We all have that one friend who is a beer snob. They know all the essential beer terms, always visiting the most recent craft beer place and drinking the most interesting beers. They're the person you frantically text when you're at the grocery store, overwhelmed AF by the beer selection (Dry-Hopped Biere de Garde? A High West-ified Imperial Coffee Stout? What is this? I just want a beer.).

Whether you're taken aback by the beer selection in the grocery store, beer bar, restaurant or simply talking beer with someone, here's a list of beer terms you should know to help guide your understanding of the ever-increasing complexity of the world of beer.

The resources from this article come from my experience and education from Charlie "The Pope of Foam" Bamforth and his book, Scientific Principles of Malting and Brewing.

Taste & Aroma

Catherine Ong

Banana and Clove- although these terms are different, they're usually used in tandem to describe the aroma of Hefeweisen beers. 

Brettanomyces- this could be described simply as barnyard, horse blanket and woody. This flavor is found in Brettanomyces yeast and is used to ferment the wort.

Buttery (diacetyl)- think movie theater popcorn and butterscotch, but is pretty unpleasant in beer (though welcomed in chardonnay). It's caused by unhappy yeast or a dirty brewery.

DMS (dimethyl sulfide)- three words: creamed corn, vegetal and cabbage. Yes, it's as unpleasant as it sounds. This aroma occurs when you don't have a vigorous boil.

Hop Aroma- hoppy, spicy, herbal, floral, lavender, piney, resiny, citrus, cat pee...the list goes on. Hops can impart unique and delicious aromas to beer. In fact, two beers that are brewed using the same recipe, but different hops, can taste like totally different beers.

IBUs (International Bittering Units)- this is a way to quantitatively measure the bitterness from the hops in a beer. This measurement is surprisingly deceptive because perception of bitterness does not correlate to a higher IBU value.

Oxidation- papery, stale and cardboard. When oxygen comes in contact with the beer at any point in the brewhouse

Beer Production Terminology

liquor, alcohol, wine, beer
Catherine Ong

Here are the basic steps that go into creating the perfect brew, in the order that they occur.

Malting- the process of taking raw barley and subjecting it to water, heat and air to germinate the grain and kick-start the production of enzymes that will be used to break down the sugars.

Milling- the break down the malt via a mill in order to expose the starch.

Mashing- when enzymes break down the starch into fermentable sugars; the spent grains are then separated from the rest of the liquid, now called wort. Mashing takes about an hour and a half.

Boiling- this serves to sterilize, inactivate enzymes, create bittering compounds from hops (iso-alpha-acids), evaporate water, and precipitate haze-causing proteins. This process takes about one hour and hops are added at this stage.

Fermentation- when yeast is added to convert sugar to alcohol and carbon dioxide. This process takes about three to fourteen days.

Conditioning- a short period (minimum of three days) where the beer is brought down to -1 or -2°C where more proteins drop out of solution.

Filtration- material such as diatomaceous earth (kieselguhr) or perlite is used as a filter medium to remove suspended yeast and other particles remaining in the beer. The beer is now ready for bottling and is referred to as bright beer.

Common Beer Terms

Catherine Ong

Barrel Aged- the amount of beer in liquor or wine barrels (and sometimes both). It's typically done with styles that are higher in alcohol.

Bottle Conditioned- when fresh yeast and additional fermentable sugar is added to the beer just before bottling in order to create more carbon dioxide (used instead of artificially pumping carbon dioxide into the beer). This does raise the alcohol content a smidge compared to the same beer that was not bottle conditioned (i.e. in kegs).

Dry Hopped- when some of the hop fraction is added to the fermenter.

Late Hopped- when some of the hop fraction is added at the end of the boil.

Wet/Fresh Hopped- the same as dry-hopping, but you add fresh hops (instead of hop pellets or dried hop cones).

Beer Styles

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Catherine Ong

It is important to note that there are traditionally only two beer styles: ales and lagers, which are distinguishable by the yeast strains, temperatures and time of fermentation. Most beers brewed today are ales. There are hundreds of beer styles, so instead of listing them all here, I've compiled a list of the 10 most common styles you'll probably be choosing from at a bar.

Amber Ale- these are malty and can have a range of hoppy character. Colors can range from amber to deeper red hues. Examples include Fat Tire, Red Rocket Ale and Lagunitas Lucky 13 Mondo Large Red Ale.

Barleywine- colors range from amber to deep red or copper with high levels of malty sweetness with a definite hop presence. Beware: these beers are one of the strongest styles average over 10% abv. Examples include Bigfoot Barleywine and Third Coast Old Ale.

Belgian- I could write a whole article on Belgian beer styles, but I'll restrict myself to a few of the most popular styles in America: Saisons, Dubbels, Tripels, Quadruples, Lambics and Gueuzes. There are so many styles of Belgian beers alone, so don't count them out until you've had a few. All highlight unique Belgian yeast character and are often brewed with spices. A few excellent examples include Saison Dupont, Westvleteren 12, Delirium Tremens and Duvel.

Brown Ale- English-style brown ales have a roasted malt character highlights chocolate to biscuit flavors with minimal hop flavor. Examples include Hazelnut Brown Nectar, Moose Drool Brown Ale and Indian Brown Ale.

Herb/Spice/Vegetable/Fruit Beer- this is a unique style that has evolved greatly over the past few years. I've tried a range of beers inspired by (and brewed with) carrot, pumpkin, cherries, chiles and peaches. 

IPA- This beer originated from the 1700s, when the British tried to ship their ales across seas to India. India Pale Ales were their solution, as the substantial amount of added hops prevented spoilage of the beer. Examples include Pliny the Elder, Heady Topper, 90 Minute IPA, Double Jack and Hop Stoopid.

Lager- though most of us only think of Budweiser, Coors, etc. when you hear the term "lager," there are a plethora of styles that fall under this category, such as Pilsner, Bock, Scharzbier and Dunkel. 

Pale Ale- dry hop, bitter, eatery, malty and copper colors. Pales are a less hoppy, less alcoholic version of IPAs. Example beers include Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, Drake's 1500, Dale's Pale Ale.

Porter/Stout- dark brown/black, respectively, roasty character, malty and coffee-like. Stouts tend to be have more robust flavors. Some examples are Victory at Sea, Founders Porter, Chocolate Stout and Obsidian Stout.

Wheat- These beers are made primarily from wheat (instead of barley) as their source of fermentable sugar. Most of them are light in flavor and color and are extremely refreshing. In general, wheat beers are known for their estery aromas. Generic examples of this style include hefeweizens, witbiers, and weizenbocks

beer, liquor, alcohol, wine
Catherine Ong