Beer talk

A beer is not simply a ‘beer’. It may be called amber nectar, barley soda, a brew, brewski, a cold one, frosty pop, hop juice, Jesus juice, liquid bread, neck-oil, suds, or innumerable other variations on the golden stuff that we love to drink so much.

If you don’t know what a porch bomb is, what ABV stands for, or just want to make sense of your Instagram feed, this page can help you translate the latest craft beer terms being bounced around. Let me know if you are missing any!


Alcohol by volume. This is a measurement of the percent of alcohol present in a volume of liquid. One pound of fermentable sugar is approximately equal to 1% ABV in a 5 gallon batch.

Ales are beers made with top fermenting yeast. They typically are fermented between 68-75°F (20-24°C).

Artisanal is another word for craft beer. The definition of craft beer varies, but the general agreement is that a craft brewery produces small amounts of beer (or sometimes root beer), typically much smaller than large-scale corporate breweries, and is independently owned.

Barrel-aged (BA) means aged in a barrel. Barrel-aged beers have seen a dramatic increase in popularity in recent years with both homebrewers and professional brewers. Recently, “barrel-aged” has also come to mean that something is better than average, great, or downright fantastic. 

Beached Whale
Typically the result of someone suggesting, “Let’s open just one more” the night before, a beached whale is the super-special beer you regret opening the next day when you wake up and realize that you left half of it in the bottle. Beer geeks have occasionally been known to drink these warm in the morning so they don’t have to throw them away. 

Beer Haul
Another name for bringing home a truckload of beer to enjoy!

Beer Mail
A shipment of beer sent from one craft-beer lover to another. 

Berliner Weisse
A regional beer of northern Germany, pale, top-fermented, and made with wheat. Sour / tart in flavor. (Check out my blog on sour beers here.)

Bière de garde
French term that applies to a strong, bottle-conditioned ale that is designed to be laid down when fermenting.

A very strong lager traditionally brewed in winter to celebrate the coming spring. Nowadays also very popular in fall. Full-bodied, malty, well-hopped. (Check out my blog post on bock beer here.)

The feel of thickness of a liquid in the mouth. 

Bottle Bomb
Bottle bombs are bottles that explode before being opened due to over-carbonation. More common with homebrew than with commercially produced beer, the over-carbonation is usually a result of too much fermentable sugar remaining in the beer when it is capped, resulting in excess CO2 and pressure build up. 

Bottle Conditioning
Beer bottled without removing the yeast or having been pasteurized. Yeast and sediment are present, allowing fermentation to continue in the bottle. Beer packaged this way can grow more complex over time.

Bottle Share
When beer geeks congregate and bring along beers to share with other collectors. These bottles are often expensive, rare, and more coveted beers, allowing more people to taste limited offerings.

Short for Brettanomyces, a wild yeast (now domesticated) used in fermentation. It often turns beers tart and funky. Used in for example Lambics and Gueuzes.

A pub that makes its own beer and sells at least 50% on premesis.

Brown Ale
A British-style, top-fermented beer which is lightly hopped and flavored with roasted and caramel malt.

A fully-automated brewery, usually made in Germany.

Caramel Malt
A sweet, coppery malt which imparts both color and flavor to beer. Gives a golden color and a nutlike flavor to beer. Used frequently in darker ales.

Slang for the basket or vessel used to cradle and pour sour beers, lambics, etc. Usually made from wicker, wood, or wire, the cart is intended to disrupt the yeast in the bottom of the bottle as little as possible.

The ultimate sidekick. This is the person who accompanies a beer geek to a bottle release so that the aforementioned geek can get another allotment of beer.

Chill Haze
A cloudiness that appears in beer when it gets cold. It is a result of proteins and polyphenols combining as a result of hydrogen bonding. The haze disappears as the beer warms up.

Chocolate Malt
Malted barley that has been roasted to a deep brown color. It gives a nutty, toasted flavor to beers as well as deep reddish brown color.

The last beer of the night and one that seals the night as a success.

Short for collaboration, a collab brings two or more breweries together to brew a beer that is mightier than the individual breweries alone.

