Beer terms are fun to know. But they’re important to understanding in describing the beers you enjoy. And knowing beer terms is essential if you want to brew your own beer.
For liquor (distilled spirits) words, visit Liquor Terms. Words about wine are at Wine Terms. For words about alcohol and drinking, see Alcohol Glossary. If you like history, you might enjoy the Prohibition Dictionary.
- Fun Books about Beer
- General Books
- Tasting & Enjoying Beer
- Home Brewing
- Beer Terms
1. Fun Books about Beer
- Barnett, P. Beer.
- Bickerdyke, J. The Curiosities of Ale and Beer. An Entertaining History.
- Bull, D. Beer: 500 Trivia Questions and Answers about the World’s most Popular Drink.
- Carey, Drew. Dirty Jokes and Beer.
- Dallas, J. and McMaster, C. The Beer Drinker’s Companion. Facts, Fables and Folklore from the World of Beer.
- Eames, A. Secret Life of Beer. Legends, Lore & Little-known Facts.
- Gascoyne-Bowman, S. Beer Crafts: Making the Most of Your Cans, Bottle Caps, and Labels.
- Palmer, L. How To Win Your Pub Quiz. Your only Guide to Ultimate Victory.
- Smith, G. and Getty, C. The Beer Drinker’s Bible: Lore, Trivia & History.
2. General Books about Beer
- Kallen, S. The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Beer.
- Nachel, M. and Ettlinger, S. Beer for Dummies.
3. Tasting & Enjoying Beerr
- Alworth, J. Beer Tasting Quick Reference Guide. How to Choose and Taste Beer like a Brewer.
- Anon. Complete Idiot’s Guide to Beer Tasting.
- Bernstein, J. The Complete Beer Course. Boot Camp for Beer Geeks, from Novice to Expert in Twelve Tasting Classes.
- DeBenedetti, C. and Slonecker, A. Beer Bites: Tasty Recipes and Perfect Pairings for Brew Lovers.
- Devito, C. How to Host a Beer Tasting Party Kit. How to Host a Beer Tasting Party in Your own Home.
- Dredge, M. Cooking with Beer.
- _______. Craft Beer Tasting Kit. Everything You need for a Beer-tasting Party.
- Herz, J. and Conley, G. Beer Pairing: the Essential Guide from the Pairing Pros.
- Mosher, R. Tasting Beer. An Insider’s Guide to the World’s Greatest Drink.
- Schultz, S. Beer, Food, and Flavor. A Guide to Tasting, Pairing, and the Culture of Craft Beer.
- Tierny-Jones, A. 1001 Beers You Must Taste before You Die.
- Webb, T. and Beaumont, S. The World Atlas of Beer: the Essential Guide to the Beers of the World.
- Willis, K. Beer: a Cookbook. Good Food Made Better with Beer. Includes a Side-serving of Intoxicating Facts.
Nothing gives a sensation better than a beer!
Nothing builds a relation better than a beer!
― Anshul Dubey
4. Home Brewing
- Alworth, J. The Secrets of Master Brewers.
- Beechum, D. The Everything Homebrewing Book: all You Need to Brew the Best Beer at Home!
- Beechum, D. and Conn, D. Experimental Homebrewing. Mad Science in the Pursuit of Great Beer.
- Bostwick, W. and Rymill, J. Beer Craft: a Simple Guide to Making Great Beer.
- Brew Your Own. Big Book of Homebrewing.
- Calagione, S. Extreme Brewing: an Introduction to Brewing Craft Beer at Home.
- Childs, J. and Childs, E. Fermentation & Home Brewing.
- Foster, T. Brewing Porters and Stouts: Origins, History, and 60 Recipes.
- Franks, J. Beer Cookbook Greats.
- Garrett, J. and Evans, B. Beer School: a Crash Course in Craft Beer.
- Loftus, A. Sustainable Homebrewing: an All-organic Approach to Crafting Great Beer.
- Morton, J. and Sewell, A. Brew: the Foolproof Guide to Making World-class Beer at Home.
- Ohlander, J. and Ohlander, A. Home Brewing.
- Papazian, C. and Bamforth, C. The Complete Joy of Home Brewing.
- Parkes, J. Home Brewing.
- Spellmeyer, E. Brew it Yourself: Professional Craft Blueprints for Home Brewing.
- Spencer, J. and Wilkes, S. Basic Brewing: Introduction to Extract Home Brewing. (Video)
5. Beer Terms
Abby beer. Brewers make this beer in the style of trappist beers.
Adjunct. Any fermentable material that producers use in place of traditional grains. They do this to make the beer lighter-bodied or cheaper to make.
