You are using an older browser version. Please use a supported version for the best MSN experience.

The Beer Book - Glossary

[Do Not Use]DK Publishing logo[Do Not Use]DK Publishing 2/07/2014 DKBooks


abbey ale

Belgian family of strong, fruity beers either produced or inspired by monastery brewers.


Alcohol by volume, expressed as a percentage. A measure of the strength of a beer.


Strictly speaking, anything added to the brewing process other than barley, hops, yeast, and water. More usually refers to unmalted grains such as rice, barley, oats, and corn, added to increase alcohol content and lighten flavor.


A beer made with ale yeasts. Styles include golden ale, brown ale, mild, and bitter.

ale yeasts

Yeasts used in traditional top-fermenting ales, originating from recycled yeast skimmed from the surface of the last batch. They ferment at room temperature.

alt, altbier

German style of beer similar to British bitter or pale ale, especially associated with Düsseldorf.

aromatic hops

A term used to distinguish the floral and fruitier hops, such as Cascade and Goldings, that are used to impart additional flavors and aromas to beer. Aromatic hops are usually added later in the boil than bittering hops to maintain the subtlety of their attributes.

barley wine

An extra-strong style of ale, originally English, but now produced by many US brewers.

Berliner Weisse

A pale, top-fermented wheat beer from northern Germany.

bière de garde

“Keeping beer” traditional to northern France. Brewed in winter and spring, then bottled and stored to be drunk later in the year by thirsty farmhands. The style is now brewed year-round in several brewing nations.

bitter, best bitter

English beer style, usually designating a well-hopped ale. Best bitter usually refers to stronger variants of the beer.

bittering hops

Hop varieties such as Chinook and Fuggles that are rich in chemical compounds that result in the bitter taste sensation in beer and are used to balance the sweetness of malt. As distinct from aromatic hops.

blonde, blond

A mainly French and Belgian term for a golden beer.


A German term for a strong beer—formerly seasonal, but not any more. Several variations include the even-stronger doppelbock and urbock, made in the original 13th-century style. See also eisbock.


The process by which beers are bottled with live yeast and sometimes fermentable sugars, extending storage life and allowing flavor and effervescence to develop further over time.


Term used to describe yeasts of the Saccharomyces carlsbergensis strain that are used to make lager. During lagering (storage), the yeast sinks to the bottom of the brew, producing a clean-tasting beer.


A semi-wild genus of yeast used in lambic beers and some porters and stouts. Provides a distinctive aroma and flavor.

brew kettle

The vessel in which the wort is boiled with hops to combine their flavors, usually for about 90 minutes.


A bar or restaurant with its own small brewery on the premises.


Top-fermented pale wheat beer created in Hanover, Germany in 1526.

burton union

A system of fermentation in galleries of linked casks, in which a stable yeast culture develops over time. Introduced in the 19th century in the brewing town of Burton-on-Trent in England.


Carbonation is the cause of effervescence in beer, and is generated by the metabolic action of yeast or by the artificial introduction of pressurized gas.

cask conditioning, cask ale

The practice of bringing draft beer to maturity in the cask, in the conditioning room of a brewery or in the cellar of a pub. Times range from a week to a year or more.


Term used for hops with a very high aromatic potential, which convey especially grapefruit and resiny flavors. They are known by this term because many have names beginning with C (Cascade, Chinook, Cluster, Centennial, for example), but it also encompasses Amarillo and Simcoe.

contract brewing

Commercial arrangement in which the creator of a beer contracts to have it produced at a brewery with spare capacity.


Alternative name for the brew kettle. Many copper kettles survive, but today a greater number are made from stainless steel.

craft brewer

Term referring to breweries opened since the late 1970s that produce specialist beers.


A small, bitter orange grown in the former Dutch colony of Curaçao in the Caribbean. The dried peel is used in some Belgian wheat beers, most notably Hoegaarden.


A process in which some of the wort is removed from the mash tun, heated to a higher temperature, then returned to the brew. It helps produce complex caramel flavors and clearer beers.


see bock


Pale golden, full-bodied, bottom-fermented beer from Dortmund in Germany.

double, dubbel

A Belgian abbey ale, stronger than a pilsner but less so than a triple or trippel.

dry hopping

The addition of hops to the finished brew to enhance its aroma and flavor.

dunkel, dunkler bock

Dunkel means “dark” in German, and the term most readily applies to dark lagers, though it can also be applied to dark wheat beers. A dunkler bock is a bock-strength dark lager.


