Sunday, April 12, 2015

Let's Talk About Beer: Key words and phrases

Beer has a language all it's own.  Sometimes it can be overwhelming and confusing.  Here's a handy guide of some of the most common words/phrases/terms used when people are discussing beer.

 Craft beer key words and phrases

ABV:  Alcohol by volume.

Ale: There are actually only two kinds of beer --- ales and lagers. Ales are brewed with malted barley using a warm fermentation with a strain of brewers' yeast. Because ale yeasts ferment more quickly, they usually have a sweeter, full-bodied, and fruity taste. Most ales contain hops.

Amber: Refers to copper-colored ales (reddish-brown) that have a moderate to heavy body.

Hops: The female flower from the hop plant, used to provide flavor and stability in beer. There are many different kinds of hops. The top ten used by craft brewers in America are Cascade, Centennial, Willmette, Chinook, Amarillo, East Kent Goldings, Saaz, Golding, Columbus CTZ, and Syrian Golding.

IBU:  The quality of beer is assessed by its color, its strength, and its bitterness. The bitterness of beer is measured by the International Bitterness Unit (IBU) scale.  Yes, that's a real thing, and serious beer drinkers take it very seriously. I've never seen a beer over 100 points, but the interwebs tell me they exist.

IPA:  A hoppy beer within the pale ale family.

Lager: Fermented at cool temperatures. Bock, pilsner, and marzen are all types of lagers.

Malts:  They provide the fermentable sugar that make beer and make them sweet. There are many kinds of malts, including base malts, caramel malts, dark malts, light malts, roasted malts, corn, grits, malt extracts, oats, refined starches, rice, syrups, sugars, unmalted barley, and wheat. The Beer Advocate has a great guide to all of these.

Porter: A dark style of beer made with brown malts.  Although they are actually in the stout family, they are usually not as heavy in mouth feel as stouts.

Saison: A beer that is generally around 7% ABV, highly carbonated, fruity, and spicy.

Stout: A dark beer made with roasted malt or barley as well as hops, water, and yeast.  There are several types of stouts, including dry or Irish stout (think Guinness), Imperial stout (higher alcohol), milk stout (contains lactose), oatmeal stout (made with oats), chocolate stout (has a noticeable dark chocolate flavor), coffee stout (the coffee flavor usually comes from a type of malt used, but some brewers will add ground coffee), oyster stout (made with oysters), porter, and baltic porter.

I'm sure I missed some, but I really wanted to keep this as simple as possible.  As always, if you have a question about beer or craft beer, feel free to ask.


Sip on this
Warmer weather is on the way (or maybe already arrived, depending on where you live). 
This is the time of year I'm most drawn to IPAs and beers with fruity tones.

Blushing Monk (9.2% ABV)
Founders Brewing / Grand Rapids, MI
This beer is crisp, fruity, and only slightly tart. According to the brewery web site, it is brewed with "a ridiculous amount of raspberries." It's so tasty. If it weren't for the high alcohol content, I could drink this all day.
Beer Advocate score = 94 (outstanding)
Untapped rating = 4 stars (out of 5)

Fresh Squeezed IPA (6% ABV)
Deschutes Brewery / Bend, OR
I know, I know, it's an IPA.  But it's a super approachable IPA, so if you're curious but slightly afraid of hops, give this one a try. There's no fruit in the beer, but the citra and mosaic hops will provide a slight tangerine flavor.
Beer Advocate score = 94 (outstanding)
Untapped rating = 4 stars (out of 5)


Next month, I'll show you how homebrewing works.  Some friends and I are making our first collaborative batch this week, which I will attempt to document.


  1. I learned stuff today thanks to this post! Donny and my dad love craft beer, but I have usually no idea what they're talking about... lol. They've actually really gotten into IPAs recently, so I'll tell him about these two recommendations!

  2. My favorite beers are Weizens and Hefeweizens... I'm not a big fan of IPAs.

  3. This post is amazing! I am not personally a beer drinker, though I do indulge in a cider every so often, but I found this so informative!! Now I will know what my brother is talking about when he talks about his favourite beers!

  4. Katie, like she said she would, told me to make sure and check this out. Very cool post! I really enjoy craft beer but, I'm quite the novice. While I do enjoy IPAs, and have a specific non-IPA favorite that is my go-to (hint, it's popular every March 17 and not green), I most enjoy trying new beer. I think I'm going to explore porters soon, I've had a couple recently that piqued my taste buds. I looked for the Fresh Squeezed IPA --apparently not in NC. Boo.

  5. Wooot Michigan!! Founders is great. And I'm glad you identified all of these. I never thought I would like darker beers like porters and stouts but thankfully I am!!


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