Beer culture is full of all kinds of odd words. To someone trying their first craft beer, it may feel like your beer-savvy friends are talking in code. Here’s our ever-growing beer dictionary to help you figure out why the post-ferm flocculation may have caused the tickers and haze bois to recruit mules and chase that whale.
This is by no means an exhaustive beer dictionary. Since we’re the guys that write a beer blog, our friends will text us and ask us about certain terms from time to time. That’s when we add them in here – plus a few extras that are good to know.
This beer dictionary isn’t meant to be the end-all-be-all, but if we’re doing our job right, it ought to make you a little more knowledgeable in the beer aisle. If there’s a term you’d like to know and Google’s giving you mixed answers, please drop us a line here.
Alcohol by volume. The higher the percentage, the stronger the beer.
An off flavor, a chemical bi-product of fermentation that tastes and smells like green apples
Extra fermentable carbohydrates used in brewing. Unmalted grain is most common and is usually either rice or corn. Honey, syrups, and lots of other sources of fermentable carbohydrates can be used. Adjuncts are common in mass produced light American lager-style beers. (See BMC)
AHA (American Homebrewers Association)
Advocates for hombrewers rights and creates Zymurgy Magazine. The AHA is a division of the Brewers Association and hosts the world’s largest beer competition, GABF. The AHA was founded in 1978.
Alcoholic is an adjective that can describe aroma, taste or physical warming sensation when describing a beer in a review (Winter Warmers are named for this reason). The flavors can be described as spicy and vinous sometimes. The higher the alcohol by volume (ABV) of a beer, often the larger the mouthfeel it has.
One of two of the most broad classifications of beer, the other being lager. Ale’s are brewed using top-fermenting yeast which ferments better at warmer temperatures, usually between 60 and 75° F, although ale yeast is sometimes used for some styles at lower temperatures. During the fermentation process the yeast rises to the top surface, releasing a frothy head of foam during the process. That’s why the yeast is called top-fermenting. The higher fermentation temperature also gives the yeast the opportunity to impart esters which can add very unique characteristics to the beer. Fun fact according to Wikipedia, “a number of U.S. states, especially in the western United States, “ale” is the term mandated by state law for any beverage fermented from grain with an alcoholic strength above that which can legally be named ‘beer,’ without regard to the method of fermentation or the yeast used.” That’s why there are beers that are clearly lagers, but they’re labels are marked with the word ale.
A cheeky way of calling somebody a beer snob. When being a beer connoisseur turns into shunning others that are less sophisticated.
IPAs traditionally have higher alcohol content and are more aggressively hopped than pale ales. Expect citrus and hops.
Stands for both Barrel-Aged. Barrel-aging is when beer is rested in barrels to impart new flavors into the beer. Wine and liquor barrels of many varieties are used. BA may also be referencing the popular beer site BeerAdvocate.
The preferred grain in beer. The starch in a grain of barley isn’t ready to be fermented into alcohol, so the barley is generally converted into malted barley.
Beer Clean Glass
Beer clean glass is more than clean. A beer clean glass is a completely clean, with no dust, lint, soap residue or other residue. Simply handwashing or putting your glassware in the dishwasher could result in residue that negatively affects the beer’s presentation. These things could affect the color, clarity, aroma, etc. but most commonly the head, retention, and lacing are negatively affected by glassware that isn’t beer clean.
Exactly what it sounds like. When you receive beer in the mail, most commonly from a beer trade.
A beautiful picture/video of beer. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, so pretty much anything can be beer porn.
Belgian (or Brussels) lace:
The latticework of foam from the head of the beer that is left on the glass after a drink of beer has been taken. Reflects both the care taken in brewing the beer and the cleanliness of the glass from which it is being served.
Big Beer (AKA Big Ass Beer)
Beers that are notably high in ABV, IBU, flavor, or all of the above. Many whales are big, but not all big beers are whales.
When somebody acts as if they’re too cool for you at a bar, release or other craft beer event. Basically a dick move, but not unforgivable. Courtesy of HopCast Houston – check out their podcast here!
BJCP – Beer Judge Certification Program
An organization that certifies and ranks beer judges through an examination and monitoring process. The BJCP also sanctions beer competitions, and provides educational resources for current future judges.
An verb meaning a keg has been emptied. “I heard B52 blew that keg in 30 minutes!”