The strongest type of bock, lagered in ice-cold cellars, with frozen water crystals filtered off to increase the strength of the beer.

ester, estery

An ester is a natural chemical compound that imparts fruity and spicy flavors (banana, strawberry, clove). Consequently, estery is a tasting note associated with some beers.


Term often used for a premium beer, except in Germany, however, where it indicates a Dortmunder-style beer.

extreme beers

Term originating in the US to describe a wide range of beer styles that are extraordinary in some way. Unusual ingredients, wild yeast fermentation, bourbon-keg ageing, or very high alcohol content might earn a beer the title “extreme.”


The conversion of malt sugars to alcohol and CO2 by the action of yeast.


German term for any beer that is traditionally brewed for a festival. Sometimes it refers to märzen and Oktoberfest styles, both strong variants of Vienna lager.


Distinctively salty style of wheat beer native to Leipzig.


Ground malt (or other grains) which, along with warm water, forms the basis of wort.

gueuze, geuze

A blend of young and old lambic beers, blended to produce a sparkling, refreshing beer.


The foam that forms on top of a beer when it is poured.


German term for wheat beer with yeast sediment. “Hefe” is a German word for yeast.

hell, helles

German term designating a pale-colored beer.


Hop flowers—in dried, pellet, or resinous form—are added to beer to give flavor, aroma, and a bitterness to complement the sweetness of malt. See also aromatic hops, bittering hops, and noble hops.

hop back

A sievelike vessel through which a brew is filtered. Its purpose is either to remove hop petals, or, when pre-filled with fresh hops, to add more flavor to the brew.

imperial stout

Extra-strong stout made for export; the name stems from the beer’s popularity with the Russian Imperial court.


India pale ale; a robust and heavily hopped beer that was originally made to withstand the rigors of export by sea to India from Britain. Now also produced by several other brewing nations.


“Cellar beer” in German; usually an unfiltered lager, hoppy and only lightly carbonated.


Light style of top-fermenting golden ale first brewed in and around the city of Cologne (Köln).


A Belgian lambic in which macerated cherries are fermented, giving a tart, fruity flavor.


Pattern of foam left clinging to the sides of the glass.

lactic, lactic acid

An acid that imparts a sour flavor to beer, produced when lactobacilli metabolize sugars. A tasting note for some beers.


A family of bacteria, usually benign, that convert sugars to lactic acid. The resulting sourness defines certain styles, such as Berliner weisse.


Family of bottom-fermented beer styles. Examples range from black beers such as schwarzbier to the more familiar golden pilsner.


Designates beers fermented by wild, airborne yeasts in small, rural breweries in the Payottenland region of Belgium.


The technique of adding hops to the brew kettle in the final minutes of boiling, so imparting pronounced hop flavors.


Yeast deposits resulting from secondary fermentation in the bottle.


Barley or other grains that have undergone a process of controlled germination, which is arrested at a point when the seed contains high concentrations of starches. After drying, kilning, or roasting, the malt may be made into grist for brewing.


A facility in which the grain is steeped in water, allowed partially to germinate, and then dried.


Originally a German style of medium-strong beer brewed in March (März in German) and matured until September or October. These days, the style of beer may be brewed and drunk year-round.


The mixture created when the grist is steeped in hot water. The mashing process breaks down grain starches into fermentable sugars.

mash bill

A north American term for the proportion of different grains used in the mash.

méthode champenoise, méthode traditionelle

A form of bottle conditioning that follows the method for creating Champagne. A secondary fermentation is achieved in the bottle by adding yeast and fermentable sugars. Beers made with this method are usually produced in Champagne-style bottles and the beer can usually mature for several years.


Generic term for small breweries founded from the 1970s onwards producing relatively small quantities of beer. The US Brewers Association defines the term as a brewery that produces less that 15,000 barrels of beer per year.


A lightly hopped and thus mild-tasting ale, usually of modest alcoholic strength. Traditionally associated with the industrial regions of Wales and the English midlands.

milk stout

A sweet stout made with unfermentable lactose sugars, derived from milk, that sweeten the beer’s final taste.


