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Just like wine, the world of beer is rich in content and possesses a particular language. To help you better understand the brewing vocabulary, we offer you this simple and concise glossary.

  • Abbey Beer

    Beer brewed in the tradition of an existing or defunct monastery. Many abbey beers have disappeared or have long since been transferred to laymen’s hands. Today, only a few beers are still produced in abbeys by or under the supervision of monks. The proper term for these brews is Trappist Beer.

  • ABT

    (to be pronounced as a word, not each letter separately) Used to designate the head of a monastery. It is also used by some breweries to designate their best brew or the best one of their range, according to the following order: Pater, Prior and Abt. Synonym: quadruple.

  • Alcohol

    Ethanol produced by the fermentation of sugar by yeast. Alcohol content is usually expressed as the percentage (%) of alcohol by total volume. This should not be confused with alcoholic proof (°), which is another unit of measure. High-gravity beers tend to have a higher alcohol content.

  • Ale

    Generic term used to describe top-fermented beers. Also refers to a wide range of British-style beers that includes many darker beers whose taste and strength vary greatly from one to another (bitter, brown ale, light, mild, pale, old, scotch ale). In the U.K.,ale simply means a top-fermented drink made from grain—in other words, beer!

  • Beer Color

    Amber, white, brown, red, black, blonde—the color of a beer depends on the type of malt used for brewing. Beer color never refers to a style and is not an indicator of taste. In general, only “white” (wheat) beers are created in a consistent manner and share similar characteristics.

  • Belgian Lace

    Lace-like pattern of foam, from the head of the beer, left on the glass after each sip.

  • Bière de Garde (en)

    Literally “keeping beer”.  French term that applies to a strong ale that undergoes prolonged secondary fermentation.

  • Bottom Fermentation

    Often associated with lager beers. The wort is fermented at low temperatures (between 8° and 15°C/46° and 59°F) in a refrigerated tank to which yeast is added. When fermentation is completed (after about one week), the liquid is cooled to 0°C/32°F. The yeast settles to the bottom of the tank, and the beer is kept in cold storage for some ten days (a step calledlagering) before it is ready for consumption.

  • Bouquet (en)

    The combination of aromas emanating from a beer

  • Carbonation

    Process in which carbon dioxide is added to the beer. The term is misused. It is more appropriate to speak of saturation.

  • Controlled Appellation

    Identifies a product’s authenticity and uniqueness of geographical origin. TrappistLambic, and Pilsner are rare examples of controlled appellations recognized around the world.

  • Cooperage

    Trade, store, workshop of a cooper (person who makes and repairs barrels and casks); the objects made by a coope.

  • Degrees Plato

    Measurement unit (°P) corresponding to the percent by dry weight of extract in the wort before fermentation.

  • Dépanneur (en)

    In Québec, a neighborhood convenience store open seven days a week and late into the evening (some never close).

  • Estaminet (en)

    Term originating in Belgium and northern France to designate a licensed beverage establishment. Synonym of café or bar.

  • Fermentable

    Describes that which can be fermented.

  • Fermentation (en)

    Generic term describing the conversion of sugar into alcohol and carbon dioxide by microorganisms (yeastor bacteria). This process usually occurs in fermentation tanks.

  • Fermenting Tank

    Large container used to hold the fermenting liquid.

  • Floral Nose

    Characteristic aroma of top-fermented beers. The use of aromatic hops gives the beer a “green” and floral bouquet.

  • Full-Bodied Taste

    Full-bodied beers have a lingering aftertaste. They are high-gravity beers whose flavor stays in the mouth, in contrast with beers that have a lighter and less persistent finish.

  • High-Gravity Beer

    Unlike light-tasting beer, high-gravity beer gives a sensation of roundness on the palate and a mellow, full-bodied taste that fills the mouth and lingers. This type of beer is usually well malted, higher in alcohol content, and less bitter.

  • Holding

    Period following the main fermentation in which yeast settles to the bottom of the tank. Allows beer to mature. If yeast is added, this period is called secondary fermentation.

  • Hops

    Climbing plant of the Cannabaceae family grown for its cones (female flower clusters) and used to flavor beer. The flower clusters produce a yellow powder called lupulin that contains bitter resins and aromatic oil. Hops give beer its characteristic bitter taste as well as most of its floral aromas.

    Lambic beers are made using aged hops (older hops that have lost their aromatic and bitter qualities). Because they are milder, older hops impart a discrete bitterness and bring out the beer`s legendary acidity.

  • IBU (en)

    International Bitterness Units; an internationally recognized scale that provides a measure of the bitterness of beer in terms of parts per million of isomerized alpha acids.

  • Ice Beer

    Beer created through a process in which the temperature is lowered until the water freezes into crystals. The crystals are then removed, which makes the beer more concentrated and increases the alcohol content.

  • Kriek (en)

    Spontaneously fermented Belgian beer made from lambic beer to which whole cherries have been added (1 part fruit to 5 parts beer) for a second fermentation in oak casks. After a fermentation period ranging from several months to two years, the beer is bottled.

  • Lager (en)

    From the German “lagern,” which means “storage,” lager is the common name for bottom-fermented beers. Also refers to a subtype of blonde, mild, and aromatic beer. Lagers, which include pilsners, are the world’s most popular beers.

  • Lagering (en)

    Describes the holding period that lagers undergo after primary fermentation. During the approximately fifteen days of holding, the liquid’s temperature is lowered to near freezing, which allows a natural clarification and a smooth, clean taste.

