An Introduction to the language of craft beer

craft beer
Flights ready to go at Jester King Brewery.

Can you speak the language of craft beer when visiting a craft brewery or taproom? What does OG (not the Ice-T album, Original Gangster) next to the name of beers on the taproom wall represent? Why are there fresh hopped versions of some beers? I am sure you will have more questions, but lets start with the basic vernacular of craft beer. You will be able to navigate your next craft beer adventure like a native of the community with this simple glossary of brewery and beer terms. Are you ready to step into the brewery…..lets go!

Onward into the Taproom

craft beer
Inside the tap room at Oskar Blues Austin.
  • Beertender: A motivated front of house person with a passion for craft beer culture who knows the differences between each beer style served.
  • Gateway Beer: The initial beer that opens the metaphorical gate as you leave the macro beer world and step into the world of craft beer for the first time.
  • Crowler: A 32 oz. aluminum can used to package beer-to-go, utilizing a canning machine to provide an airtight seal to keep things fresh.
  • ABV: A calculation of the percentage weight of alcohol per volume of beer or what volume of the liquid contained is pure alcohol.
  • IBU: A standard hop bitterness measurement used to signify the bitterness level of a beer. Most beers fall between 5 and 120 IBU.
  • OG: The measurement of fermentable and unfermentable sugars in wort before fermentation. Gives the brewer an idea of probable alcohol content of final product.

Onward into the Brewhouse

craft beer
Jerry Correa showing us around the Independence Brewing tap room.
  • Mash Tun: A receptacle used in the mashing process to convert the grains into sugars for fermentation.
  • Fermenter: A receptacle where wort is held as it ferments into beer.
  • Brite Tank: A storage tank for packaged ready beer AKA the coldest beer in the brewery (32 degrees).
  • Wort: Unfermented beer. Brewers make wort and yeast makes the beer.
  • Hops: Used to flavor beer at different stages of the brewing process. Utilized for bittering at beginning, flavoring in middle and aroma at end.
  • Malt: Adds color, flavor and sugar content to unfermented beer.
  • Yeast: Makes the beer (brewer always gets the glory but we know who does the real work). AKA Converts sugars into alcohol.
  • Adjuncts: Enhances one or more of the essential ingredients (water, hops, barley, yeast) of beer. Examples include coffee, chocolate or fruit.
  • Dry Hopping: Hops that are steeped into beer between fermentation and packaging. Introduces hop aroma without affecting bitterness.
  • Fresh Hop: Beer brewed using hops picked from the vines less than 24 hours ago.
  • Brett: A ‘wild’ yeast with an emphasis on fruit, funkiness and tartness.

The Language of Craft Beer: Conclusion

What did you think of this article? Are you more familiar now with the basic language of craft beer? Your journey to learn the language of craft beer is just beginning. Keep practicing this new language each time you visit your local craft brewery. I want you to raise a pint for the abbreviations on the taproom menu instead of turning your head in fear. Ask the brewer to pass along a big ‘thank you’ to the yeast that makes your beer. Give them a bit of credit too for making the yeast comfortable. It takes a team to provide that beer magic we have all come to love. Leave any other terms you are not familiar with in the comments below and share this article with your friends. Cheers!

Article contributed by James Dean.

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