Beer Talk

It’s true, we confess: beer terms can get a bit jargony. So we’ve compiled a living list that can act as a quick reference as our blog content evolves. And it’s alphabetized to boot.


  • The Dictionary of Beer and Brewing ©1998 Brewers Publications.
  • The Brewers Association’s Guide to Starting Your Own Brewery ©2006 Brewers Publications.
  • Designing Great Beers ©1996 Brewers Publications.
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A naturally occurring compound formed during ethanol metabolism and yeast fermentation of organic compounds. It is believed to be a cause of hangovers due to alcohol consumption.
Any unmalted grain or other fermentable ingredient used in the brewing process. Adjuncts used are typically either rice or corn, but can also include honey, syrups, and numerous other sources of fermentable carbohydrates.
The action of introducing air or oxygen to the wort (unfermented beer). Proper aeration before primary fermentation is vital to yeast growth. Aeration after fermentation will result in beer off-flavours, including cardboard or paper aromas due to oxidation.
A synonym for ethyl alcohol or ethanol, the colourless primary alcohol constituent of beer. Alcohol ranges for beer vary from less than 3.2% to greater than 14% ABV. However, the majority of beer styles average around 5% ABV.
Alcohol By Volume (ABV)
A measurement of the alcohol content of a solution in terms of the percentage volume of alcohol per volume of beer.
The warming taste of ethanol and higher alcohols. It can be described as spicy and vinous in character. The higher the ABV of a beer, often the larger the mouthfeel it has. Alcohol can be perceived in aroma, flavour, and as a sensation.
Ales are beers fermented with top fermenting yeast. Ales typically are fermented at warmer temperatures than lagers, and are often served warmer.
All-malt beer
A beer made entirely from mashed barley malt, without the addition of adjuncts, sugars or additional fermentables.
Alpha acid
One of two primary naturally occurring soft resins in hops (the other is beta acid). Alpha acids are converted during wort boiling to iso-alpha acids, which cause the majority of beer bitterness.
A characteristic of beer taste mostly caused by tannins, oxidized (phenols), and various aldehydes (in stale beer). Astringency can cause the mouth to pucker and is often perceived as dryness.
The reduction in wort specific gravity caused by the yeast consuming wort sugars and converting them into alcohol and carbon dioxide gas through fermentation.
A process in which excess yeast cells feed on each other, producing a rubbery or vegetal aroma.


A cereal grain derived from the annual grass Hordeum vulgare. Barley is used as a base malt in the production of beer and certain distilled spirits, as well as a food supply for humans and animals.
Beta acids
One of two primary naturally occurring soft resins in hops (the other is alpha acid). Beta acid contributes very little to the bitterness of beer and accounts for some of its preservative quality.
In beer, the bitterness is caused by the tannins and iso-humulones of hops. Bitterness of hops is perceived in the taste. The amount of bitterness in a beer is one of the defining characteristics of a beer style.
The mixing together of different batches of beer to create a final product.
The consistency, thickness, and mouth-filling property of a beer. The sensation of palate fullness in the mouth ranges from thin- to full-bodied. Synonym: Mouthfeel.
A critical step during the brewing process during which wort (unfermented beer) is boiled inside the brew kettle. During the boiling, one or more hop additions can occur to achieve bittering, hop flavour, and hop aroma in the finished beer. Boiling also results in the removal of several volatile compounds from wort, especially dimethyl sulfide and the coagulation of excess or unwanted proteins in the wort. Boiling also sterilizes a beer and ends enzymatic conversion of proteins to sugars.
Bottom fermentation
One of the two basic fermentation methods characterized by the tendency of yeast cells to sink to the bottom of the fermentation vessel. Lager yeast is considered to be bottom fermenting compared to ale yeast that is top fermenting. Beers brewed in this fashion are commonly called lagers or bottom-fermented beers.
Brew kettle
One of the vessels used in the brewing process in which the wort (unfermented beer) is boiled.