Alcohol. The alcohol in beer is ethyl alcohol (ethanol). Alcohol content is measured as a percentage of volume or weight.
Alcohol by weight. Amount of alcohol in percentage of weight of alcohol per volume of beer. It’s about 20% less than alcohol by volume.
The oldest known recipe in the world is for beer.1
Alcohol by volume. Amount of alcohol in percentage of volume of alcohol per volume of beer
Ale is a style of beer brewers make with a top-fermenting yeast. Ales are typically hearty, robust and fruity. See Beer.
All-malt is a beer that producers make entirely from barley malt with no adjuncts.
Altbier is a copper color German ale.
Amber. Beer that has an amber color. That is, between pale and dark.
American Homebrewers Association has over 46,000 members. It’s goal is to help homebrewers make great beer.
American Society of Brewing Chemists began in 1934. It is now a world-wide organization.
I am a firm believer in the people. If given the truth, they can be depended upon to meet any national crisis. The great point is to bring them the real facts, and beer.
― Abraham Lincol
American larger is very light in color and highly carbonated.
Anaerobic. Organisms such as top fermenting ale yeast don’t need oxyge. Thus, they’e anaerobic.
Aroma hops. Brewers use aroma hops to enhance the aroma of beer.
Astringent. Tannin (tannic acid) causes a dry, puckering sensation in the mouth.
Attenuation is the percentage of sugars consumed by yeast during fermentation.
Autolysis occurs when a yeast’s own enzymes eat itself.
Balling degrees indicate the density of sugars in wort.
Barley. A grain that brewers malt. They use the mash from it to brew beer.
Barleywine is an English style beer. Brewers make it with high alcohol and rather malty.
Barm is the froth (liquid yeast) on fermenting beer.
Barrel is a standard unit of volume. A U.S. barrel holds 31.5 gallons whereas a British barrel usually holds 36 imperial gallons.
You might enjoy these.
Beer is a fermented beverage made from barley malt or other cereal grains. From the Latin dibere (to drink). Lager beer is a light, dry beer. Ale is heavier and more bitter than lager. Bock beer, porter and stout are progressively heavier, darker, richer and sweeter.
Beer head is the foam floating on top of beer.
Beer Institute is the trade organization for the malt beverage industry in the US.
Belgian lace refers to the white pattern of foam from the head of beer that is left on a glass after the beverage has been consumed.
Berliner weisse. German brewers make this pale, top-fermented wheat beer.
Biere de garde. French brewers make this strong, bottle-conditioned ale. They lay it down for fermentation.
Bitter. A flavor caused by iso-alpha-acid from hops. Measured in International Bitterness Units (IBU).
Bock is a very strong lager beer. Brewers traditionally brew it to celebrate the approach of spring. Bocks are typically full-bodied, malty and well-hopped. See beer.
British gallon is an imperial gallon. That is, or
Bottom fermentation. For bottom fermentation, brewers use lager yeast (saccharomyces carlsbergensis. This strain of yeast settles to the bottom of a tank during fermentation. See top fermentation.
Know more about beer than your friends? Challenge them Alcohol Facts Quiz
Brewpub. A pub that brews beer and sells at least half of it on its own premises. In England it’s a home brew house. And in Germany, it’s a house brewery.
Brewers Association. The Brewers Association promotes and protects craft brewers in the U.S.
Bright beer is finished beer that is ready to be bottled or kegged.
Brown ale is a British-style, top-fermented beer. Brewers make it lightly hopped and flavored with roasted and caramel malt.
Bung. The stopper for a keg or cask
California common is the generic name for steam beer.
Caramel. Brewers sometimes use caramel (cooked sugar) to color beer and increase its alcohol content. They sometimes use it as an alternative to more expensive malted barley.
Caramel malt (crystal malt). A brownish red malt that is sweet. Gives color and flavor to beer.
In ancient Egypt mothers sent their children to school with a good supply of bread and beer for their lunch.2
Carbonation is the effervescence caused by carbon dioxide. Brewers can create it naturally during fermentation or add it later.
Cask. A beer container that’s barrel-shaped and closed. Usually made of metal and in various sizes.
Cider refers to unfermented apple juice in the US but to fermented apple juice in the rest of the world. In the US, fermented apple juice is called hard cider.
Closed fermentation is anaerobic fermentation in closed vessels.
Cold conditioning. Brewers may use this to develops a clean, round taste in beer. See conditioning and warm conditioning.
Cold filtered. Producers sometimes put beer through a very fine filter instead of pasteurizing it. They may do this to preserve more beer flavors.