Used by beer drinkers and homebrewers in an attempt to describe a beer that they can’t figure out. “This is a Belgian-style, dry-hopped dopplebock-blended quadruple IPA aged in bourbon barrels with cocoa nibs and kumquat extract. It’s really complex.” 

A unique can/growler hybrid, first created by Oskar Blues Brewery, which is becoming increasingly popular at certain bars and breweries.

An easy-going, super-drinkable beer. These are well-balanced beers with low-to-medium alcohol by volume (ABV), but tons of flavor that make you want to go back for more.

Crystal Malt
When fresh malt is carefully dried at warm temperatures, some of the starches are converted to sugars which crystallize within the grains. When these crystal malts are used in brewing, they add sweetness, body and a reddish gold color to the beer.

While sometimes used to indicate exceptional quality, cuvée generally means that the beer is a blend. While blending beers pre-carbonation has been a practice for centuries, blending finished beers has seen a boost in popularity of late (and is far more complicated than the traditional black and tan in a Shaker pint).

A descriptive term used for hoppy beers, especially IPAs, meaning it has sticky, resiny, and marijuana-like characteristics.

Dopplebock (double bock)
A stronger bock beer, though not double the strength. The original of the style was brewed by the Italian monks of the order of St. Francis of Paula in Bavaria to help them though their Lenten fast. (See my blog post on Bock beer.)

Drain Pour
Say bye bye to your beloved beer. Imagine opening that bottle of rare beer that you’ve been cellaring for ages only to find out it’s turned to vinegar and is so vile that it has to be poured down the drain. Brewers and drinkers alike universally hate drain pours.

Generally used for beers that are easy drinking, meaning you could drink a few of these without getting tired of it. 

Drinking from the Tips
Borrowed from the golf term for playing from the deepest tee markers, this term refers to drinking nothing but high-octane beers. These situations often occur when the first beer of the night is over 8 percent ABV, making it difficult to return to more “sessionable” styles. “Sucaba, Samael’s, and now Dark Lord? We’re drinking from the tips tonight, boys!”

Dry Beer
In the late 80’s, Asahi Brewery of Japan refined a brewing process that fermented virtually all the sugars in their beer. Described as having less aftertaste, it actually had almost no taste at all. It sold well, though, so major breweries around the world began brewing “Dry Beers” of their own.

Dry Hopping
Adding hops after the boil or even in the cask to increase hop aroma and flavor. This is most often seen in various types of ales, but not in lagers.

Dry Stout
The Irish version of stout, slightly more bitter and higher in alcohol than the English sweet stout.

This is a term used mainly in describing German wheat beer. It means dark – in contrast to Helle or pale.

Aroma or flavor or fruit or flowers in beer. This can be caused by certain yeast strains or higher temperature fermentation.

Fish Killer
A six-pack ringing machine, so called because the plastic rings have long been rumored to kill marine life who get stuck in them.

These are the beers that you buy before hosting a party and put in the front of your fridge, deftly blocking access to the better beer selection in the back. For homebrewers, fronters are often comprised of under-carbonated bottles of kolsch and Irish red homebrew.

The term for rare and desirable glassware, designed for serving beer.

Gose is a top-fermented beer that originated in Goslar, Germany. Gose belongs to the same family of sour wheat beers which were once brewed across Northern Germany and the Low Countries. Dominant flavors in Gose include a lemon sourness, an herbal characteristic, and a strong saltiness (the result of either local water sources or added salt). Gose beers typically do not have prominent hop bitterness, flavours, or aroma. (See my blog post on sour beers here.)

The orderly arrangement of empty bottles as tombstones in a cemetery following a craft-beer drinking session. Also known as “boneyards,” graveyards often appear in photos on social media.

Term of endearment for a 32-ounce growler.

A blend of aged and young lambic ale. (See my blog post on sour beers here.)

An over-carbonated beer, so called because it immediately gushes out of the bottle once opened, usually making a mess and causing you to lose beer.

The proper name for the foam on top of your beer.

German word for yeast. (Used for example in the name of the beer style Hefeweizen.)

