The Microbrew Lover's Cookbook: Glossary of terms
A glossary of brewing and tasting terms from author Jay Harlow, a true brew aficionado.
Wed, Dec 30 2009 at 5:44 PM
ADJUNCTS: Grains and other sources of fermentable sugars other than barley or wheat. Adjuncts such as corn or corn sugar, rice, and cane sugar can reduce the cost of brewing, but generally diminish flavor. Common in North American mass-market beers, rarely used in craft brewing.
ALCOHOL BY VOLUME: The most common measure of alcoholic strength in beer (and other beverages) worldwide, sometimes abbreviated ABV on labels. U.S. laws used to specify beer strength in alcohol by weight; since alcohol is lighter than water, this gave lower apparent levels, and led to the widespread misconception that standard American beer is weaker than imported beers. Most beers worldwide range from 4 to 5 percent ABV (3.2 to 4 percent by weight). West Coast craft beers tend to be slightly stronger, in the 5 to 6 percent range, and many seasonal beers are stronger still.
ALE: One of the two basic styles of beer, fermented at relatively warm temperatures (65 to 68°F) with top-fermenting yeast. Characterized by fruity, estery flavors and aromas in addition to hops and malt. Compare lager.
ALTBIER: Literally “old beer”; used in certain German regions with traditions of brewing ale rather than lager, and by a few Western brewers making beers in a similar style.
ASTRINGENT: Causing a drying, tightening sensation to the mouth, especially the gums; imparted to beer by hops. Astringency is generally a positive, refreshing trait, unless it’s too pronounced.
BARLEY: Grain most typically used to brew beer. Barley grains must be converted to malt for most brewing.
BARLEY WINE: The strongest category of ales (8 to 12 percent alcohol by volume), usually fairly sweet, and intended for sipping in small quantities with or as dessert. Long fermentation with multiple strains of yeast required to reach higher alcohol levels provides especially complex and fruity flavors and aromas.
BEER: In the broadest sense, covers the whole range of fermented grain beverages. As used here, a category that encompasses lager, ale, and wheat beer.
BITTER: 1. One of the five basic flavors, in beer associated mainly with hops. 2. An English ale style that, despite the name, is usually less bitter than pale ale. Produced by some West Coast brewers.
BOCK: A style of lager, usually high-gravity lager, from Bavaria, traditionally brewed for spring consumption.
BODY: The density or “mouth-filling” sensation of a beer, contributed mostly by alcohol and dextrins.
BOTTOM-FERMENTING: Describes the kind of yeast used in lager fermentation, which remains suspended throughout the fermenting wort and gradually settles to the bottom. Compare with top-fermenting.
BREWERY: A place where beer is brewed.
BREWING: Strictly speaking, the stage of boiling wort and hops together prior to fermentation; more loosely, covers the entire process of producing beer from the time the malt and water are first combined through fermentation and conditioning.
BREW PUB: An American term for an establishment where beer is brewed and served on the same premises; sometimes food is served as well.
BROWN ALE: An English ale style, typically malty, medium-bodied, and slightly sweet with moderate hop flavor. West Coast examples are often more highly hopped than a typical English brown ale.
BUTTERY, BUTTERSCOTCH: Describes the aroma of diacetyl, an organic compound produced by yeasts under certain temperature and chemical conditions during fermentation. A slight buttery aroma is an appreciated characteristic of certain styles of ale, but butteriness is considered a fault in other beers.
CASK-CONDITIONED: Refers to beers, usually ales, that are transferred to small, portable barrels for final conditioning. Depending on the amount of sugar remaining in the wort, this final stage produces more or less natural carbonation as the carbon dioxide produced by fermentation remains dissolved in the beer.
CONDITIONING: A resting stage after the most active phase of fermentation, during which the yeast cells gradually die for lack of sugar and settle to the bottom of the vessel, clarifying the beer. See cask-conditioned, kräusening.
CRAFT BREWERY: A term preferred by some to microbrewery for an approach that is independent of size. Implies a traditional approach, in particular all-malt brewing without the use of adjuncts.
DEXTRINS: Large-chain sugars produced in small quantities in the malting process; largely unfermentableby yeast, they remain in the beer, providing sweetness and body.
DUNKEL: “Dark” in German; used for medium to dark brown lagers, often with a sweetish malt flavor.
ESTERY: Having aromas suggesting fruits (especially banana or apple) or wine. Esters are a large class of aromatic organic compounds found naturally in fruits and formed in fermentation, especially the warm fermentation typical of ale brewing. Estery aromas are typical of most ale styles but are rare in lagers.
FERMENTATION: A large class of organic chemical reactions. In beer terms, refers to the chemical process by which yeast cells feed on sugars, producing ethyl alcohol and carbon dioxide as byproducts.