A group of organic compounds including sugars and starches, many of which are suitable as food for yeast.
Carbon Dioxide (CO2)
The gaseous by-product of yeast. Carbon dioxide is what gives beer its carbonation (bubbles).
The process of introducing carbon dioxide into a liquid (such as beer) by:
  1. pressurizing a fermentation vessel to capture naturally produced carbon dioxide;
  2. injecting the finished beer with carbon dioxide;
  3. adding young fermenting beer to finished beer for a renewed fermentation (kraeusening);
  4. priming (adding sugar to) fermented wort prior to packaging, creating a secondary fermentation in the bottle, also known as “bottle conditioning.”
A barrel-shaped container for holding beer. Originally made of iron-hooped wooden staves, now most widely available in stainless steel and aluminum.
Cask conditioning
Storing unpasteurized, unfiltered beer for several days in cool cellars of about 48-56°F (13°C) while conditioning is completed and carbonation builds.
Chill haze
Hazy or cloudy appearance caused when the proteins and tannins naturally found in finished beer combine upon chilling into particles large enough to reflect light or become visible. This can be temporary at cold temperatures.
Cold break
The flocculation of proteins and tannins during wort cooling and cold aging of beer.
Colloidal Stability
Physical stability with respect to the formation of protein-polyphenol complexes that can cause of a permanent haze in beer.
The hue or shade of a beer, primarily derived from grains, sometimes derived from fruit or other ingredients in beer. Beer styles made with caramelized, toasted or roasted malts or grains will exhibit increasingly darker colours. The colour of a beer may often, but not always, allow the consumer to anticipate how a beer might taste.


Decoction mash
A method of mashing that raises the temperature of the mash by removing a portion, boiling it, and returning it to the mash tun. Often used multiple times in certain mash programs.
Degrees Plato
An empirically derived hydrometer scale to measure density of beer and wort in terms of percentage of extract by weight.
A group of complex, unfermentable, and tasteless carbohydrates produced by the partial hydrolysis of starch, that contributes to the gravity and body of beer. Some dextrins remain undissolved in the finished beer, giving it a malty sweetness.
A volatile compound produced by yeasts which imparts a caramel, nutty, or butterscotch flavour to beer. This compound is acceptable at low levels in certain beer styles, including: English and Scottish Ales, Czech Pilsners, and German Oktoberfest. Diacetyl is also produced by the infection of certain beer spoilage bacteria and wild yeasts.
Dimethyl Sulfide (DMS)
At low levels, DMS can impart a favorable sweet aroma in beer. At higher levels DMS can impart a characteristic aroma and taste of cooked vegetables, such as cooked corn or cabbage. Low levels are acceptable in and characteristic of some Lager beer styles.
Draught beer
Beer drawn from kegs, casks or serving tanks rather than from cans, bottles, or other packages.
Dry hopping
The addition of hops, late in the brewing process, to increase the hop aroma of a finished beer without significantly affecting its bitterness. Dry hops are usually added during primary or secondary fermentation or even later in the process.


Any of a group of complex proteins originating from living cells which act as a catalyst to bring about a specific biochemical reaction.
Volatile flavour compounds that form through the interaction of organic acids with alcohols during fermentation, and contribute to the fruity aroma and flavour of beer. Esters are very common in ales.
Ethyl alcohol, the colourless primary alcohol constituent of beer.


The conversion of fermentable sugars into alcohol and carbon dioxide gas, through the action of yeast.
The passage of a liquid through a permeable or porous substance to remove solid matter in suspension.
Final gravity
The specific gravity of a beer as measured when fermentation is complete.


Growth of a barley grain as it produces a rootlet and acrospire.
Tasting or smelling like cereal or raw grains.
Ground malt and grains ready for mashing.


Hand pump
A device for dispensing cask conditioned draught beer using a pump operated by hand. The use of a hand pump allows the draught beer to be served without the use of pressurized carbon dioxide.
Head retention
The foam stability of a beer as measured, in seconds, by time required for a 1-inch foam collar to collapse.
The addition of hops to un-fermented wort or fermented beer.
A perennial climbing vine, also known by the Latin botanical name Humulus lupulus. The female plant yields flowers of soft-leaved pine-like cones (strobile) measuring about an inch in length. Only the female ripened flower is used for flavouring beer. There are presently over one hundred varieties of hops cultivated around the world. Apart from contributing bitterness, hops impart aroma and flavour, and inhibit the growth of bacteria in wort and beer. Hops are added at the beginning (bittering hops), middle (flavouring hops), and end (aroma hops) of the boiling stage, or even later in the brewing process (dry hops).
Hot break
The flocculation of proteins and tannins during wort boiling.
The dry outer layer of certain cereal seeds.


Infusion mash
A method of mashing which achieves target mashing temperatures by the addition of heat.
International Bittering Units (IBU)
The measure of the bittering substances in beer (analytically assessed as milligrams of isomerized alpha acid per liter of beer, in ppm).
Irish moss
Used as a clarifier in beer. Modified particles or powder carageenan of the seaweed Chondrus crispus that help to precipitate proteins in the kettle by facilitating the hot break.