(munich dunkel) A German style of dark lager that was developed in Munich.

noble hops

Term used specifically for a group of four traditional aromatic varieties of hops that are low in bitterness: Hallertau, Žatec (or Saaz), Tettnanger, and Spalter.

nonic glass

A classic style of smooth-sided beer glass, typically made in half-pint and pint sizes. It is characterized by a bulge in its profile that aids grip.

northwest hops

Refers to the Pacific Northwest—the country’s main hop-growing region. Cluster hops were traditionally grown here, but now many other, especially aromatic, varieties are grown too.

oatmeal stout

A revived style, popular in the US, brewed with up to 5 percent oats.


A two-week beer festival held in the Bavarian city of Munich in Germany.

original gravity

A measure of density of wort. High density indicates abundant fermentable sugars. The more sugar is present, the stronger the resulting beer will be.

oud bruin

“Old brown;” a Flanders-style beer with a lengthy ageing period of up to a year.

pale ale

A style of beer that originated in Britain, characterized by the use of pale malts. It mostly applies to bottled beers.


Heat treatment process applied to beer to maintain its stability during storage. Arguably, pasteurization deadens the flavor of beer marginally.

pilsner, pils

A popular style of golden lager pioneered in the Czech town of Plzeň, or Pilsen.


A family of very dark beers characterized by dark chocolate malt flavors and assertive hop bitterness.


The addition of sugar to a beer before it is bottled to encourage carbonation.


A German style of lager made from malt that has been smoked over beechwood fires. The beer is a Franconian specialty.


The German beer purity law of 1516; now superceded by updated legislation but still a guiding principle in German beer making. Under its ruling, beers must not contain anything but water, yeast, malt, and hops.


Originally a Belgian beer style; a dry, strongish ale, traditionally brewed in winter for drinking in summer. These days, the style can be produced year-round, and it is usually bottle-conditioned.


“Black beer” in German. A dark, opaque style of lager.

seasonal beers

Beers made for limited periods of sale, usually to suit climatic conditions at a given point of the year (such as märzens and saisons), or to celebrate a holiday or commemorate a historical event—a festbier for Oktoberfest, for example.

session beer

Term describing an easy-drinking beer that is relatively low in alcohol and thus suitable for drinking in quantity.

sour ales, sour beer

Originating in Flanders, these ales typically undergo ageing for between 18 months and two years in oak tuns, during which they gain a sharply thirst-quenching acetic character.


A traditional German tankard, made either of glass or ceramic (stein translates as “stone”).


A dark style of beer, usually top-fermenting, that is made with highly roasted grain.

tap, taproom

On-site bar or pub that serves a brewery’s products direct to visiting drinkers.


Descriptive of all ale yeasts of the Saccharomyces cerevisiae strain, which produce a thick foam at the top of the fermentation tank.


A vessel in which mash is steeped.

triple, tripel, trippel

Traditionally the strongest Belgian abbey ale; though there are now quadruples to exceed them. In more general use, it denotes a very strong ale.


see bock


“Original type” in German; term used to emphasize that a beer is an authentic example of an established style.

Vienna lager

Bronze-to-red lager with a sweetish malt aroma and flavor. Pioneered by Austrian brewer Anton Dreher.

weiss, weisse

“White” in German, denoting a wheat beer.


German generic term for wheat beer.

wheat beer

Beer containing a high level of malted wheat. Usually top-fermented and often bottle-conditioned. Pale and cloudy with suspended yeast particles, creamy-textured and sweetish.

wild beer

Beer that has been spontaneously fermented by wild yeasts, through being left exposed to the elements for a period of time. The classic example is Belgian lambic.

wit, witbier

“White,” “white beer” in Belgian: wheat beer.


An infusion containing fermentable sugars that is produced by the mashing process. The wort is filtered, boiled, and cooled before yeast is added to initiate the process of fermentation.


A large family of unicellular fungal organisms, certain species of which are active agents in brewing and baking.

Yorkshire squares

Square fermenting vessels associated with traditional brewing in the English county of Yorkshire. Still in use at Samuel Smith’s Brewery and at Black Sheep. It is said to produce a remarkably well-balanced beer between sweet maltiness and yeasty sourness.

image beaconimage beaconimage beacon