An acronym meaning Budweiser, Miller, Coors. In essence, when somebody mentions BMC they’re saying big, corporate beer, and it may not actually refer to the aforementioned companies. Sometimes used as an insult, other times to paint the picture of a clear boundary AKA, NOT CRAFT.
A very strong lager traditionally brewed in winter to celebrate the coming spring. Full-bodied, malty, well-hopped.
Bottle Conditioning is a process where brewers carbonate bottled beer naturally by adding fermentables (sugar, dry malt extract, etc). Yeast that’s still in the beer re-ferments, eating the fermentables and creating carbon dioxide. The yeast will form a layer of sediment inside the bottom of the bottle, (often called a yeast cake) and can continue to change the beer if it is aged. (Also see Kräusening)
A restaurant-brewery that sells 25% or more of its beer on site. The beer is brewed primarily for sale in the restaurant and bar. The beer is often dispensed directly from the brewery’s storage tanks. Where allowed by law, brewpubs often sell beer “to-go” and /or distribute to off site accounts.
AKA Brett, is a strain of yeast from the Saccharomycetaceae family, and it can be both good and bad for beer. For most styles, this yeast strain isn’t welcome and will cause off-flavors like, but not limited to, barnyard, horse-blanket, and sourness. Many people refer to it generally as funkiness. Beers made intentionally with the Brett yeast have grown in popularity in America. That led to the addition of a new style category to the Great American Beer Festival (GABF). On the other hand, Belgian breweries have been using Brett intentionally for quite some time in styles like Lambic and Gueuze.
Blank cans typically used for small batch beers or brewery-only releases. Many of the hazy IPAs that popped up in Houston during 2017 were sold in brites.
Brite tank, unrelated to brites, is the last tank in the brewing process. It’s where a beer is stored to be carbonated. Sometimes when a brewer is really proud and excited about an upcoming beer, you might get a taste from the brite tank.
A form of ingesting alcohol through ones anus. Often deployed by extreme alcoholics because of how quickly the alcohol enters the system. If you or someone you know needs help treatment, check here.
Carboy (AKA Demijohn)
A rigid container that looks similar to the blue bottle atop a large water-cooler, although they’re not always actually blue. These big vessels are used for fermenting and conditioning beer, mead, and wine and they’re usually fitted with a rubber stopper (a bung), an airlock, or a blow-off hose to keep oxygen and bacteria out. Carboys can be glass or plastic and are usually 5 to 15 gallons.
The beer version of a wine sommelier. A Cicerone is a beer expert, and is ranked in 4 levels. You can find more info on Cicerone certs here.
Verb meaning to age a beer, although it may not literally be aged in a cellar. Cellaring is typically done with darker beers to see how flavors evolve over time. A barrel aged (BA) beer might become less hot (high-alcohol aroma or flavor) or a bold flavor in an adjunct stout may mellow out, for example. Most often people will cellar beers in a separate refrigerator, wine fridge, basement, or seldom-used closet. When cellaring a beer in a closet, it’s best to choose one that’s closest to the thermostat, as the temperature will be the most regulated in that area of the building.
Another term for koozie, a small hand-held wrapper for a beer meant to keep the beer colder longer. Check out Bomber Jackets for some of the best in the industry, and save some $ with the code “BEERCHRONICLE.”
According to the Brewers Association, an American craft brewer is small, independent and traditional.
A big can of beer typically meant to be drank off-site, the aluminum version of a growler. Crowlers have taken Houston beer by storm.
A beer that’s really easy to drink, often more drinkable than one would imagine. “This IPA is super crushable at 5%ABV and 55IBU!” Not interchangeable but similar to sessionable.
When beers are blended to achieve a certain taste. Most often with Sours, Lambics, and other beers with wine-like properties. The term originated with wine.
Diacetyl is a natural by-product of fermentation. Diacetyl tastes like butter or butterscotch and is even used in the production of artificial butter flavors. Diacetyl is a common off-flavor in beers, namely lighter beers like cream ales, pilsners, and other more subtle styles. The reason it’s more apparent in more subtle beers is its low flavor threshold.
It doesn’t mean “double the amount of hops used in an I.P.A.” Imperial or Double India Pale Ales have intense hop bitterness, flavor and aroma. Alcohol content is very high and notably evident. They range from golden to amber in color. The style may use any variety of hops.
