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Beer Glossary


Welcome to our glossary of beer terms commonly used in beer rating, homebrewing, and general discussions about beer.

Adjunct - A loose definition refers to unmalted 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.

Aerobic - An organism, such as top fermenting ale yeast, which needs oxygen to metabolize.

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.

Alcohol By Weight - The measure of the weight of alcohol as a percentage of total weight of the liquid. This standard is being used much less frequently nowadays. To convert ABW to ABV, multiply the ABW x 1.25. Conversely, to get the ABW from ABV multiply the ABV x 0.8.

Ale - Ales are made with "top-fermenting" strains of yeast which means that the yeast ferments at the top of the fermentation tank. For more information, read The Difference Between Ales and Lagers.

All-Malt - Often used in exchange for the term "craft brew". It refers to beers made from 100 percent malted barley, malted wheat or malted rye. In contrast, non-craft brews may contain up to 60 percent rice or corn adjunct along with reduced quantities of malt.

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.

Anaerobic - The ability to metabolise without oxygen present such as bottom-fermenting lager yeasts.

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.

Bung - A wooden plug for a beer barrel.

Carbonation - Refers to the amount of CO2 in a beer.

Carboy - A glass or plastic container that looks like an office water-cooler bottle or a large jug. It is used by homebrewers for fermenting the 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.

Cloying - A beer that is overly sweet to the point of being unpleasant.

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.

Dextrin - The unfermentable carbohydrate produced by the enzymes in barley. It gives the beer flavour and body.

Diacetyl - A compound produced by yeast as a normal product of fermentation. Some levels of diacetyl are acceptable in some beer styles, while in others it should not be detected at all. Diacetly can be detected as a buttery or butterscotch flavor.

Dry Hopping - The addition of dry hops during first or secondary fermentation to add a hoppy character to the beer without affecting the beers bitterness.

Ester - Flavor compounds naturally created during fermentation that add fruity, flowery and/or spicy flavors to beer.

European Bittering Units - See International Bittering Units.

Fermentation - The process of sugars being converted to alcohol and CO2 by yeast.

Final Gravity - The weight of a beer after fermentation.

Finings - Finings is a substance used to aid the clearing of beer, particularly real ale. Finings can include isinglass, bentonite, Irish moss, and others.

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. For more information, read The Difference Between Ales and Lagers.

Lauter - The process of separating spent grains from the water into which the grain's sugars have been extracted by the mashing process.

Lauter Tun - Used for the lautering process, this vessel is typically fitted with a false bottom that holds the grain bed during sparging.

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.

Mash Tun - The vessel that mashing occurs in.

Original Gravity - The weight of a beer before fermentation.

Pasteurization - Heating of beer to 60-79C/140-174F to stabilise it microbiologically.

Phenol - The types of phenol found in beer can lead to a medicinal taste.

Pitching - The process of adding yeast to the wort in the fermentation tank.

Rack - To siphon the beer from one vessel to another in order to separate the beer from the lees or trub.

Sparge - See mashing.

Tannic - Having an astringent taste.

Trub - See Lees

Wort - Created by mashing, wort is liquid malt extract that is ready for the fermentation tank where yeast will be added.

Yeast - Single celled organisms of the fungus family that are responsible for converting the sugars contained in malt into alcohol and carbon dioxide. Saccharomyces Cerevisiae is used to make ales and Saccharomyces Carlsbergensis is used to make lagers.

Zymurgy - The science of fermentation.

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