FRUITY: See estery.
GRAVITY: Short for original gravity, a measure of the amount of sugar in the wort. Since sugar converts directly to alcohol in fermentation, original gravity is an accurate predictor of final alcohol content.
HEFEWEIZEN: A style of wheat beer that is not filtered after fermentation, so some spent yeast remains in the bottle or barrel and is intended to be consumed along with the beer.
HOPS: The most common “seasoning” ingredient in beer. Hop cones, the flowers and surrounding leafy structures (bracts) of a tall-growing vine, are used in beer brewing to impart aroma, bitter flavor, and a natural preservative effect.
IMPERIAL STOUT: A style of high-gravity stout, originally brewed by British brewers for export to the Russian court.
INDIA PALE ALE: A variant of pale ale originating in 19th-century England, with both higher gravity and a higher level of hops to help preserve it on sea journeys to India and other far-flung colonies. A very popular style with West Coast brewers (often abbreviated IPA on labels).
KRäUSENING: Also known as bottle-conditioning. Beers bottled when some sugar and yeast remain in the wort will complete their fermentation in the bottle, trapping the carbon dioxide to provide natural carbonation. See conditioning, cask-conditioning.
LAGER: One of the two basic styles of beer, fermented at relatively cold temperatures (45˚ to 50˚F) with bottom-fermenting yeast and aged for several weeks to several months at similar temperatures (lager is German for “store”). Characterized by crystal clarity and straightforward flavors and aromas of malt and hops. Compare ale.
MäRZEN, MäRZENBIER: Also spelled Maerzen. From German for “March beer”; a style of lager, usually amber in color and slightly stronger than a brewery’s standard lager, brewed in spring and aged over the summer to be served at Oktoberfest. Brewed and sold year-round by several Western brewers.
MALT: Barley or wheat that has been moistened and allowed to germinate; in the process, enzymes in the grain convert the relatively unfermentable starch into mostly fermentable sugars, primarily maltose. Roasting the malt dries the sprouted grains, deactivating the enzymes and making the malt storable for months. The temperature and duration of roasting determine the color and flavor of the malt, producing various types from pale to black.
MICROBREWERY: Not a precisely defined term, but a brewery that produces on a smaller scale than a regional or national brewery.
MILD: An English ale style, less highly hopped than bitter. Used as a style label by some West Coast brewers.
OKTOBERFEST: A Bavarian festival season beginning in September; as a beer style, see Märzen.
PALE ALE: An English ale style, usually some shade of reddish amber, “pale” only in comparison to darker ales like brown, porter, and stout. A very popular West Coast style, usually with a pronounced hop flavor and aroma.
PILSNER, PILSENER: The archetype of pale lager, originally from the Czech city of Pilsen (Pilzn), it is pale golden with a pronounced hop aroma and softly malty flavor. Most domestic mass-market Pilsners are faint imitations of the original, but some West Coast brewers make a credible version.
PORTER: Dark brown to nearly black ales in the English style, based on highly roasted malts; local examples vary widely but are usually dry and fairly bitter. See stout.
PUB: British term, short for “public house,” a place where beer and other drinks are sold. In this country, often implies a place more brightly lit and family friendly than “bar.” See brewpub.
SKUNKY: Describes an aroma like that of a skunk, caused by a reaction of sulfur compounds in beer exposed to light. Especially common in beers sold in green or other pale-colored bottles. Sometimes called “light-struck,” always a flaw.
STOUT: The darkest ale style, dark brown to opaquely black, generally darker and fuller-bodied than porter (the original name for this style was stout porter). Local examples may be dry in the Irish style or sweet in the English tradition.
TOP-FERMENTING: Describes the kind of yeast used in ale fermentation, which forms a thick mat on the surface of the fermenting wort. Compare with bottom-fermenting.
WEISS: German for “white”; used for certain wheat beers.
WEIZEN: German for “wheat”; see wheat beer.
WHEAT BEER: Beer brewed with malted wheat in place of some or all of the barley.
WIT: Flemish for “white”; a Belgian style of pale wheat beer flavored with coriander seed and orange peel.
WINTER WARMER: A general name, sometimes a label term, for high-gravity beers brewed for cold-weather consumption.
WORT: A solution of malt and water prior to and during fermentation into beer.
YEAST: A class of one-celled fungi. Beer yeasts (Saccharomyces spp.) ferment malt and other sugars by feeding on the sugar molecules, producing ethyl alcohol and carbon dioxide as byproducts.
The Microbrew Lover’s Cookbook
From The Microbrew Lover’s Cookbook, Copyright © 2002 by Jay Harlow. Used by arrangement with Jay Harlow.