Craft Beer Terminology


ABV (Alcohol by Volume): This indicates the percentage of alcohol in a beer.

Alcohol By Weight: Percentage of alcohol content in a beverage, by weight. The percentage of alcohol by weight is approximately 20 percent lower than that by volume.

Adjuncts: Substitutes for fermentable grains such as corn, rice, oats, rye, brown sugar and more. Many home brewers use adjuncts to add different flavorings and to help smooth out the flavor and improve the mouth feel, head retention and clarity

Ale: Technically, beer fermented using top-fermenting yeasts like Saccharomyces cerevisiae. Legally, some states redefine any beer with more than 4% alcohol (by weight) to be an ale

Alpha acids: This is one of the main bittering agents in hops. There are two primary naturally occurring soft resins in hops the other would be Beta Acid.

Basket: Industry term for those flimsy cardboard things that hold 6-packs (of bottles) together. Also known as a carrier or liner. Latrobe Brewery is the only company using this term in its advertising: they call a Rolling Rock 6-pack a "basket of rocks".

Barrel Aging: An old process still practiced today of aging beer in wooden barrels or casks.

Beta Acid: Beta Acid contributes bitterness to the beer and helps in its preservation quality. There are two primary naturally occurring soft resins in hops the other would be Alpha Acid.

Bomber: A slang term for a 22-ounce bottle of beer.

Bottle-conditioned:  This is a process by which beer is naturally carbonated. Yeast is left in the bottle to induce further development over time, known as secondary fermentation.  As the beer changes, more complex flavors and aromas form.

Brew on Premises or BOP: This is when businesses rent their space for do-it-yourself brewers to use to brew their own beer.

Breweriana: This refers to old brewing memorabilia.

Brewpub: An establishment or restaurant selling beer brewed on the premises.

Bung: Can refer both to the hole and the cylindrical sealing stopper in a cask, keg or barrel. Can be either wood or plastic and is fitted into the mouth of a cask or an older style keg.

CAMRA: The Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) was founded in 1971 and has been campaigning for real ale, pubs & drinkers' rights ever since. CAMRA has over 200 branches around the UK and all our activities are led by volunteers. Our members give up their own time to work with pubs in their area, host beer festivals and campaign on a variety of issues. 

Carboy: A large clear glass, plastic or earthenware container commonly used for home brewing. Each container can typically hold 20 to 60 liters used for fermenting beer.

CaskA barrel-shaped container of beer, typically made of metal, used to hold live ale as it ferments. It was originally made of iron-hooped wooden staves but is now mostly aluminum or stainless steel. The beer is not initially force carbonated, but gains natural carbonation in the cask over time as yeast is introduced. So-called "cask beer" is traditionally served slightly warmer in temperature than draft beer.

Coolship: A large s type of fermentation vessel which is basically a shallow container used to cool wort which is the liquid containing grain sugars yielded at the end of the malting process, while exposing it to outside temperature and wild yeast.  Traditionally used by Belgian brewers, coolships have been adapted by many U.S. breweries as a more natural way of creating beer. Traditionally, coolships were constructed of wood, but later were lined with iron or copper for better thermal conductivity.

Craft Brewery: A small independent and traditional brewery, according to the Brewers Association.

Dry Hopping: This is a method in which brewers put hops into the beer after the boil and fermentation phases of the brewing process. The purpose of this is to capture more of the aroma and flavor in the beer from the essentials oils in the hops.

EstersAn aroma or flavor of fruits and/or spices brought on through the interaction of organic acids and alcohols during fermentation. This is a prominent characteristic in Belgian ales due to their unique yeasts. Esters are very common in ales.  

Fermentation: This is the chemical conversion of fermentable sugars into alcohol, which takes place from exposure of yeast to sugars.

Firkin: A type of cask traditionally used by British brewers to bring beer to the pub. Today it’s the most common size of cask, which holds 10.8 US gallons of cask-conditioned ale. 

Fobbing:  This is when beer foams during production, bottling or on draught. Fobbing can also refer to a tap line that's taken on too much foam, to the point where the presence of foam is actually causing significant loss of beer. This is however a positive thing during bottling — foam pushes out excess oxygen from the bottle, providing a tighter seal once capped.

Grand Cru: A technique traditionally used in winemaking, adapted by brewers. While it’s not a regulated term, it generally means a stronger, more balanced version of a standard beer.

Growler: A 64-ounce reusable jug like container typically with a finger loop at the neck which is used to carry fill-ups of fresh draught beer which is purchased at a local tavern, brewery or restaurant. Growlers to go are not legal in all U.S. states.

Grist: The combination of different milled grains in a beer's composition. The grains can be malted or un-malted.

Hops: Hops are the cones of the female Humulus lupulus plant which are used in brewing. Like wine grapes, there are many varieties of hops. They can be classified as either bittering or aroma hops. The lupulin glands in the hops produce both alpha and beta acid resin which contribute to bitterness and the essential oils which provide the aromas.  

IBU: Short for International Bitterness Units, the standard for determining the concentration of alpha acids (see above) that impart bitterness in beer. They are expressed on a scale of 1 the lowest bitterness to 100 which is the highest bitterness. Some have scales as high as 120.

Imperial: This term is often used interchangeably with “double” in the beers description or name to indicate a stronger version of the beer. An example of this is an American Double/Imperial IPA is a stronger version of the American IPA.

Infection: A term that is used often with negative and positive implications. In traditional sour ales, wild yeast is naturally introduced to beer to create a pleasant acidic quality. But, if the beer is infected in the bad sense, the biggest giveaway is a strong sourness or funk. If it gushes out of a glass with foam, it's definitely turned

Lightstruck: AKA “skunked”, lightstruck beer happens when hops are exposed to light, not limited to but often as a result of being exposed to the sun. Clear or green bottles are much more susceptible to skunking. 

Oxidation: As beer ages, it runs the risk of being exposed to oxygen. This is generally undesirable as it can impart flavors of stale fruit and wet cardboard, but in barleywines and stouts, oxidation can actually play an important part in flavor development.

Seasonal Release: These are beers which are released by some breweries that coincide with certain seasons of the year. For example Pumpkin Ales are a popular seasonal release beer during the fall months.

Special Release:  These are additional brewery offerings that are not year round or seasonal. Some brewers offer two types of special release beers. These are beers made available each year on a rotating basis, infinite quantities, that are not tied to any particular season. The second type is a small batch limited offering that is brewed once and available only once. Basically when it’s gone…it’s gone. Special Release beers are popular amongst craft beer drinkers because it allows them to experience new tastes not readily available from small batch offerings.

Wet Hopping: This is less common that dry hopping due to the increased difficulty. The objective in wet hopping is to capture the most pure, unadulterated hop aroma and flavor from the freshly harvested “wet” hops. It is more challenging to accomplish since the process must begin within hours after the hop harvest.

White WhaleA really rare beer, often unavailable for many years and could be obtain through trading.