The Language of Craft Beer | Devil's Peak Brewing Company | Craft beer from Cape Town, South Africa

The Language of Craft Beer

The language of craft beer

Not everyone is at the same place on their beer journey. Some guys are busy tinkering in their home brew-labs making up their own delicious homebrew, while others still think that beer-shandies are a good idea… We realise that our Ultimate Beer Glossary, wasn’t really the ultimate, and so this exhaustive list courtesy the fine-folks at RateBeer will not only help you to understand the language of craft beer, but will also help you understand the lively discussion that takes place whenever draughts are pulled and pints are chinged.


A lot plus a little more.

10%, 11%, 12%, etc.
On a beer label, this does not necessarily mean alcohol. In many countries, the % sign denotes degrees Plato (literally, the percentage of unfermentable matter in the wort). The alcohol, however, will be specifically listed somewhere on the label.

3 Cs
Cascade, Centennial and Chinook. These floral, citric American hops varieties work particularly well together.

Varies by region but usually the agency, Alcoholic Beverage Control.

Alcohol by volume, the most common way of measuring the strength of a beer. ABV = ABW * 1.25.

Alcohol by weight. ABW = ABV/1.25. acetic – like vinegar.

Grain additives besides barley such as corn or rice typically used as a cost savings method.

alpha acids
A hop-based bittering component.

Said of beers that have converted most of their sugars.

Barrel aged. Also beer advocate.

Basement Flavors
Also cobwebs. Aromas associated with dusty, moldy, dank basements or caves.

Beer engine
Also hand pump – a pump used to draw beer up from cellared casks without the use of pressured gas.

The estery aroma of bubblegum. Especially characteristic of some wheat beers.

Short for Brettanomyces a non-saccharomyces yeast responsible for horse blanket and barnyard aromas in some wild ales.

Burton Salts
Minerals added to water to make the taste and feel similar to Burton-On-The-Trent, England.

A flavor, sometimes an off flavor, associated with diacetyl.

Cask, cask conditioned
Beer still fermenting on the yeast and served without artificial carbonation.

Chill haze
A haze sometimes evident in cloudy strands caused by coagulated proteins in chilled beer.

Like lemons, limes, oranges, tangerines, citrons and other fruits of that ilk.

Unpleasantly sweet.

Clarked out
A nodding off associated with the hazards of beer tasting.

Also basement flavors. Aromas associated with dusty, moldy, dank basements or caves.

Dimethyl sulfide. Smelling like cooked cabbage.

Draft Only, No Growlers.

See attenuated. Not sweet.

Short for effervescent of effervescence, or carbonation

Yeast clumped in visible forms and descended to the bottom of your brewing container or bottle.

For trade.

Grains of paradise
A peppery, lightly perfumey spice.

Weight of beer before/after fermentation. Before is known as original gravity (OG) and after is known as final gravity (FG).

Gravity (2)
Beer served directly from a cask without the use of a hand pump or beer engine.

A one-gallon (3.785 litre) glass jug, clear or brown glass usually, typically sold at brewpubs for the sake of getting beer to go.

A precursor to modern beers using hops. the anti-spoilage and flavoring effects of hops was created using rosemary, juniper and other herbs.

Hand pump
Also beer engine. A pump used to draw beer up from cellared casks without the use of pressured gas.

The common name for the dioecious (male and female varieties) plant, humulus lupulus. The most common bittering agent used in beer.


International Bittering Units. A scale for measuring the bitterness of beer.

India Pale Ale

Imperial, as in Imperial IPA or Imperial Stout

In search of. Most often in notification of one’s willingness to trade for a particular beer.

Like fruit jam. strong sweet fruit flavors and possibly sticky, tacky.

Filtered beer served under pressure with additional carbonation.

Milky or like lactose, milk sugar. Sometimes used to describe milk sourness. The finish had a tacky lactic sour.

Lager, lagering, lager yeast
Refer to the process, and the resultiant product, of a bottom-fermenting yeast that works best at low temperatures.

A typically dry, sour beer created through spontaneous fermentation — no yeast is pitched. the beer is simply exposed to natural ambient yeasts in the air.

The process of washing converted sugars from grain

Lawnmower beer
A beer best consumed while in a hot environment and/or after vigorous physical activity. A beer with drinkability and refreshing flavors as paramount characteristics.

Light struck
When packaged beer is exposed to lights, usually in a retail environment, some damage may be evident in the form of skunked hops.

Scale used for measuring darkness in malts. The higher the number, the darker the malt. Some malts, especially crystal malt, are available in many degrees of Lovibond.

Minute yellowish-brown hairs obtained from the strobili of the hop plant, formerly used in medicine as a sedative.

Malt, malting
The finished product and process whereby grain is sprouted and then dried to release enzymes that catalyze the conversion of grain carbohydrates into fermentable sugars

Tasting like malt sugar, maltose, which is present in the roasted barley and other grains that are the primary fermentables of beer.

Mash, mashing
The process of converting the complex carbohydrates in grains into simple fermentable sugars by mixing with and then boiling in water.

A nip is a small bottle, 1/3 of a pint.

Nitro, on nitro
Propelled by a mix of carbon dioxide and nitrogen. nitrogen produces tiny bubbles and a creamy texture and diminishes acidity and to some extent, aroma.

Noble hops
Term referring to the soft, “refined” hops traditional to Central Europe, specifically Tettnang, Hallertau, Spalt, Saaz.

Original gravity.

Anchor Brewing’s Our Special Ale.

Plato, a measurement of gravity in degrees common in central and eastern Europe. Denoted 10P, 12P, 15P, etc. 1P = (1).004 of original gravity (OG).

The sense of taste and sensation of the tongue without aroma. typically sweet, sour, bitter, astringent, effervescent, slick, particulate and smokey.

Patent malt
A very darkly roasted malt used to add a pitch black color and said to impart no flavor.

See P. A measurement of a beer’s gravity common in central and eastern europe.

Also knows as the German Purity Law of 1516 which limits beer ingredients to water, hops, malt and yeast.

Often presented IN ALL CAPS and always with an exclamation point. This is a Spanish toast to your health.

Session ale, session beer
An easy-drinking, mild beer with an alcohol content typically less than 4% intended to be drunk several to a sitting.

Short measure
Most specific to England, when a beer is not poured to the fill line. In other words, you ordered a pint, but did not receive a full pint.

Skunky or skunked
A musky skunk aroma associated with oxidized Saaz hops. Especially prevalent in lagers shipped in clear or green bottles.

Storm kinged
When you choose to drink a beer without a friend you had arranged to share it with.

Sulfur, sulfurous
Like rotten eggs. sulphur aromas are a significant and famous characteristic of some traditional English beers.

Clinging to the tongue either as a dusty particulate or sticky sugar.

Vertical Epic.

Ambiguous. Could mean watery or sweet.

Wort, worty
Unfermented beer or tasting like unfermented beer.

The microrganism responsible for converting available malt sugars into alcohol and water. for most beer this is added, or pitched, after the raw ingredients are boiled and then cooled.

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