Beer 101

Beer is the oldest alcoholic beverage. It is essentially just four things: malt, hops, yeast and water. The process of making beer is called brewing which is takes place with the fermentation of sugar from starch based material.

Beer Glossary

It’s important to know the language of beer! This is a helpful, ever-evolving, list of common beer and brewing vocabulary to aid those on their craft beer journey.

Ale: Beer made with top-fermenting yeast.

Altbier: German word for ‘old beer'; this is the type of brewing that preceded lagers.

Barley Wine: A very strong ale with alcohol usually twice that of strong beers.

Belgian Red Ale: A refreshing ale from Flanders that derives its color from Vienna malt.

Belgian Strong Ale: A strong but not heavy style with a wine-like quality.

Bière de Garde: A strong ale from France. Meant to be laid down or cellared.

Bière de Mars: Light-bodied seasonal French ales.

Bittering hops: Varieties of hops chosen to impart bitter and dry flavors.

Bock: German word for ‘billy goat'; refers to a strong beer. Bocks average well above 6.25% alcohol by volume.

Bottom-Fermentation: How a lager is brewed. Made with lager yeasts, the beer ferments at the bottom of the tun, resulting in a clearer brew than top-fermented beer (ale).

Brown Ale: A dark, sweet ale, often brewed in England. Relatively low in alcohol.

Cask-Conditioning: Secondary fermentation and maturation in the cask. Creates light carbonation.

Doppelbock: German word for ‘double bock'; usually very dark and sweet.

Dubbel: A high gravity Belgian Abbey ale.

Dry-Hopping: The addition of hops at a late stage.

Dunkel: German word for ‘dark’. Dark beers are sometimes referred to as ‘dunkels’.

Eisbock: A doppelbock beer that has been frozen and the ice is removed. This intensifies the taste and alcohol level of the beverage left over (by removing some of the water).

Erlanger: A dark German lager from Erlangen.

Faro: A lambic beer that is refermented with candy sugar.

Gueuze: A lambic that is a mixture, not necessarily in equal parts, of old and young lambic beers.

Hefe: German for ‘yeast'; often identifies the beer as either sedimented or that has had yeast added to it just before bottling.

Helles: A paler, but quite strong, version of the Munich Dunkel.

Hops: The cones or flowers of the female Humulus lupulus plant. They may be dried whole hops, or may be used after being dried into pellets.

India Pale Ale (IPA): Originally a bitter beer brewed in Britain by Bass and exported to soldiers in India. An Indian Pale Ale has more hops than a traditional Pale Ale. The extra hops were added in the years of the British Empire so that the ‘hopped up’ beer would last the entire trip from England to India.

Imperial Stout: A stout brewed in England. It was originally brewed for the Czars and was sent to St. Petersburg.

Kolsch: A strong but not hoppy ale originally from Cologne.

Kriek: A lambic beer made with cherries.

Lager: Beer that is fermented cool using lager yeast and stored cold for a period of weeks in order to give it a clean, smooth flavor.

Lagering: Maturation for several weeks or months at cold temperatures (close to 0°C/32°F) to settle residual yeasts, impart carbonation, and make for clean, round flavors.

Lambic: A wheat beer, most notably from Belgium, that is fermented with wild yeasts.

Maibock: A beer made in the spring to celebrate the new season; usually light in color.

Malting: Process of turning grain from starch to sugar, from which beer is then brewed.

Malt Liquor: Often associated with cheap beers, these tend to be American ales that range up to 7.5% alcohol by volume.

Märzen: German word for ‘March’. A lager made in March for the coming Oktoberfest. Usually a beer rich in malt flavors, and often amber-red in color.

Oktoberfest: See Märzen.

Original gravity: A measure of the density of fermentable sugars in the mixture of malt and water.

Pale Ale: A pale amber, full-bodied, hoppy ale originating in Burton on Trent.

Pilsner/Pils: A lager, usually light in color. It draws its name from the town of Pilsen, in Bohemia in the Czech Republic.

Porter: Almost black, porter is a bitter, dark lager. First brewed in England around the 1730’s.

Rauchbier: ‘Smoke Beer’ made from malt cured in wood smoke.

Reinheitsgebot: “Purity Law” originating in Bavaria 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 brewing.

Roggen: A rare Bavarian weizen-style beer made from rye.

Saison: Top-fermented, dry-hopped French country ales refermented in corked bottles.

Scotch Ale: A very dark, strong ale. Many are brewed in Scotland, hence the name. Some microbreweries have begun brewing this style of beer.

Schwarzbier: German for ‘black beer’. A beer made famous in Kostritz, Germany, this is a very, very dark beer.

Specific Gravity: A measure of density. This measurement comparies the density of a given volume of beer to that of the same volume of pure water.

Steinbier: A top-fermented wheat beer brewed in Altenmunster, Germany.

Steam Beer: A product of the California Gold Rush, steam beer was America’s first real addition to the craft of brewing.

Stout: A very dark, high hop content ale. The most famous brewer of stout (and the originator of this style) is Guinness, of Ireland.

Top-Fermenting: Describes yeast that flocculates relatively early in the fermentation. The flocculation is carried up into the head of foam in the wort by CO2 bubbles.

Trappist: A bottle-conditioned, sugar-added lager made by monks in only six breweries in the world (five in Belgium, one in Holland). Others attempt a Trappist-style beer, but only these six monastery/breweries are allowed.

Tripel: Dutch, meaning ‘a brewer’s strongest beer’. Can be a lager, but is most often an ale.

Weisse/Weissebier: Wheat beer. Often served with lemon, this is an ale of extremely light color, mostly served during the summer. The beer is brewed with mainly wheat malt.

Zymurgy: The science of brewing and fermentation, a branch of chemistry.