Conditioning. Producers give beer a period of maturation to develop natural carbonation or “condition.”)
Conditioning tank (bright beer tank, secondary tank, or serving tank). Brewers place beer in a conditioning tank for secondary fermentation. That causes natural carbonation.
Congeners (khan-gen-ers) are taste and flavor elements in alcohol beverages.
Contract beer results when a company calls itself a brewery but uses the facilities of a real brewery to produce the beer it sells.
Cooler is a beverage made with a base of beer, wine or spirits combined with ingredients such as fruit or cocktail flavors.
Cream ale is an American-style beer. Producers brew it to be sweet, with a gold color, and high carbonation.
Cuvee (cue-vay) is a large vat used for fermentation.
Decoction. Brewers sometimes use this method of mashing. To do so, they remove some of the wort heat it, and then return it.
Degrees Plato. See Plato degrees.
Dextrin. Carbohydrate in barley. Dextrin gives beer flavor and mouthfeel.
Doppelbock. Brewers make this “double” bock darker, sweeter, and higher in alcohol content than bock
Dosage. Process in which brewers add sugar and/or yeast to promote secondary fermentation. They can add it to the cask or bottle.
Early recipes for beer sometimes included mushrooms, poppy seeds, butter, bay leaves, sugar, aromatics, honey, and bread crumbs.3
Draught beer. Keg beer served on tap. Sometimes called draft beer, which is the way it is pronounced.
Dry. Refers to the absence of sugar or sweetness in a beverage. It also refers to political subdivisions or areas in which the sale of alcohol is prohibited or to individuals who advocate prohibition.
Dry-hopping. When brewers add dry hops to increase bitterness or aroma. They can add it to fermenting or aging beer.
Dry stout is an Irish style stout. Brewers make it slightly more bitter and higher in alcohol than English sweet stout.
Dublin stout. A very bitter and very dark style of beer.
Give me a woman who loves beer and I will conquer the world. – Kaiser Wilhelm
EBC is the European Brewing Convention. Producers use Its color scale to specify beer colors.
Enzymes. Grain naturally produces enzymes. When heated, they convert the starches in barley into maltose. In turn, yeast convert the maltose sugar into alcohol and carbon dioxide.
Esters are flavor compounds that form naturally during fermentation.
European Bittering Units. See International Bittering Units.
Extract. The total solids in wort.
You can’t be a real country unless you have a beer and an airline – it helps if you have some kind of a football team, or some nuclear weapons, but at the very least you need a beer. – Frank Zappa
Final gravity is the specific gravity after fermentation occurs.
Fermentation. When yeast converts sugar into alcohol and carbon dioxide.
Fining. Process by which brewers clarify beer. They use a fining substance that causes particulates to settle. This increases clarity of the resulting beer.
Finish is the lingering aftertaste that results after an alcohol beverage is swallowed.
Finishing hops. The same thing as aroma hops
Flocculation is the precipitation of yeast cells after fermentation.
The Puritans brought more beer than water onboard the Mayflower.4
Gallon is a measure of liquid volume. One U.S. gallon equals 3.785 liters and one imperial gallon is 4.546 liters.
Gelatin is a colorless, tasteless protein the brewers often use for fining.
Grainy. A beer that has the taste of raw grain.
Grist. Milled grains.
Hang. A lingering harshness.
Hangover is the unpleasant consequence of over-consuming alcohol. It is characterized by headache, fatigue and often nausea. It can be prevented by not over-consuming alcohol.
Hogshead. A 60 gallon (or 54 imperial gallon) cask.
Hop nose is the pleasant odor of hops in beer.
Hops is the small cone shaped flower of a vine (humulus lupulus). Brewers use some varieties to increase bitterness to brews. They use others for aromas. Brewers originally used hops to preserve beer.
Hoppy. Having the aroma of hops. However, it does not refer to the bitter taste of hops.
Hydrometers are instruments brewers use to measures the specific gravity of beer.
For a quart of Ale is a meal for a King. – William Shakespeare
Ice beer results when brewers freeze beer and remove the ice, creating a higher alcohol content.
Immobilized yeast is yeast attached to material within a fermenting tank.
Imperial gallon. An imperial gallon is or
Imperial stout is a very strong, dark, hoppy black ale. See beer.
India pale ale. Producers originally brewed an ale in England for British troops in India during the 1700s. They highly hopped it to survive a voyage that could last as long as six months.
IPA is the abbreviation of India pale ale.
Irish moss is a seaweed that some brewers use for fining.
