Raise your beer glasses if this has ever happened to you: you try to have a one-on-one conversation with the craft beer lover in your life on their favourite topic but the conversation gets so overridden with acronyms that you leave with your head spinning? You’ve done your fair share of microbrewery tours and love a cold one on a hot day, but can never recall exactly how craft beer is made. Not to worry, you don’t need to enroll in a course to understand all the types of beer out there. Here’s a run-down of the basic terms you need to know to spend some quality time with the beer aficionado in your life, and bond over their passion for good brews.
Let’s start with the basics. You may have heard this term before—at its simplest, it’s the conversion of sugar into alcohol. This process happens with all alcohol, not just beer, but it’s an essential part of brewing.
The type of grain used in beer. Most beers use the grain called barley (a form of carbohydrate) which converts to—you guessed it—sugar. It’s the sugar found in malt that, when fermented, becomes alcohol.
The process of steeping the barley (malt) in hot water. It activates the enzymes and converts carbohydrates into proper sugar.
The liquid that results from mashing. It contains all the sugars that will be converted into alcohol by the yeast during fermentation.
A single-celled fungi that acts as a catalyst to ferment carbohydrates/sugars/starches into alcohol.
The dried blossoms of a hop plant that are mixed with wort and boiled. Once the hop and wort mixture has cooled, yeast is added to initiate the fermentation process. There are many types of hops but the two main ones are aroma and bittering.
The process of adding the yeast to the wort to jump start the fermentation.
The term used to describe the thickness and texture of the beer in your mouth. The body of a beer will vary depending on the malt proteins it contains.
An acronym for International Bitterness Units: a standard way to measure how bitter a beer is.
The term used to describe a beer that is brewed with more hops than average, typically 10% or more.
Un-malted grains (such as rice, rye, or corn) that act as a supplement to the main mash. They determine characteristics like foam and flavour.
The certification of a beer expert—think, the sommelier of beer.
Types of beer:
During the brewing process, the beer is separated into sections depending on the types of yeast it contains (such as lager yeast or ale yeast). Ales are made with a top-fermenting yeast (which simply means the yeast ferments at the top of the tank) while lagers are made with yeast that ferments at the bottom of the tank. Most ales get their flavor from the yeast itself, while lagers tend to draw very little of their flavor from the yeast at all—their flavor tends to come from adjuncts.
Another key difference between an ale and lager is the temperature at which their yeast ferments. Ales generally ferment quickly at about 75 degrees Fahrenheit while lagers ferment more slowly at a cooler temperature, typically 46 to 59 degrees Fahrenheit. In fact, the word ‘lager’ comes from the German word ‘lagern’ which means ‘to store,’ in reference to the longer fermentation time.
Now that you’ve honed the basics, you’re ready to strike up a conversation with the beer lover in your life, but don’t be afraid to ask questions. There’s no better way to show your appreciation for someone else’s interests than expressing your curiosity with questions and listening carefully to their answers. They might just open your senses to a whole other malty, fermented world.
Please provide your email address and we'll send you a beautiful certificate for your recipient.