Beer Glossary

Nothing like learning about your favorite beer!

You will find a comprehensive list of beer terms. Learn what makes your favorite beer so special, whether it’s the ingredients, descriptions or how it’s made.

Adjunct – Unmalted grain, such as rice, corn, maize, wheat used in addition to malted barley to make a beer. They tend to stabilize and lighten the flavor of a beer.

Ale – A top-fermented brew, which is typically more acidic and fruity than its bottom fermented counterparts.  May range in color from pale golden to reddish brown.

Barley – It is a key ingredient in beer and whisky production. Two-row barley is traditionally used in German and English beers.  Six-row barley was traditionally used in US beers, but both varieties are in common usage now.

Barley Wine – A Scottish traditional ale, quite strong and dark in color, often called “wee heavy” in pubs. Very high in alcohol.

Bitter – An English Pale Ale, sold by pints in pubs.  So called because ales were originally made without hops, and the addition of hops to the brew then created bitter ales.

Bock – Means male goat, its symbol.  Dark beers traditionally brewed to last throughout the summer, before the days of refrigeration.  Though associated with May, bocks are now brewed year round.  The taste may be lively and well-hoped.

Body – The particular feel of a beer is described as full-bodied, medium-bodied, or light-bodied, depending on the sense of “thickness” or “thinness” in your mouth.

Bottom Fermented – Brews whose yeast ferments on the bottom, such as lagers, pilsners and bocks. These are often served cooler than top fermented beers.  Most common style of brewing in the world, and typified in Germany, Czechoslovakia, and the U.S.A.

Export – A light colored bottom fermented brew.  Often heavier than a pilsner, a typified by those of Denmark & Switzerland.

Fining – A process of producing a “bright” beer by clearing the beer of unwanted haze through the addition of ingredients such as isinglass or Irish moss, which take particles out of the solution.

High Gravity Brewing – A process taking concentrated wort and diluting it with water.  It’s an economical way to make more beer with less equipment.

Hops – An important ingredient in brewing which contributes both bitterness and aroma, and is a natural preservative.  Hops are the dried female flower of a climbing vine in the nettle family.

Keg – A vessel for serving beer in large quantities varying from five to 10 gallons

Lager – means aged. They are produced by bottom fermenting yeast and have a longer and cooler fermentation than ales.  Generally lagers are lighter and sweeter than Pilsners.

Malt – barley which has been moistened, allowed to germinate (sprout), then is kiln-dried.  Malt is an essential ingredient in brewing, and contributes sugar taste, body and character.  In some countries corn, rice and other cereals may be used which are a compromise in quality.

Malt Liquor – a term forced on us by state legal requirements, which indicates beer is over 4% alcohol by weight.  U.S. malt liquors are often the same strength as beer.

Mashing – The preparation of the wort or liquid base of beer, mashing converts starches to sugars by heating malted barley with water.

Microbrewery – Defined as a brewery producing less than 15,000 barrels a year (105,000 cases).

Munchner – recognized style originating in Munich, Germany, for dark brown bottom fermented beers with a distinct malt, and sometimes sweeter character.

Pilsner  – A generic term named after the town of Pilsner in Czechoslovakia.  Like Pilsner Urquell (the original), most Pilsners are bottom fermented well hopped, dry, golden beers.

Porters – lighter in body and color than stouts, and may have a decided chocolate taste contributed by the dark roasted malted barley.  The U.S. produces only two true porters.

Primary fermentation – After pitching the yeast (adding the yeast to the wort) and during the first five days on average, fermentation converts the sugars to alcohol and produces carbonation.

Priming – The process of adding sugar to the brew at the beginning of the secondary fermentation creating carbonation.

Reinheitsgbot – commonly known as the “Bavarian Purity Law” which dates back to 1516. It states that beer must be brewed from only malted barley, hops, water and yeast.  This is enforced today in Bavaria, and for all beers consumed withing Germany, and in Norway, Switzerland, Austria, and Finland and Luxembourg.

Secondary Fermentation – The final stage of the fermentation that can last from three weeks to three years depending on the beer style.

Shelf Life – The number of days, usually a maximum of four months for commercially produced beers, that a beer will retain its peak drinkability.

Stout – a bitter rich top-fermented dark brew which is highly hopped. Notice the head’s creamy color which reflects good quality. Guiness typifies the bitter stout style, some sweet (milk stout) is also produced.

Top-fermented – brews whose yeast works on the top during fermentation, such as ales, porters and stouts.  It is a popular style in England, Ireland, and Scotland. It is often served at room temperature.

Wort – The sweet liquid derived from heating the malted barley with water and hops.  Wort is the beginning of all beers.