Keg. A keg is one-half barrel. It contains 15.5 U.S. gallons or 12.7 imperial gallons. That is, it’s 58.67 liters or 1,984 ounces.
Kernel is the whole grain of a cereal or the inner portion of the seed.
Kiln is a place for drying hops.
Kolsch is a light, golden German ale.
Krausen wort. Brewers sometimes add a little sweet unfermented wort to finished beer. This krausen wort causes natural carbonation.
Krausening occurs when producers add a little partly fermented wort to a brew during lagering. This causes a secondary fermentation and effervesence.
Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy. – Benjamin Franklin
Lager. Brewers make lager with bottom fermenting yeast. Lager generally smooth and crisp. See beer.
Lagering. Brewers age beer by keeping it in a layering tank for a number of days. Lager is German for storage.
Lambic is a naturally-fermented Belgium beer. Brewers don’t add yeast but allow naturally-occurring yeast in the environment ferment the wort. They usually give it a fruit flavor.
Lauter. Brewers lauter when they separate the wort from spent grain. They do this by filtering and sparging.
Lauter tun (straining tank) is a large tank with a perforated false bottom above its real bottom. Distillers use it used to strain the sweet wort from the spent grains after mashing. See lauter.
Whoever drinks beer, he is quick to sleep; whoever sleeps long, does not sin; and whoever does not sin, enters Heaven! Thus, let us drink beer!
― Martin Luther
Lees are the deposit of yeast and sediments at the bottom of a tank after fermentation.
Light beer is reduced-calorie beer. Producers create it by removing dextrine, a tasteless carbohydrate. Although beer, wine and spirits all contain calories, their consumption does not appear to increase weight!
Light-Struck. Exposure to light can cause beer to have a skunk-like smell.
Liquor is what brewers call any water they use in brewing.
Liter is a measure of volume equal to 33.8 ounces.
Maibock is a sweet pale German lager. Brewers make it for spring consumption.
Malt (or malted barley). Malsters moisten barley, allow it to germinate, then dry it.
Malt beverages. Brewers make malt beverages from malt. Malt has much more sugar than un-malted grain.
Beer is the second most popular beverage in the world. Tea is the most popular.
Malt liquor is not liquor or a distilled spirit of any kind. It is a beer with higher alcohol content and often sweeter taste than most other beers.
Maltosis a fermentable sugar in malt.
Master Brewers Association of the Americas is a world-wide organization. It’s “dedicated to advance, support, and encourage scientific research into brewing malt beverages.”
Medium-bodied lager is typically lighter and cleaner tasting than ales.
Mull. Bartenders make mull by sugaring and spicing beer, wine or distilled spirits.
Noble hops are varieties that brewers use for their highly desirable aromatic qualities.
Oktoberfest is a beer festival held annually in Münich for 16 days and nights in late September and early October. It originally celebrate a royal wedding in 1810. It’s also a style of beer.
Old ale is a traditional British beer. Producers give this dark, well-matured beer rich flavors.
Original gravity is the specific gravity of wort before a brewer adds yeast.
Oxalic acid. Grains release oxalic acid into wort. This, along with calcium, can cause crystals of calcium oxalate to precipitate.
Oxygenation occurs when producers add oxygen to the wort. They do this to improve fermentation.
My wife loves cooking with beer. Sometimes she even uses it as an ingredient in her recipes!
Pitch. Brewers pitch when they add yeast to wort.
Plato degrees or degrees Plato is a scale for measuring sugar in wort. It’s a revision of the Balling scale.
Pony-keg. One quarter a barrel or one-half a keg. That is, 7.75 U.S. gallons or imperial gallons
Ppm is the abbreviation for parts per million
pH is a measures of acidity or alkalinity. A value of 1 is most acidic, anda value of 14 is most alkaline. A value of 7 is neutral.
Porter is a very dark, top-fermented brew.
Porter is an English-style, very dark, ale. that was stout’s predecessor.
Salted peanuts dropped into in a glass of beer will “dance.”
Priming occurs when a brewer adds sugar at the maturation stage to start a secondary fermentation.
Pub is short for public house for drinking, as contrasted to a private house or club. (UK)
Publican. The owner or manager of a pub is a publican.
Pulque (puhl-kay) is Mexican cactus beer.
Quinones are compounds caused by oxidation and can produce stale flavors.
Rauchbier (smoke beer). Brewers make this beer with wood-smoked malt.
Reinheitsgebot. Bavaria established its ”purity law” in 1516. It required brewers to use only malted grains, hops, yeast and water. The law now applies to all brewers making wine for sale in Germany.