This is a term used mainly in describing German wheat beer. It means pale – in contrast to Dunkel or dark.

High gravity beer
Beers with increased ethanol and thus a higher ABV.

Someone who appreciates highly-hopped beer like IPAs.

International Bitterness Unit. It is a number that denotes the bitterness of the beer. The higher the IBU the more bitter the beer. (See my blog post for more on IBU.)

A beer which is stronger than the typical base style, for example Imperial Stout or Imperial IPA. Similar connotations are “double”, “triple”or “Russian”.

India Pale Ale. A strong, hoppy pale ale. The style originated in Britain in the 19th century, and had a high alcohol content and hopping rate, allowing it to survive the long sea voyage to India.

In common usage, “In Search Of: For Trade,” where the “ISO” refers to a beer of incredible scarcity while “FT” is (typically) a beer more easily procured from store shelves. Example: “ISO: Barrel-aged Abraxas; FT: Zombie Dust.”

A descriptive term used for New England-style IPAs, meaning it has a citrus fruit character (courtesy of certain hops) and juice-like mouth-feel. Sometimes the color even looks like fruit juice. (See my blog post on New England IPAs.)

A large metal (stainless steel) vessel that contains beer. They come in several sizes, 2.5 gallon, 5 gallon, 7.75 gallon and 15.5 gallon. Import kegs are usually 13.2 gallons (50 liters).

Kill Shot
A photo taken of the boneyard or graveyard that results after a long session of drinking. During bottle shares, participants often line up the empty bottles in an impressive display of excess. Photos of such a line-up are kill shots.

Local beer from Köln (Cologne, Germany). The glass looks like a cylinder, has straight sides and is tall. Holds 12 oz.

The only beer glass with a handle. Typically very heavy and sturdy. They can have different textures and come in different sizes. Also called a mug or seidel.

Beer made with bottom fermenting yeast. Lager is fermented at lower temperatures (45 to 55 °F / 7 to 13 °C) and usually takes longer to ferment than ales. Since the fermentation is at low temperatures, the yeast byproducts are reduced and a cleaner more crisp beer is the result. Examples of lagers are pilsners and bock.

The process of aging beer at low temperatures. This process takes anywhere from a weeks to months. “Lager” in German means “to store”.

A traditionally Belgian brew that is typically sour. It is usually fruit flavored (peach, raspberry, cassis, cherry) and fermented with wild yeast and several types of bacteria. (See my blog post on sours beers here.)

Late check-in (for example on Untappd, when you check-in your beers the day after).

Light Struck
The result of exposure of beer to light and heat. It is recognizable by a skunky smell.

Grain that has been malted. The malting process consists of wetting the grain and allowing it to germinate. During the germination, some of the starches in the grain get converted to sugars while others become simple soluble starches and other enzymes. The grain is then dried and tumbled to knock the beginnings of roots off. The grain is then kilned to dry it thoroughly and carmelize some of the sugars like in crystal malt or blacken it like a black patent malt.

How a beer feels in the mouth. Usually described as thin or full.

Short for “nitrogenated,” nitro beer gets its fizz from nitrogen rather than carbon dioxide. Because nitrogen isn’t water soluble, the bubbles created by the gas tend to sink rather than float like CO2 does. That’s why a nitro beer appears to cascade down the glass as it settles and maintains a more sustainable head. Nitrogen also produces much smaller bubbles, providing the beer with a creamier mouthfeel, and accentuating maltier characteristics (which is why you so often see porters and stouts on a nitro tap).

Meant to refer to someone new to the craft beer or homebrewing scene, this term can be used in either an affectionate or condescending way. Noobs are often the most excited in their newfound love for great beer, and they should be encouraged. However, beware of appearing to be the noob who thinks he knows more than he does and embarrasses himself.

Beers with a high ABV—usually above 10 percent.

A beer style. Typically crisp and refreshing, with a light to medium body and a clear, light to deep gold appearance.

Porch Bomb
A delivery of beer of immense quality or rarity.

The German Purity Law of 1516 that states the only 3 ingredients that can be included in beer are water, malted barley and hops (they didn’t know about yeast at the time; that was included later).