A cylindrical container, usually constructed of stainless steel, commonly used to store, transport, and serve beer under pressure.
The process of heat-drying malted barley in a kiln to stop germination and to produce a dry, easily milled malt from which the brittle rootlets are easily removed. Kilning also removes the raw flavour (or green-malt flavour) associated with germinating barley, and new aromas, flavours, and colours develop according to the intensity and duration of the kilning process.
n - The rocky head of foam which appears on the surface of the wort during fermentation. v - A method of conditioning in which a small quantity of unfermented wort is added to a fully fermented beer to create a secondary fermentation and natural carbonation.


The lacelike pattern of foam sticking to the sides of a glass of beer once it has been partly or totally emptied.
A microorganism/ bacteria. Lactobacillus is most often considered to be a beer spoiler, in that it can convert unfermented sugars found in beer into lactic acid. Some brewers introduce Lactobacillus intentionally into finished beer in order to add desirable acidic sourness to the flavour profile of certain brands.
Lagers are any beer that is fermented with bottom fermenting yeast at cooler temperatures. Lagers are most often associated with crisp, clean flavours and are traditionally fermented and served at colder temperatures than ales.
Storing bottom-fermented beer in cold cellars at near-freezing temperatures for periods of time during which time the yeast cells and proteins settle out and the beer improves in taste.
Lauter tun
A large vessel fitted with a false slotted bottom in which the mash is allowed to settle and sweet wort is removed from the grains through a straining process.
The process of separating the sweet wort (pre-boil) from the spent grains in a lauter tun.
Light-struck (skunked)
Appears in both the aroma and flavour in beer and is caused by exposure of beer in light coloured bottles or beer in a glass to ultra-violet or fluorescent light.
The name given, in the brewing industry, to water used for brewing.
A scale used to measure colour in grains and beer. See also: Standard Reference Method.


Processed barley that has been steeped in water, germinated and dried in kilns for the purpose of converting the insoluble starch in barley to the soluble substances and sugars in malt.
A mixture of ground malt (and possibly other grains or adjuncts) and hot water that forms the sweet wort after straining.
Mash tun
The vessel in which grist is soaked in water and heated in order to convert the starch to sugar and to extract the sugars, colours, flavours, and other solubles from the grist.
The process of mixing crushed malt (and possibly other grains or adjuncts) with hot water to convert grain starches to fermentable sugars and non-fermentable carbohydrates that will add body, head retention, and other characteristics to the beer. Mashing also extracts colours and flavours that will carry through to the finished beer, and also provides for the degradation of haze-forming proteins. Mashing requires several hours and produces a sugar-rich liquid called wort.
The grinding of malt into grist to facilitate the extraction of sugars and other soluble substances during the mash process. It is important that the husks remain intact when the grain is milled or cracked because they will later act as a filter aid during lautering.
Synonym for body of a beer, weight on the tongue, perceived carbonation (sensation), perceived warmth (alcohol), and perceived astringency.
Moldy, mildewy character that can be the result of cork or bacterial infection in a beer. It can be perceived in both taste and aroma.


Noble hops
Traditional European hop varieties prized for their characteristic flavour and aroma. Traditionally these are grown only in four small areas in Europe:
  1. Hallertau in Bavaria, Germany
  2. Saaz in Zatec, Czech Republic
  3. Spalt in Spalter, Germany
  4. Tettnang in the Lake Constance region, Germany


A farm-based facility where hops are dried and baled after picking.
Original gravity (OG)
The specific gravity of wort before fermentation. A measure of the total amount of solids that are dissolved in the wort as compared to the density of water, which is conventionally given as 1.000 and higher.
A chemical reaction in which one of the reactants (beer, wort) undergoes the addition of or reaction with oxygen or an oxidizing agent.
Stale, winy flavour or aroma of wet cardboard, paper, bready and many other variations.


A microorganism or bacteria usually considered contaminants of beer although their presence is sometimes desired in beer styles such as Lambic. Certain Pediococcus strains can produce diacetyl, which renders a buttery or butterscotch aroma and flavour to beer, usually considered to be a flavour defect.
Abbreviation for potential Hydrogen in concentration, used to express the degree of acidity and alkalinity in an aqueous solution, usually on a logarithmic scale ranging from 1-14, with 7 being neutral, 1 being the most acidic, and 14 being the most alkaline.
A class of chemical compounds perceptible in both aroma and taste. Some phenolic flavours and aromas are desirable in certain beer styles, for example German-style wheat beers in which the phenolic components derived from the yeast used, or Smoke beers in which the phenolic components derived from smoked malt. Higher concentrations in beer are often due to the brewing water, infection of the wort by bacteria or wild yeasts, cleaning agents, or crown and can linings. Phenolic sensory attributes include clovey, herbal, medicinal, or pharmaceutical (band-aid).
The addition of yeast to the wort once it has cooled down to desirable temperatures.
See Tannins.
Primary fermentation
The first stage of fermentation carried out in open or closed containers and lasting from two to twenty days during which time the bulk of the fermentable sugars are converted to alcohol and carbon dioxide gas.


