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Main Beer Styles

Abby beer: A beer that is brewed in the style and manner of trappist beers. (See Trappist ale)

Ale: Beer fermented more quickly and at warmer temperatures than lager, with top-fermenting yeast.

Altbier: A copper-colored German ale that originated in Dusseldorf. It is a style that historically preceded lager. Literally, “old beer” in German.

Barleywine: A British-style, very strong ale ranging from 8-10 percent alcohol by volume.

Beer: A fermented beverage made from malted grain and usually seasoned with hops.

Biere de Garde: A malty, strong French-style ale.

Bitter: A British-style ale with a high hop content.

Bock: A strong, dark German lager, usually brewed for the spring season.

Brown ale: A mild, brown beer, usually low in alcohol.

California Common: A generic name for steam beer.

Cream ale: A sweet, golden American-style beer with a high level of carbonation. Some are fermented with both ale and lager yeasts.

Doppelbock: Translates to “doublebock” in German, this beer is an extra strong version of bock. Traditionally, the names of all doppelbocks end in -ator as in Celebrator (brewed by Ayinger) or Optimator (brewed by Spaten).

Dunkel: Literally translated, “dark” in German. Dark beer.

Framboise: A Belgian-style beer made with raspberries.

Hefeweizen: Meaning “yeast wheat” in German. An unfiltered wheat beer that is bottle conditioned and cloudy when served.

Helles: Literally, “pale” in German. Pale beer.

Hard cider: A fermented beverage made from apples.

Imperial stout: a very strong, hoppy black ale, which originated in Britain as an export to Czarist Russia.

India Pale Ale: (IPA) A very strong, hoppy pale ale, which originated in Britain for export to soldiers in India.

Kolsch: A light, golden German ale, which originated in Cologne.

Kriek: A Belgian-style beer made with cherries.

Lager Beer: fermented more slowly and at cooler temperatures than ale, with bottom-fermenting yeast, and which is then aged for a smooth, clean flavor and aroma.

Lambic: A Belgian ale that spontaneously ferments with wild yeast in the air in the brewery. It is distinctive for its sour taste and aroma.

Maibock: Translates to “May bock” in German. A sweet pale lager brewed for the spring season.

Marzen: Literally, “March” in German, which is the month the beer is brewed for consumption the following fall. A malty lager that originated in Germany, Marzen is traditionally brewed for Oktoberfest. It is also referred to as an Oktoberfest.

Mead: A fermented beverage made from honey.

Mild: An English-style beer that is dark in color but mild in alcoholic content.

Munchener: Literally, “Munich” in German. A dark, spicy lager.

Old Ale: A British-style ale that is medium strong and dark.

Pale Ale: A fruity, milder version of England’s India Pale Ale.

Pilsener/Pilsner/Pils: The most imitated style of lager in the world, it was perfected in 1842 in Pilsen, Bohemia. It is pale in color with an assertive hop aroma and is highly carbonated.

Porter: An English-style dark ale that was stout’s predecessor. It was first brewed for London laborers.

Rauchbier: Literally, “smoke beer” in German. A lager with a strong smoky character popularized in Bamburg. It is brewed with wood-smoked malt.

Saison: A Belgian-style ale that is mildly sour with spices or herbs and which usually is brewed for spring.

Seasonal beer: a beer brewed for a specific season of the year, such as an Octoberfest or winter warmer.

Session beer: A low-alcohol beer brewed so several can be consumed in one drinking session.

Scotch Ale: A Scottish-style malty, copper-colored strong ale.

Scottish Ale: A Scottish-style ale that is less alcoholic than its Scotch ale cousin.

Steam Beer: A uniquely American beer that was first introduced in California during the Gold Rush. It is brewed using bottom-fermenting lager yeast at top-fermenting ale temperatures. Anchor Steam beer is the most famous example of this style.

Steinbier: Literally, “stone beer” in German. A lager brewed with hot rocks plunged into the boiling wort to impart a caramelized flavor.

Stout: An English- and Irish-style ale that is opaque black, smooth and creamy. It may be dry or sweet.