An adjective used to describe a beer that has low sweetness. The low sweetness can also translate into a feeling on your palette that’s a little dry – like cotton-mouth, but less dry.
A brewing technique where hops are added back after primary fermentation is complete specifically to bring out the hop aromas. Think of it like hop tea, where the “water” is the beer and the “tea” are hops. Traditionally, dry hopping is done in beer styles like pale ales and I.P.A.’s, but people are using dry hopping in lots of other styles. Since the hops aren’t boiled in dry hopping, oils aren’t extracted from the hops, therefore bitterness isn’t increased.
The Irish version of stout, slightly more bitter and higher in alcohol than the English sweet stout.
Extra Special Bitter, a fairly uncommon style. More balanced and aggressive version of Bitters, both in alcohol and hop character. Colors range from golds to copper. Low carbonation and pronounced malts, and contrary to the name, not really bitter. ESBs are all about balance.
The chemical conversion of sugars into ethanol (AKA zymurgy). There are many fermentation methods between the two main yeast strains, Ale and Lager, and how they operate, but generally speaking the process is the same. Starches from barley are converted into sugar during the mash and once the yeast is pitched (added) into the cooled wort, the fermentation process begins. The yeast eats all the sugar to reproduce which creates two by-products; carbon dioxide and alcohol.
A small keg used for cask conditioning. Firkin beers are usually served warmer than usual, and carbonation is typically much lower because the small container usually sits atop a counter during service.
When brewing beer, yeast will clump together in a floc as it stops being suspended in the liquid. The yeast does not dissolve in the solution, though. Flocculation occurs when the yeast has completed fermenting and either clumps together at the surface of the beer (top-fermenting ale yeast) or the bottom of fermentation vessel (bottom-fermenting lager yeast).
A big wooden barrel used (typically) for long-term fermentation of sour beers. Used in wine making and adopted by brewers for the complex flavors they impart beyond just the wood.
Cans/bottles that are fresh as possible. Some beer nerds “chase freshies,” seeking out only beer that was brewed and packaged very recently. Nick is one of them.
GABF (AKA Great American Beer Festival)
The Great American Beer Festival is the king of the hill when it comes to U.S. beer festivals and competitions. GABF is to beer as the The Finals are to the NBA or World Series to MLB. Each year, GABF represents the largest collection of U.S. beer ever served, in a public tasting event plus a private competition. GABF brings together the brewers and diverse beers that make the U.S. the world’s greatest brewing nation. GABF was founded in 1982, and has been growing and evolving along with the American craft brewing industry ever since. Find out more about the GABF here.
A container used to transport beer fresh from the keg. Typically made of glass or steel, growlers can normally be purchased in two standard sizes: 32 and 64 ounces (two and four pints of beer, respectively)
When a brewery “rents time” on another brewery’s equipment. Sort of like contract brewing, except you’re not handing off the recipe; you’re actually there brewing it for yourself at their facility. A concept that has grown in popularity in the last few years.
A person that chases down all the hazy IPA releases and then raves about how great they were to people that missed out. Often heard saying things like “drink as fresh as possible.” (See NEIPA)
A German word for yeast. Also a Spanish word for boss.
A person that prefers local beer, local = good to a homer.
Brewers use hops, a small bitter flowering plant, to provide a counterbalancing aroma and taste to beer. The basic idea is not unlike what you would find in a good wine. As you drink, the malty beer washes over your tongue, bringing you body and sweetness. As you swallow, the hops hit the bitter taste buds in the back of your mouth, serving as a tonic, leaving (hopefully) a refreshing taste.
Aroma of hops, does not include hop bitterness. Citrusy, piney, floral, fruity, etc. would all be hoppy flavor notes.
Drinking a series of different beers from different breweries in a single session. Horizontals are most commonly done by tasting a handful of beers from the same style (San Antonio Pale Ales, Texas Pilsners, Houston IPAs, or Houston stouts.). Horizontals usually contain a handful of beers, and are shared with friends. The idea is to see how different beers compare to one another within set parameters like style or locale. (See vertical)
An adjective used to describe a beer that contains a high alcohol aroma or flavor. Common in BA beers.
A beer which is stronger than the typical base style. (I.E. an Imperial IPA)
International Bitterness units. A system of indicating the hop bitterness in finished beer.
