Craft Beer Glossary: 13 Terms You Need to Know

Learn these words and phrases and you can hold your own in the any beer hall.
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Learn these words and phrases and you can hold your own in the any beer hall.
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Sure, some guys still drink watery beer and don’t care what it tastes like. But with the craft beer movement in full swing—and a record number of delicious beer options available at reasonable prices (even in cans)—you’d be kinda dumb to not drink good stuff. To help you understand what you’re guzzling, we’ve provided a beer glossary of key terms. Learn these words and phrases and you can hold your own in the any beer hall.

Ale

One of two big families of beer (along with lager). Like a Jewish grandparents in Florida, ale yeasts favor warmer temperatures, hanging out on top of a fermentation tank. An ale’s flavors and aromas are typically a touch estery—a five-dollar word that means fruity—and can be sweeter and fuller-bodied than lagers. Ales encompass a laundry basket of beer styles, from bitter IPAs to stouts as dark as Darth Vader’s heart.

Cask Ale

An unfiltered, naturally carbonated beer that’s best served at 55¿F, which plays up its subtler flavors and aromas. That’s right, you’re going to drink slightly warm, slightly flat beer. Unlike liverwurst, cask ale actually tastes better than it sounds.

Craft Brewer

Generally speaking this refer to any brewery that creates the kind of flavorful, unique beer that you’ll never see advertised during the Super Bowl. The opposite of “mass market” brewer.

Extreme Beers

Extra flavor, extra alcohol, extra anything. These brawny, beefy brews will hit you like a left hook in Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!! Extreme beers include double IPAs, triple IPAs, Russian imperial stouts—drink two, and you might be deluded enough to think that you’re a czar. See our roundup of unusual beers.

Fermentation

The metabolic process during which yeasts devour the sugars in the wort like Pac-Man, creating carbon dioxide and the reason for your college sex life: alcohol.

Hops

The bright-green, cone-shape flowers of the climbing Humulus Lupulus plant, which impart bitterness, aroma, and act as a preservative to beer. Each hop variety has different properties, but these stinky green buds have something in common with another popular plant: hops are related to marijuana.

India Pale Ale(IPA)

A style of beer that’s as bitter as a 33-year-old virgin. According to highly dubious lore, the IPA was created when British brewers tossed tons of hops into ales to preserve them during long ocean voyages to India. Just as citrus fruit prevented scurvy, this beer saved British officers from the scourges of sobriety.

Lager

The second main style of beer (see also ale). Like penguins, bottom-fermenting lager yeasts prefer cooler temperatures. They also take longer to ferment, hence the term lager: lagern means to rest in German. Stick that in your bratwurst and smoke it. Lagers are typically crisp, delicate and as refreshing as a cold shower after a jog in Death Valley.

Pasteurization

Murdering yeast through a serious application of heat. Unpasteurized beers retain their yeast, which means the beer will continue to evolve over time—unlike, say, the acting chops of Pamela Anderson or Vanessa Hudgens.

Session Beer

Beer that’s low in alcohol, not in flavor. It’s best for sipping during a long-haul drinking session, such as a football game or, you know, your twenties.

Skunked

Time for a science lesson! When UV light strikes beer, it causes isohumulones—chemicals released when hops are boiled—to break down, creating chemical compounds identical to those found in skunks’ spray. Never buy bottled beer that’s been sunning in a window like a sorority girl on spring break.

Wort

The hot, unfermented soup that’s extracted from grains. For the yeasts that create beer, wort is like a trip to the old country buffet.

Yeast

Not just a type of infection, but also the microscopic critters that transform grain-soaked water into your favorite beverage.

Read More: Five Oddly Flavored Craft Beers Worth Sampling