  • Lambic (en)

    spontaneously fermented beer unique to Belgium, made using sweet wort. Lambic can be considered the world’s oldest style of beer still sold in stores. The production method precedes the invention of industrial cooling and Pasteur’s work with yeast andfermentation. Lambic has been an appellation controlled beer since 1965. It is composed of 70% malt (barley or winter barley), 30% nonmalted wheat (soft wheat), and aged hops. After fermentation, lambic is aged in oak casks for one to six years.

  • Lees

    A deposit that forms on the bottom of the containers used to ferment liquids. Lees are mainly composed of yeast.

  • Malt (en)

    Artificially germinated barley that is dried and ground to produce beer. It is the main source of starch (sugar) in the brewing process.

  • Malt Liquor

    A common beer that contains more alcohol than regular beers (generally greater than 5%, usually 6%).

  • Malted Barley

    Barley that has been allowed to germinate.

  • Mellow Beer

    Like full-bodied beers, mellow beers have a taste that lingers on the palate, imparting a round and soft texture that stays in the mouth, releasing its light aromas.

  • Percentage

    Alcohol content is usually expressed as the percentage (%) of alcohol by volume; this should not be confused with alcoholic proof (e.g., 5°), which is another measurement unit.

    High-gravity beers tend to have higher alcohol content. It is through the conversion of fermentable sugars that beers reach their final degree of alcohol by volume.

  • Pils, Pilsener, Pilsner (en)

    A bottom-fermented beer that is clear and golden, generally containing 5% alcohol. This type of beer originated at the Pilsen brewery in the Czech Republic, where it was first brewed in 1842. In the Pilsen region, the water is low in mineral salts. This gives the beer an unequalled smoothness and allows it to be highly hopped with Saaz hops (reputed to be the world’s finest) while avoiding any unpleasant acrid taste. Almost all of Europe’s existing pilsners are based on this beer. It is the world’s best-selling beer type and all commercial breweries offer at least one version. “Pilsener” is the only authorized term to designate beer brewed outside of Pilsen in accordance with the Pilsen method.

  • Porter (en)

    A dark, usually top-fermented beer with a pronounced taste of roasted malt. It is quite highly hopped and has somewhat less body than its closest relative, the stout. Porter was created in London in the 18th century. Although its popularity began to wain in the British capital in the late 19th century, it never went out of style in Ireland. Porter beers are now regaining popularity thanks to Canadian and U.S. microbreweries.

  • Quadrupel

    Belgium type beer, with at an abv of over 9%, of dark red to brown color and which offers a sweet, yet well perceived alcohol flavor.

  • Refermentation (en)

    Process that naturally creates carbon dioxide in the beer through secondary fermentation in the bottle or cask. The beer is not filtered at the time of bottling and the brewer adds a small amount of sugar or wort. Since the yeast must remain active, these beers have the “advantage” of being nonpasteurized.

  • Roasting, roasted

    The roasting of grains (e.g.,coffee beans or malt).

  • Round

    Describes a beer that presents a textured, full-bodied sensation with lots of character.

  • Saturation (en)

    Amount of carbon dioxide dissolved into the beer.

  • Spontaneous Fermentation

    Often associated with lambic beers and typical of certain Belgian specialty beers. The wort is fermented at less than 16°C/60°F in open-top tanks rather than closed tanks. No yeast is added. Only the microorganisms in the surrounding air make contact with the beer during the fermentation process. The beer is then put in oak casks for several months before being bottled. Three types of beer are made using this fermentation process: lambicgueuze, and faro.

  • Spontaneous, spontaneously

    Refers to fermentation.

  • SRM (degree)

    Standard Reference Method, a measurement system developed in the U.S. for the color intensity of beer.

  • Stout (en)

    A dark brown or black top-fermented beer that contains roasted malt of a very dark color and a bitter flavor. This type of beer is directly descended from porter but is more highly malted and bitter. The draft version is creamier than the bottle version thanks to the presence of nitrogen. The most famous stout is Guinness Extra Stout, which has many imitators outside of its native Ireland.

  • Tannic Taste

    Dry mouthfeel with some astringency. Often found in very hoppy and bitter beers.

  • Top Fermentation

    Often associated with ale beers. The wort is fermented at between 15° and 25°C/59° and 77°F in a tank to which yeast is added. The yeast stays on top of the wort during the fermentation period.

  • Trappist Beer

    A controlled appellation reserved for beer brewed in an abbey under the direct supervision of Trappist monks who employ brewing methods dating back hundreds of years. Only seven breweries (six in Belgium and one in the Netherlands) can use the “Trappist Beer” name and logo. Unibroue looks to these outstanding top-fermented beers for inspiration in developing its own products.

  • Tun

    Large-capacity cask (5,000 to 30,000 L).

  • Vintage

    The year of production.

  • Winter Barley

    Barley whose grains are arranged in rows of six.

  • Wort

    Sweet nonfermented liquid composed of grapes (wine production) or malt (beer production).

  • Yeast

    Ascomycota fungi (a higher class of fungi, the main kind being saccharomyces) that produce alcoholic fermentation of sugar-containing solutions and make bread rise. Each type of fermentation (top-fermenting or bottom-fermenting) corresponds to a type of yeast: 
    - Top fermenting yeast (Saccharomyces cerevisiae) is active at temperatures between 15 and 25°C/59 and 77°F and rises to the wort surface at the end of fermentation. It is used to brew ale type beers.

    - Bottom-fermenting yeast (Saccharomyces carlsbergensis or uvarum) is active at temperatures between 0 and 14°C/32° and 57°F and settles to the bottom of the fermentation tank. It is used to brew lager type beers.