Trappist Ale: A strong ale made at one of the last five brewing Trappist monasteries in Belgium and The Netherlands. They are widely regarded as the finest beers in the world.

Vienna: A German-style lager that is sweet, malty and reddish in color. It was originally brewed in Vienna.

Weizenbier/Wheat Beer: Literally, “wheat beer” in German. An ale brewed with between 20 and 60 percent wheat that is often served in the summer.

Wit Beer: The Belgian version of wheat beer brewed with coriander and curacao orange peel.

General Beer Terms

Alcohol by Volume: (abv) Percentage of alcohol content in a beverage, by volume. The percentage of alcohol by weight is approximately 20 percent lower than that by volume.

Alcohol by Weight: (abw) Percentage of alcohol content in a beverage, by weight. The percentage of alcohol by weight is approximately 20 percent lower than that by volume.

Brew on Premises: (BOP) Businesses that rent their facilities for do-it-yourself brewers to come in and brew their own beer.

Breweriana: Brewing memorabilia, such as old beer containers and advertisements.

Cask-Conditioned: Unfiltered, unpasteurized beer that is naturally carbonated by undergoing a secondary fermentation in its own serving vessel.

Contract Brewing: A company that markets and owns all rights to a beer brand but has the brand brewed at another company’s brewery.

Microbrewery: A brewery that produces 15,000 barrels or less of beer a year.

Real Ale: The term used by CAMRA (Campaign for Real Ale)  for traditional cask-conditioned ale.

Regional Brewery: A brewery that produces 15,000 to 500,000 barrels of beer a year.

Reinheitsgebot: The German beer purity law of 1516 that states that beer shall only be made with grain, hops, yeast and water.

Shelf Life: The length of time after bottling, three to four months for most American beers, before a beer begins to spoil.

Zymurgy: The science or study of fermentation.

Brewing Terms

All-grain: A term used to describe the brewing process in which only malt grist is used with no malt extract added.

All-malt: A term used to describe beer made with malted barley and no adjuncts.

Carbon Dioxide: A gas created from the fermentation process. Carbon dioxide gives beer its carbonation.

Cold-Filtered: The process of filtering beer to remove sediments and contaminants, which makes the beer clearer.

Fermentation: The process of yeast consuming soluble sugars in wort to create by-products such as alcohol, carbon dioxide, flavor and aroma.

Finishing/Final Gravity: (f.g.) A measure of wort’s density at the end of fermentation. As the wort ferments, yeast converts maltose into alcohol and the gravity drops because alcohol is lighter that water. Before beer begins to ferment brewers take an original gravity reading (o.g.).

Kraeusen: Literally, “crown” in German. Introducing unfermented wort to fermented wort to continue or revive fermentation.

Mash: The porridge-like blend of water and grist at the beginning of the brewing process that releases sugars for brewing.

Maltose: A fermentable sugar derived from malt.

Original Gravity: (o.g.) A measure of wort’s density at the beginning of fermentation, which will always be higher than 1 because solubles, such as maltose, are suspended in it. As the wort ferments, yeast converts maltose into alcohol and the gravity drops because alcohol is lighter that water. When a beer is done fermenting brewers take a final gravity reading or finishing gravity (f.g.).

Pasteurization: The process of heating beer after fermentation, which kills any remaining live yeast and bacteria, reducing the risk of contamination or spoilage.

Specific Gravity: (s.g.) A measure of wort’s density in relation to the density of water, which is given a value of 1 at 39.2 degrees F (4 degrees C).

Partial mash: A term used to describe the brewing process in which both malted grist and malt extract are used.

Wort: The sweet liquid produced in the brewing process by mashing malted barley and water. Beer is called “wort” before yeast is added.

Brewing Equipment

Barrel: A measurement or container of beer, which equals 31 gallons.

Mash Tun: A copper or stainless steel vessel used for mashing the grist and water. Literally, tun is “tub” in German.

Brewhouse: Equipment used to brew beer.

Brew kettle: The vessel used to boil wort.