A term used to describe the finish of a beer that’s the opposite of dry. A juicy beer will have a soft feeling on your palette. Also often used to describe beers that resemble fruit juice in appearance, aroma, and flavor. The Houston Haze Craze of 2017 brought soaring popularity to the term with many great NEIPAs surfacing.
A German term to describe adding active, fresh wort to beer during the bottling process. This creates natural carbonation through bottle conditioning. See bottle conditioning.
The second of two of the more general classifications of beer, along with Ale. Lager beer is brewed using bottom-fermenting yeast. This yeast flocculates to the bottom of the fermentation vessel. Lager is a German term for storage, as beer was lagered in caves at cool temperatures before any sort of refrigeration existed. In other words, lager refers to cold storage. The most important part of the lagering process is the cold fermentation temperatures – between 35° and 45°F – that give lager beer it’s characteristics of being smooth, crisp, clean, and less fruity and spicy due to the production of less phenols and esters during the fermentation process. Many big beers (Bud, Miller, Coors or BMC) are lagers because of their crisp and clean drinkability.
A craft beer aficionado that’s not afraid to travel for beer and wants to try as many new styles and variations as possible. It’s a way of life. This is the difference between a knowledgeable person, and a real expert. Having an elevated palette is one thing, but a maven can put it into words. Also, mavens know mavens. Courtesy of HopCast Houston – check out their podcast here!
A sensation derived from the consistency or viscosity of a beer, described, for example as thin or full.
When you’re unavailable to make it to a release, and someone buys the beer for you and brings it back. A mule may or may not even care about the beer; they may live close to the brewery releasing the beer, or they may just have more spare time than you. Mules come in handy for snagging a bit more than your fair share when there’s a limit, and you bring one along with you. Many of our wives/girlfriends have served as mules (some happily, some begrudgingly). Sometimes mules are paid, and other times it’s a favor for a favor.
A New England IPA (or North Eastern IPA, depending on who you ask). Most notable for their hazy appearance, NEIPAs are also commonly lower in bitterness and have tons of tropical and citrus fruit aromas and flavors. A soft, pillowy mouthfeel is desired to round out they style. Many well-tenured brewers disregard the style as careless or flawed due to the haze. NEIPAs are also known for having a very short shelf life. (See haze bois)
OG/FG – Original Gravity/Final Gravity
With beer and other alcoholic beverages, gravity (or specific gravity) has to do with the relative density of the wort at various stages of the fermentation process. OG refers to the specific gravity of the unfermented wort. FG—on the other hand—refers to the specific gravity of the fermented beer. In between OG and FG, some of the sugar in the wort is fermented into alcohol, while the remainder becomes part of the beer’s body.
Type of beer that is brewed with mostly pale malts for a more equal malt-to-hop ratio. Balance is the key for a Pale Ale.
The colorful, hard, plastic packaging that adorns most 4 and 6 packs of cans. They’re well known for being a bit frustrating to free a beer from, but although they’re made from more plastic than the stringy ones used by BMC and other big beer, they’re made from 100% post-consumer recycled material.
The most popular beer style in the world! About 90% of the consumed beer around the world is of this style. All big brand beers from Corona, Heineken, Coors, Budweiser, Beck’s … you name it, do trace their roots back to the Pilsner style. A Pilsner is a golden clear lager.
Verb meaning to add yeast. It describes a step in the brewing process after the boiling process and before the fermentation process.
When you receive a big, beautiful box of beer from a successful beer trade.
Porters tend to be dark brown to black in color and feature a toasted malt flavor that can be paired with mild to high hop flavor, aroma, and bitterness.
A 16-oz can is sometimes called a pounder in certain circles instead of a tallboy. But a tallboy is still a valid term for a big can from 16-24 oz can of beer.
Beer raffles. Known as “razzle” to make sure they don’t get shut down by Facebook because raffles are now against Facebook’s terms of service. You buy entry to a raffle typically with a limited # of spots. The number of spots essentially puts a price tag on the beer being raffled. Example: 10 spots for $5 each means the person selling the beer gets $100 for it. It’s how Shitlords sell the beer they don’t drink, and profit off of the hype. (See Shitlord)
Derrogatory term meant to make fun of cicerones. The term suggests that cicerones are fat loners.
French for “season”, we forgot that “seasonal beers” used to be so because of necessity! Also known as farmhouse ales.