Resin often describes pine-like hop flavors, but with a sweetness.

In many bars and restaurants, certain breweries have a dedicated tap through which they can rotate their seasonal or special-release beers. For craft-beer lovers, these beers are often some of the most intriguing on the beer list. For servers, they are invariably the most difficult to remember.

Safety Beer
The beer that you take to a party or event just in case all the beer that’s being served there sucks. These beers are typically better than your average beer, but nothing you’d get bent out of shape over if you had to share with strangers.

Originally a Belgian beer style, a saison (or farmhouse ale) was brewed in the early spring for summer consumption, though contemporary Belgian saisons are brewed all year round. Although most commercial examples now range from 5 to 8% ABV, originally saisons were meant to be refreshing and it is thought they had alcohol levels ranging from 3 to 3.5%. Due to a second fermentation in the bottle, the beers are highly carbonated. Most saisons are of a cloudy golden colour. Some recipes also use wheat. They are easy to distinguish due to their typical ‘farmhouse’ aroma and flavor (don’t be surprised if it smells like a horse stable!).

Session beers
Beers that are lighter in ABV (usually lower than 5%), which allows you to drink several in a certain period of time without getting too intoxicated. Hence known as ‘sessionable’.  

Shame Shield
Often made from newspaper or cardboard boxes, shame shields are placed on top of recycling bins in an attempt to disguise the contents of the bin. “I used a Pampers box as a shame shield this morning so my neighbors wouldn’t think I have a drinking problem. What I really need is a larger bin with a lid.” Alternative definitions include sunglasses to hide your bloodshot eyes.

Shelf Turd
A beer that has been sitting on the shelf of a retail establishment well past its prime, turning it into the equivalent of brewing excrement. Often on the higher end of price, they may lure unsuspecting or hurried beer lovers into making a purchase they will soon regret. Drain pours of shelf turds are completely acceptable and often cathartic.

Steam Beer
A beer produced by hybrid fermentation using bottom yeast fermented at top yeast temperatures. Fermentation is carried out in long shallow vessels called clarifiers, followed by warm conditioning and krausening (a traditional German method for carbonating beers without using sugars or other adjuncts). The style is indigenous to America and was first produced in California at the end of the 19th century, during the Gold Rush.

Checking off beers you want to try, usually just by having a sip or two of them. Ticking is often the sport of looking for new beers just for the sake of “ticking (them) off” or saying you’ve tried them (or posting them on Untappd). A “ticker” is someone who participates in such activities.

To the Dome
Literally meaning “straight to the head,” this expression may mean opening a bottle of craft beer without delay or drinking a high gravity beer straight out of the bottle. It has also generally come to mean “I can’t wait to drink this and I’m going to RIGHT NOW.”

A beer brewed within a Trappist monastery, under the control and responsibility of the monastic community. Only 11 breweries can use the appellation “Trappist” (six in Belgium, two in the Netherlands and one each in Austria, Italy and United States): Chimay, Orval, Rochefort, Westmalle, Westvleteren, Achel, La Trappe, Zundert, Stift Engelszell, Tre Fontane and Spencer.

Unexplained beer injury. The origin of this term is often attributed to doctors in Britain, who would encounter inebriated patients in the emergency room unable to explain how they sustained their injuries.

The rarest and most sought-after of craft beers, whales are produced in extremely limited amounts and/or with very limited distribution. So dubbed in honor of Ahab and his long-time search for Moby Dick. The rarest of these are often referred to as “white whales” or “mobys.” Belgian whales may be referred to as “loons.”

Belgian style“white” beer. It is a cloudy wheat beer, spiced with coriander and orange peel.

The branch of chemistry dealing with fermentation.

The study of beer and beer-making, including the role particular ingredients play in the brewing process. A zythologist is a student and connoisseur of beer who possesses knowledge of ingredients, pouring techniques and beer pairings.

Sources used:

1. First We Feast 
2. Beer and Brewing 
3. Brookston Beer Bulletin 
4. Thrillist 
5. Beer Advocate 
6. Brewdudes