Roasted malt. Brewers use roasted malt to color beer.
Root beer is a non-alcohol beverage. It was promoted by temperance activists in the hope that it would replace real beer in popularity.
Saison is a Belgian-style mildly sour ale with spice or herb flavors.
Saké or saki. Saki is a fermented drink very popular in Japan. Although commonly called rice wine, it is actually a beer.
It’s against the law to sit on the curb of any street in the city of St. Louis while drinking beer from a bucket.5
There go the plans for this weekend!
Scotch ale tends to be strong, very dark, thick, creamy copper-colored ale.
Scottish ale is less alcoholic than Scotch ale.
Seed yeast. Brewers use seed yeast to start fermentation.
Shelf life is the time a beer will keep its peak taste. For commercial beers, it’s usually four months at most.
Society of Independent Brewers represents more than 825 independent craft breweries in the U.K.
Sparge. When brewers sparge, they spray hot water on the grain bed to recover sugars.
Specific gravity. The density of a liquid or solid in comparison to water, with water being 1.00 at 39F or 4C.
Spent grain is what is left over from the mashing and lautering. Farmers and ranchers commonly use it as animal feed.
Steam beer is a top fermented beer with a high level of carbon dioxide.
Stout is a very dark, heavy, top-fermented beer. See beer.
Life is too short to drink cheap beer.
Top fermentation occurs when brewers use “ale yeast” (saccharomyces cerevisiae) in fermentation. This strain of yeast rises to the top of a tank during fermentation. See bottom fermentation.
Trappist beer must be brewed in a monastery under the control of the monks.
Trub. Same as lees.
Tun is a tub, tank, or other large brewing vessel.
U.K. gallon (imperial or British gallon). An imperial gallon is or
A fine beer may be judged with only one sip, but it’s better to be thoroughly sure. — Czech Proverb
Umami is the flavor of glutamic acid (MSG). Beers properly aged on yeast sediment can develop umami-like character
Underdough is the material between the false bottom and the real bottom of a straining tank. It’s largely the husks and other harder parts of the mash.
Upper dough is the material on the false bottom of a straining tank. It’s largely coagulated protein.
Unfiltered is beer that brewers have not filtered to remove yeast.
Unitank is a fermentation vessel that producers can also use as a conditioning tank.
Units of bitterness. See IBU.
Vacuum evaporation occurs when producers use low pressure to remove alcohol from beer.
Vat is a fermenting or storage vessel.
VGA. A hop variety that producers use for medium bitterness.
Vienna lager is an amber beer.
Vinous is wine-like.
Viscosity is the thickness of beer. The lower the viscosity, the thicker the beer.
Vitality is a measure of yeast functioning. The higher the yeast’s vitality, the greater its ability to process sugar into alcohol.
He was a wise man who invented beer. – Plato
Warm conditioning. Producers can use warm conditioning to develop complex flavors. See conditioning and cold conditioning..
Wheat beer. Brewers make wheat beer from a mash that includes wheat. The resulting beer varies from light and fruity in the U.S. to a dark bock in Germany.
White beer. See wit.
Wit (white beer). Brewers make this cloudy wheat beer and spice it with orange peel and corriander.
Wort (vort) is the sweet liquid mash extract. It’s food for yeast that produce alcohol and carbon dioxide.
Xylose. Pentosans are in the walls of malt cells. Those that are digested release xylose into the wort.
Yard glass. A yard-high glass. That is, it’s three feet (a yard) high.
Yeast are single-cell plants that convert sugars into beverage alcohol and carbon dioxide. Without them, there would be no beer.
Yeast crop is what brewers collect from fermentors either during or after fermentation.
Yeast nutrients are elements that brewers often use to promote good yeast growth.
A hamburger walks into a bar and the bartender says, “Sorry, we don’t serve food in here.”
Zentner is the standard measurement of packaged hops. One zentner of whole leaf hops is 50Kg.
Zymase are enzymes in yeast that enable it to produce alcohol.
Zymonomas mobilis is the major species of bacterium in brewing. It quickly spoils beer.
Zymurgy is the science and art of brewing.
Any important beer terms missing? If so, email hansondj [at sign] potsdam [dot] edu/. And thank you for your help!
Footnotes for Beer Terms
1 Katz, S., and Voigt, M. Bread and beer. Exped, 1987, 28, pp. 23-34.
2 Heath, D. Drinking Occasions, p. 78.
3 Braudel, F. Capitalism and Material Life, p. 167.
4 Royce, J. Alcohol Problems, p. 38.
Hope you’ve enjoyed learning some new beer terms!