This is where rare or hard to find beers are re-sold online. Die hard beer nerds will wait in lines to score these rare beers in hopes of aging and trading them for other rare, valuable beers, or to sell them for more than their original price – on the secondary market. (See razzle)
Sessionable (Session Beer)
A beer that’s really easy to drink, brewed specifically to have low ABV and IBU. Good “grass-cuttin” beers or ones that would lend themselves well to a long, hot day at the beach or river. Not interchangeable but similar to crushable.
Not to be confused with selfie – a shelfie is readily available beer that can be found on grocery and liquor store shelves. Shelfies are typically 6-packs of bottles or cans, but it can refer to pounders, tallboys, bombers, etc. It’s often used in a derogatory fashion by shitlords that are too cool to get beer from stores.
A shelfie that’s sat around for so long that it ought to be removed because it’s past it’s prime, aka old beer lacking of flavor.
Somebody that gets more than their fair share of some limited release beer, often by way of mules. A shitlord often taunts their haul after beating the system. (See mule)
Skunked Beer (AKA Light Struck)
A term frequently used to describe beer that’s gone bad for any variety of reasons. Typically because of light, not cooling/heating. More info on skunked beer here.
Single Malt and Single Hop. This brewing method is meant to simplify brewing and isolate flavors to better understand what is being tasted in the beer.
Sour beer is a beer style characterized by an intentionally acidic, tart, sour taste.
Dark brown to pitch black in color, Stouts are the stronger brother of the porter. Traditionally, stronger beers were all referred to as stouts but as time went on stout changed to refer to stronger porters.
Standard Reference Method – The measurement used by brewers to determine the color of a beer.
A person that compulsively ticks beers off of a list. This could be figurative ticking or literal ticking. A ticker might keep lists of all the top beers they’ve had or beers they have to seek out. They may also try to review every beer out there at any cost. More extreme Tickers may also be geeks about statistics, obsessed with how different beers compare to each others based on ABV, IBU, SRM, OG etc.
TFTI (Thanks for the Invite)<
A sarcastic or passive aggressive abbreviation meaning Thanks For The Invite used in group texts or in the comments section of a post online. TFTI is used facetiously or sarcastically when you see a buddy at an event, and you’re jealous that you couldn’t make it.
Drinking a series of a single beer from a single brewery in a particular order, verticals are most commonly done with annually released beers (2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, etc.). Verticals are usually higher ABV beers, and are shared with friends. The idea is to see how the beer has changed over time from aging or from adjustments in the recipe year over year. (See horizontal)
Wet Hop (Fresh hop)
Hops that are used fresh from the vine without being dried or processed at all. Wet hop beers are rare because hops mold very quickly, therefore must be dried immediately after harvesting or used fresh. Look for wet hop beers in the fall.
Whale (AKA Whalezzzz – the more z’s the more whale-like)
A highly sought after beer. Often limited release, limited distribution or is very well-reviewed. A super popular beer that you probably can’t get unless you A. live near the brewer and camp out for the release, B. you’re a maven, C. You’ve got a friend that’s a maven, D. trades. Whalez are in the eye of the beholder. What’s a whale to someone in LA might not be a whale to someone in Boston. Courtesy of HopCast Houston – check out their podcast here!
A whale of epic proportions, figuratively speaking. It’s a direct reference to Moby Dick wherein the white wale is out of reach or viewed as unattainable. It’s a beer so rare that only a few bottles are produced and available at any time, making them almost legendary. Every beer geek wants a white whale. See Whale.
Wit is the identification for Belgian Wheat Ales. They are absolutely different from German or US wheat beers. A Wit must be brewed using at least 25 % of wheat malts. Belgian wheat beers are fruitier, with a slight lemony touch, because the use of coriander seeds, orange peels, and other spices is very common.
Wort is an unfermented sweet mixture of water and malt called sweet wort until the hops are added. Then it’s called hopped wort. Wort contains sugars from the malts that will be converted into alcohol during the fermentation process, resulting in beer. Wort is first boiled, cooled very quickly, and then transferred into a fermentation vessel where the yeast is pitched (added) and the fermentation process begins.
A thin layer of yeast sediment remaining on the bottom of a bottle-conditioned beer. Sometimes harvested by homebrewers looking to include the yeast from a beer that they already enjoy into their own recipe.