Whether you already love beer or are beginning the journey to learning (and tasting!) more, having a grasp on beer lingo is the surest way to find the brew for you. Reference our handy beer lovers' glossary so you're never unprepared!
Adjunct - A loose definition refers to un-malted grains that are added to some beers to increase alcohol content and lighten the flavor. Common examples are flaked barley, rice, corn, maize, oats, etc. A more strict definition calls anything that is added to beer other than water, barley, hops, and yeast an adjunct.
Alcohol By Volume (ABV) - The measure of the amount of space the alcohol in a beer takes up as a percentage of total volume. This is the worldwide standard for measuring the alcohol content in beer. The United States traditionally used alcohol by weight (ABW) to measure alcohol content, but more and more American brewers are now adopting ABV.
Ale - Ales are made with "top-fermenting" strains of yeast which means that the yeast ferments at the top of the fermentation tank.
Alpha Acid - A resin contained in the hop plant that is responsible for the bitterness in beer. When purchasing hops, the alpha acid content of the hops will be given as a percentage and printed on the package cover.
Astringent - Drying, puckering taste; can be derived from boiling the grains, long mashes, over-sparging or sparging with hard water.
Apparent Attenuation (AA) - The percentage of sugars that have been converted to alcohol by the yeast. Calculated by subtracting the final gravity from the original gravity.
Balance - Refers to the overall harmony of flavors in a beer. More specifically, it usually refers to the levels of hops and malts. For example, if a beer's taste is predominately malt oriented, it is said to be balanced toward malts.
Barley - A cereal grain that is kilned creating a malt. Malts are one of the main ingredients in beer.
Bitter - A sharp, tangy sensation that comes from hops in beer.
Body - Refers to the thickness of a beer in your mouth. Can be described as Full, medium, or thin-bodied. For example, a stout should tend to be more full-bodied, while a pale lager should be thin-bodied.
Boil - The obvious definition is bringing a liquid to a high enough temperature that it begins to evaporate. With regards to brewing, boiling causes isomerization (changing of the structure of molecules) of the alpha and beta bittering acids from hops which makes them water soluble. The longer hops are boiled (up to 75 minutes or so), the more isomerization occurs, and the more hop bitterness will be present in your beer.
Bottle Conditioning - The secondary fermentation that occurs when yeast and sugars are added to the beer right before bottling. This process leads to higher alcohol content and allows the beer to be aged, which can produce varying changes in taste and strength.
Brettanomyces - A yeast that gives beer a barnyard or horse-blanket flavor. Usually unwanted, this can be found in some Belgian beers to add flavor complexity.
Carbonation - Refers to the amount of CO2 in a beer.
Cask Conditioning - Instead of being filtered and stored in pressurized kegs, cask-conditioned beer is kept in a cask with its yeast and is dispensed using a special hand pump called a beer engine. This method is popular in England. Cask conditioned beer only stays good for about 3 months, unlike bottle conditioned beer.
Cold Filtering - An alternative to pasteurizing beer. In this process the beer is passed through a very fine filter that removes the yeast and halts the fermentation process.
Ester - Flavor compounds naturally created during fermentation that add fruity, flowery and/or spicy flavors to beer.
Grist - A dry mixture (flour like powder) of ground malts and adjuncts used in mashing.
Hops - The dried blossom of the female hop plant, which is a climbing herb (Humulus lupulus). Hops closest relative is the cannabis plant from which marijuana is derived. Only the seed cones from the female vine are used in making beer. Hops are responsible for the bitterness in beer.
International Bittering Units (IBUs) - A measure of the bitterness in a beer. The most bitter beers can be over 100 IBUs.
Lager - Lager comes from the German word "lagern" which means "to store". Lagers are made with "bottom-fermenting" strains of yeast which means that the yeast ferments at the bottom of the fermentation tank. Lagers are brewed for longer periods of time than ales and at colder temperatures.Lauter - The process of separating spent grains from the water into which the grain's sugars have been extracted by the mashing process.
Lees - Also known as "trub", lees are the deposit of yeast and sediments at the bottom of the tank after fermentation.
Maltose - The sugars that are derived from malts. These sugars interact with the yeast during fermentation to create alcohol and CO2.
Malts - One of the main ingredients of beer, malt is barley which has been steeped in water, allowed to germinate, and then heat dried which stops germination. The type of barley, the level of germination allowed and the temperature of drying all influence the resulting flavor of the malts.Mashing - The process where the grist is added to hot water in order to extract the fermentable sugars from the malts. This process creates wort.
Original Gravity - The weight of a beer before fermentation.
Pasteurization - Heating of beer to 60-79°C/140-174°F to stabilize it microbiologically.
Pitching - The process of adding yeast to the wort in the fermentation tank.
Rack - To siphon the beer from one vessel to another to separate the beer from the lees or trub.
Wort - Created by mashing, wort is liquid malt extract that is ready for the fermentation tank where yeast will be added.
Zymurgy - The science of fermentation.