Last week we posted the first half of our glossary of beer terms with easy-to-understand definitions. Below is the second half. (If you missed the first half, click here to read it.)
Hoppy: A vague term used to describe a beer made with lots of hops. Depending on the types of hops used, how much are used and when they’re introduced into the boiling wort (or after the boil), hops can imbue beer with drastically different levels of flavor, aroma and/or bitterness. “Hoppy” can sometimes equate to “bitter,” but some beers are aromatically “hoppy” yet have low bitterness levels. “Hoppy” notes can vary greatly, from flowers, grass and pine to citrus, herbs, mint and much, much more.
Hop Back (also Hopback): A container between the brew kettle and the wort chiller that is filled with hops — typically whole-cone hops. When the hot wort passes through the hops, it takes on additional hop flavors and aromas, but very little if any bitterness.
Hybrid Beer: A style of beer that is difficult to classify as either an ale or a lager. California common, made famous by Anchor Brewing’s trademarked Steam Beer, is one example of a hybrid style because it is brewed with lager yeast but it is fermented like an ale (i.e., at a warmer temperature). Kolsch is another example, which is a beer style that is brewed with ale yeast but aged like a lager (i.e., cooler and for a longer period of time).
Hydrometer: A measuring device used in brewing to calculate the specific gravity of wort and beer (see Final Gravity / Original Gravity). Specific gravity is a measurement of density, relative to the density of water, and it can tell how much fermentation has taken place. It can also help to calculate a beer’s alcohol percentage.
International Bitterness Units (IBUs): This is the most popular unit of measurement to describe hop bitterness in beer. Rough IBU calculations are made using a complex formula that is based on variables such as amounts of hops used, alpha acid percentages in the hops used, the length of time the hops are boiled in the wort, the density of the wort, and the volume of wort that is boiled. IBU numbers range from the single digits, which is the level you find in many mainstream light lagers, to more than 100, which is what you might find in a double/imperial India pale ale. One important factor to keep in mind: The maltier, sweeter and stronger a beer is, the more it will obscure the perceived bitterness in the beer. In other words, a 50-IBU pale ale will seem much more bitter than a 50-IBU barleywine. Also of note: There are theoretical limits on just how many IBUs you can infuse, or isomerize, into beer, and there are theoretical thresholds on just how many IBUs humans can detect. Most experts agree that both of these upper limits are somewhere around 100.
Lager: One of the two major classifications of beer. Lagers are made with bottom-fermenting yeast and they are aged for longer periods of time at cooler temperatures, relative to ales. Lager, as a verb, comes from the German word lagern, which means “to store.” Examples: Pilsner, Dunkel, Helles, Doppelbock, Pale and Amber Lagers, etc.
Lautering: Filtering or straining sweet wort from spent grain by using a “false bottom” (usually some sort of screen or manifold), which allows the wort to drain while keeping the grains behind. Lautering is not the same as sparging, which is rinsing the sugars from the grains with hot water. These two processes are typically done together, which is why there is so much confusion between the two.
Lightstruck: A “skunky” off-flavor in beer caused by exposure to light, especially sunlight. Cans block out all light and brown bottles block out most light, but green and clear bottles offer little to no protection from light. Some styles of beer (i.e., heavily hopped beers) are more susceptible than others to becoming lightstruck.
Mash (n.), Mash In or Dough In / Mashing (v.): Mixing and soaking malted and crushed/milled grains, known as grist, in hot water – sometimes at stepped temperatures – for specific amounts of time. Typically, mashes last 60 minutes at about 150 degrees. During the mash, enzymes convert starches and complex carbohydrates to fermentable sugars.
FUN FACT: A mash tun is a vessel that holds the mash. Some breweries have a mash tun and a lauter tun, but many use one vessel for both. After mashing, sparging and lautering, the wort is pumped to the kettle to be boiled.
Malt: Barley and other grains that have gone through the processes of germination, drying and roasting to different degrees. Right before malt is used in brewing, the grains are crushed (i.e., slightly cracked, not pulverized) in a grain mill.
Malty: A vague term used to describe a malt-forward beer. When using the term “malty,” it’s best to qualify it with more details (i.e., with descriptors such as toasty, nutty, caramelly, doughy, cereal-like, toffee-like, chocolaty, bready, etc.). It’s important to note that “maltiness” does not necessarily equate to “sweetness.” A “malty” beer could be very sweet or not sweet at all, just as a “sweet-tasting” beer could have very few malt flavors or it could be extremely roasty and toasty.
Mouthfeel (aka, Texture): How beer feels in your mouth. Texture qualities in beer are mainly produced by its level of carbonation (carbon dioxide or nitrogen) and body (proteins, unfermented sugars, hop oils, etc.). Beers can vary from thin and watery to thick and chewy, and carbonation levels can range from nonexistent to champagne-like.
Pasteurized Beer: Beer that has been sterilized by heat. Pasteurization helps to extend shelf life, but many believe it robs beer of some of its flavor. Most macro/industrial beers are pasteurized whereas most craft beers are unpasteurized. It’s best to keep unpasteurized beer cold, but it can be left at room temperature for short periods of time. Hot temperatures (i.e., the trunk of your car on a hot day), on the other hand, can really impact beer in a negative way – whether it’s pasteurized or not.
Session Beer: An easy-drinking beer that you can drink a lot of in one “session” without becoming too bloated or drunk. Session beers, which may also be described as sessionable beers, typically have low levels of alcohol, sweetness and bitterness.
Sparging: Rinsing the grains with hot water to extract as much of the remaining sugars as possible after mashing. Sparging is typically done in a lauter tun, though it can also be done in a mash/lauter tun. (See “Lautering” above.)
Standard Reference Method (SRM): Measurement of beer color represented by a numerical scale that ranges from 1 to 50. The higher the number, the darker the beer.
Vertical Tasting: Sampling vintages of the same beer from different years. Typically, people will taste these aged beers from youngest to oldest. (A Horizontal Tasting, on the other hand, is when someone drinks a current-year beer repeatedly, one after another, and if that person drinks enough, he/she could end up horizontally on the ground.)
Wort: Unfermented beer. This is the sugary liquid derived from the mash. After the yeast is pitched (poured into the wort), fermentation begins.
Zymurgy: The science of fermentation. It is also the name of the magazine published by the Brewers Association.