To drink deeply.


The process of transferring beer from one vessel to another.
Real ale
A style of beer found primarily in England, where it has been championed by the consumer rights group called the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA). Generally defined as beers that have undergone a secondary fermentation in the container from which they are served and that are served without the application of carbon dioxide.
The German beer purity law passed in 1516, stating that beer may only contain water, barley, and hops. Yeast was later added after its role in fermentation was discovered.


The conversion of malt starch into fermentable sugars, primarily maltose.
The genus of single-celled yeasts that ferment sugar and are used in the making of alcoholic beverages and bread. Yeasts of the species Saccharomyces cerevisiae (Ale yeast) and Saccharomyces pastorianus (Lager yeast) are commonly used in brewing.
Secondary fermentation
The second, slower stage of fermentation for beers.
The refuse of solid matter that settles and accumulates at the bottom of fermenters, conditioning vessels, and bottles of bottle-conditioned beer.
Session beer
A beer of lighter body and alcohol of which one might expect to drink more than one serving in a sitting.
Flavour and aromatic character similar to acetone or lacquer thinner, often due to high fermentation temperatures.
A taste perceived to be acidic and tart.
In lautering, an operation consisting of spraying the spent mash grains with hot water to retrieve the liquid malt sugar and extract remaining in the grain husks.
Specific gravity
The ratio of the density of a substance to the density of water. This method is used to determine how much dissolved sugars are present in the wort or beer. Specific gravity has no units because it is expressed as a ratio. Water has a specific gravity of 1.0.
Standard Reference Method (SRM)
An analytical method and scale that brewers use to measure and quantify the colour of a beer. The higher the SRM is, the darker the beer. In beer, SRM ranges from as low as 2 (light lager) to as high as 60 (stout) and beyond.


A group of organic compounds contained in certain cereal grains and other plants. Tannins are present in the hop cone. Also called “hop tannin” to distinguish it from tannins originating from malted barley. The greater part of malt tannin content is derived from malt husks, but malt tannins differ chemically from hop tannins. In extreme examples, tannins from both can be perceived as a taste or sensation similar to sampling black tea that has steeped for a very long time.
Regionally specific conditions (soil, climate and environment) under which a product is grown, giving it a unique flavour and aroma. Examples: East Kent Golding and Hallertau hops.
Top fermentation
One of the two basic fermentation methods characterized by the tendency of yeast cells to rise to the surface of the fermentation vessel. Ale yeast is top fermenting compared to lager yeast, which is bottom fermenting. Beers brewed in this fashion are commonly called ale or top-fermented beers.
Wort particles resulting from the precipitation of proteins, hop oils, and tannins during the boiling and cooling stages of brewing.
Sediment in suspension; hazy, murky.


At the outset of lautering and immediately prior to collecting wort in the brew kettle, the recirculation of wort from the lauter tun outlet back onto the top of the grain bed in order to clarify the wort.


One of the four ingredients in beer. Some beers are made up by as much as 90% water. Globally, some brewing centers became famous for their particular type of beer, and the individual flavours of their beer were strongly influenced by the brewing water’s pH and mineral content. Burton is renowned for its bitter beers because the water is hard, Edinburgh for its pale ales, Dortmund for its pale lager, and Plzen for its Pilsner Urquell.
Wet hopping
The addition of freshly harvested hops that have not yet been dried, to different stages of the brewing process. Wet hopping adds unique flavours and aromas to beer that are not normally found when using hops that have been dried and processed.
A method of collecting hot break material in the center of a vessel by stirring the wort until a vortex is formed. The process was developed by former Moosehead Brewmaster Henry Hudston.
The sweet liquid that is extracted by the mashing process. Wort contains the sugars that will be fermented by the yeast.


Microorganism classified in the Fungi kingdom. During the fermentation process, yeast converts the natural malt sugars into alcohol and carbon dioxide gas. Yeast was first viewed under a microscope in 1680 by the Dutch scientist Antonie van Leeuwenhoek; in 1867, Louis Pasteur discovered that yeast cells lack chlorophyll and that they could develop only in an environment containing nitrogen and carbon.


The branch of chemistry that deals with fermentation.

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