Bright Beer Tank: A vessel used as a holding tank just prior to bottling or kegging beer. Beer goes into the bright beer tank just following filtration (if filtering is done) and beer may be carbonated in it.

Cask: A closed, barrel-shaped vessel used for fermenting and serving beer. They used to be made of wood, but now most are made of stainless steel or aluminum. They are used for cask-conditioned ales, which need to be vented intermittently while they naturally carbonate.

Conditioning Tank: The vessel in which beer is placed following primary fermentation where it matures, clarifies and becomes carbonated. Also called secondary fermentation tank.

Firkin: A measurement or container of beer, which equals one quarter of a barrel (40.9 liters).

Hand Pump: A device, pumped by hand, that draws draft beer to the taphead. It allows cask-conditioned ale to be served without the use of pressurized carbon dioxide to push it up to the taphead.

Heat Exchanger: Equipment usually used after the boil for cooling wort quickly before yeast can be pitched in the wort.

Lauter Tun: The vessel in which mashed grain is sparged (lautered). Sometimes referred to mash-lauter tun because usually mashing and sparging occur in the same vessel.

Liquor Tank: The vessel in which water for brewing is stored. It may store either hot or cold water.

Serving Tank: The vessel from which beer is served.

Brewing Ingredients

Adjunct: Any fermentable, unmalted grain or ingredient, other than barley malt, added to the mash to provide fermentable sugars in the brewing process, including corn, corn sugar, oats, wheat and rice. Most American lagers from megabreweries are made with adjuncts that are cheaper than barley to reduce production costs and create lighter, less malty beer. Other adjuncts are used to create specialty beers or change the composition of the wort.

Barley: The primary ingredient in beer, which is sprouted and then kilned to create malt. It is then mashed to create wort.

DMEDry malt extract: (See malt extract).

Hops: The green cone-shaped flowers from the female hop vine used to add flavor and aromatics as well as bitter to beer.

Malt: Barley which has been sprouted and kilned.

Malt extract: Concentrated wort.

Yeast: A single-cell, micro-organism of the fungus family, which consumes fermentable sugars in the wort and produces alcohol, carbon dioxide, flavors and aromas in beer. There are many yeast strains used in brewing, each with unique characteristics.

Beer Tasting Terms

Alcoholic: A warming flavor or aroma derived from ethanol and higher alcohols. Some people think it has a salty taste.

Aroma: The fragrance or smell of a beer.

Astringent: An undesirable puckering or sour characteristic in beer, which is usually caused during the brewing process by boiling grains, long mashes and oversparging.

Bitter: The flavor most commonly derived from hops to balance the malt sweetness. The sensation is experienced on the back of the tongue, hence beer should never be spit out like wine during tasting.

Body: The weight of a beer thin or full-bodied.

Bouquet: (See aroma).

Bottle-conditioned: A second or third fermentation, which occurs in the bottle by adding yeast or fermentable sugar to the beer before bottling. It may make the beer cloudy or leave a sediment in the bottom of the bottle.

Diacetyl: A buttery or butterscotch aroma or flavor often caused by a bacterial infection, a short fermentation or a high-temperature fermentation.

Esters: Fruity aromas or flavors similar to bananas, raspberries, apples, pears and other fruits. They are the byproducts of certain yeast strains and are accentuated with fermenting at higher temperatures.

Grainy: A raw grain flavor or aroma. Some graininess is acceptable in certain beer styles.

Hoppy: A hop aroma or flavor of the essential oils of hops, which does not include hop bitterness.

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.

Skunked: (See light-struck).

Mouthfeel: The way a beer feels on the palate, such as viscose, thin, light, soft.

Nose: (See aroma.)

Oxidation: A cardboardy or vinous flavor in beer that is the result of the beer being exposed to oxygen for too long.

Phenolic: Any combination of medicinal, Band-Aidlike, plastic, Listerinelike, clovelike or electrical-firelike aroma or flavor in beer. It is usually caused by bacterial infection in beer.

Yeasty: A yeast-like flavor often derived from beer sitting on yeast too long during fermentation.