to medium in body with a very pale color; hop bitterness is medium to slightly assertive
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 style of Belgian beer, made by fermenting lambic with cherries
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Lacework The mark left on side of glass by head as the beer is drunk, resembling lace
Lager Beers produced with bottom fermenting yeast strains, Saccharomyces uvarum (or carlsbergensis) at colder fermentation temperatures than ales. This cooler environment inhibits the natural production of esters and other byproducts, creating a crisper 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 sour and dry Belgian beer, fermented spontaneously with airborne yeast
Lauter To run the wort from the mash tun. From the German word to clarify. A lauter tun is a separate vessel 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 The skunky smell or flavor that results from a beer being exposed to too much direct sun or fluorescent lights. It is particularly pervasive in light beers packaged in green or clear bottles and is less common in beers packaged in brown bottles. It is caused by the reaction of hop oils to ultraviolet 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 Lighter in color than other Bock beers with a significant hop character. Maibocks are customarily served in the spring and are oftentimes interrelated with spring festivals.
Malt (ing) 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.
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).
Malting The process by which barley is steeped in water to germinate it and then kilned to convert insoluble starch to soluble substances and sugar.
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 or through on-site tap-room or restaurant.
Mouthfeel A sensation derived from the consistency or viscosity of a beer, described, for example as thin or full.
Musty Moldy, mildewy character; can be the result of cork or bacterial infection.
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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 Lager Sometimes referred to as "all-malt", this category of beer refers to lagers brewed without cereal adjuncts (mainly rice or corn). Though often still yellow and fizzy, these beers will display a broader depth of malt flavor and a more complex bitterness vs. their adjunct counterparts.
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 A type of pale lager with very light, clear color from pale to golden yellow and a distinct hop aroma and flavor.
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 Originally an English blend of three different styles: an old ale (stale or soured), a new ale (brown or pale ale) and a weak one (mild ale), with various combinations of blending and staleness. American brewers have taken this style to a new level by highly hopping the brew, using smoked malts, or adding coffee or chocolate to complement the burnt flavor associated with this style. Some are even barrel aged in Bourbon or whiskey barrels. The hop bitterness range is quite wide but most are balanced
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.
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.
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Saccharomyces cerevisiae See Top-fermenting yeast.
Saccharomyces uvarum See Bottom-fermenting yeast.
Saccharomyces carlsbergensis See Bottom-fermenting yeast.
Salty Flavor like table salt; experienced on the side of the tongue.
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.
Skunked See light-struck.
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.
Stout Typically dark brown to pitch black in color. A common profile is the use of roasted barley (unmalted barley that is kilned to the point of being charred) which lends a dry character to the beer as well as a huge roasted flavor that can range from burnt to coffee to chocolate. A different balance of hops is up to the brewers preference, but the roasted character must be there.
Sweet Taste like sugar; experienced on the front of the tongue.
Sulfurlike Reminiscent of rotten eggs or burnt matches; a by-product of some yeast's.
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".
Tripel The name stems from part of the brewing process, in which brewers use up to three times the amount of malt than a standard Trappist Simple. Bright yellow to gold in color. Head should be big, dense and creamy. Aroma and flavor runs along complex, spicy phenolic, powdery yeast, fruity/estery with a sweet finish.
Tun Any large vessels used in brewing. In America, "tub" is often preferred.
Units of bitterness See IBU.
Vienna Style Lager Brewed using a three step decoction boiling process. Munich, Pilsner, Vienna toasted and dextrin malts are used, as well wheat in some cases. Characteristics include subtle hops, crisp, with residual sweetness
Vinous Reminiscent of wine.
Winter Ale Sometimes called Winter Warmers, these malty sweet offerings tend to be a favorite winter seasonal. Big malt presence, both in flavor and body. The color ranges from brownish reds to nearly pitch black. Hop bitterness is generally low, leveled and balanced, but hop character can be pronounced. Alcohol warmth is not uncommon.
Winy Sherrylike flavor; 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 or study of brewing and fermentation.

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