Facebook Google+ Instagram Twitter


Are you fluent in beer?


There are many ways to describe the taste of a Summit beer. “Great” or “delicious” come to mind. But you may have noticed some beer drinkers speak a complex foreign language. So for educational purposes, we’ve provided you a glossary loaded with brewing terminology.


Alpha Acid

Component of hops that contributes to bitterness of beer. Alpha acids are isomerized to iso-alpha acids during the boiling part of the brewing process. Iso- alpha acid content of beer is not the same as “Bitterness Unit” because there are other hop compounds that contribute to bitterness.



Unmalted grain or other source of carbohydrate used in addition to malted barley to make beer. They are usually cheaper than malted grain and often contribute less to beer flavor.



Ethanol. An intoxicating product of fermentation, produced from sugars by yeast. Alcohol content in beer is expressed as a percentage of volume or weight.



Beer produced using ale yeast. Traditionally ale yeasts were harvested from the top of the fermentation vessel and lager yeasts from the bottom. This is no longer a useful distinction, as many ale brewers now harvest ale yeast from the bottom of their tanks. Beer styles are often divided into two broad categories, ale and lager, depending on the type of yeast used. Note that the terms ale and lager have nothing to do with beer color or strength or amount of hop usage. Ales often have a warmer and shorter fermentation than lagers.



A beer made exclusively from malted grains (without using adjuncts). These beers often have more intense flavor characteristics than beers brewed using adjuncts.


Alpha Amylase

In brewing, a malt enzyme that hydrolyses alpha-1,4 bonds in starch. Largely responsible for mash viscosity reduction and production of dextrins (“endo” activity) More thermostable than beta-amylase. The brewer controls the relative activities of alpha and beta amylase using mash temperature to achieve the desired level of wort fermentability. Got all that?



The particular combination of smells or fragrances in a beer. Malt, hops, yeast and other ingredients (adjuncts, spices, herbs) contribute to aroma. Aroma and flavor are closely linked. Actually the only things you can taste are sweet, sour, salt, bitter, and umami. All other flavor sensations are actually aromas that you perceive as you consume a food or drink.



The traditional grain used to produce malt for brewing. The barley husk does not easily come off the kernel and this characteristic has processing advantages in malting and brewing.



Brewer’s barrel (Bbl), 31 gallons. Unit often used when measuring brewhouse capacity or brewery production per unit time. “Standard size” kegs in the U.S. are 15.5 gal, or ½ Bbl.



An alcohol-containing beverage produced by fermenting grain, specifically barley malt, and flavored with hops.


Beer Styles

A description of a type of beer, often used as a category for judging in competition. Elements that are used to define a style include color, aroma, flavor, alcoholic strength, ingredients, production methods and historical factors. It should be noted that a beer does not have to fit into a particular style. Beers that do not fit into an established style lead to new styles if they become popular enough.



In brewing, a malt enzyme that hydrolyses alpha-1,4 bonds in starch. Largely responsible for maltose production (“exo” activity) Less thermostable than alpha-amylase. The brewer controls the relative activities of alpha and beta amylase using mash temperature to achieve the desired level of wort fermentability.



Adj. A taste descriptor used to describe one of the five basic taste sensations (sweet, sour, salt, bitter, umami) that are perceived via receptors on the tongue. In common usage, often has a negative connotation, however in beer is considered a positive, desirable characteristic. Bitterness in beer is mainly derived from hops and is controlled by amount and type of hop used and manipulation of processing parameters (such as boiling time) n. a style of British ale.


Bitterness Unit

A measure of the level of bitterness in beer. The method measures several important bittering compounds from hops and correlates well with perceived bitterness from sensory analysis. It is not strictly a measure of iso-alpha acids.


Black Malt

Malted barley roasted at high temperatures to give dark color and burnt aromas. Contributes more color and less roasted, chocolate, coffee type aromas than roasted barley or chocolate malt. Often used for color adjustment in medium and dark colored beers to avoid too much roasted or burnt character.



German lager beer style with a strong alcoholic content. Substyles include maibock, dopplebock, and eisbock. Historically associated with special occasions. The style originated in Einbeck, Germany. As the style spread, the similarity of the name to “ein bock”, translated as “a goat” resulted in the association with goats, sometimes featured on the label of modern bock brews.



The particular feel of a beer is described as full-bodied, medium-bodied, or light bodied, depending on the sense of thickness or thinness in your mouth. See “mouthfeel”.


Bouquet (Nose)

The collection of aromas that a beer drinker perceives before tasting the beer. Beer aroma is extremely complex but some components of it are hop character, malt aroma, and fruitiness produced from esters that are formed by the yeast during fermentation.


Caramel Malt

A specialty malt that imparts both color and flavor to beer. Kilned in a special way, caramel malt has no enzyme activity. Often a maltster sells a range of caramel malts by color, from light to dark. The flavor characteristics range from sweet and caramel in the lighter ones through toffee and into raisiney and burnt in the darker ones. It is usually used as relatively small proportion of the total malt. Also known as crystal malt.


Carbon Dioxide (CO2)

A gas consisting of one part carbon and two parts oxygen released during fermentation. Carbon dioxide is what makes beer fizzy (carbonated). Carbonation provides much of the mouthfeel of beer and the release of carbon dioxide helps bring out many aroma compounds.


Chill Haze

A condition occurring in some beers at low (near freezing) temperatures caused by proteins and other components in the beer precipitating (and therefore becoming visable). The formation of chill haze can only be seen in filtered (bright) beers because unfiltered beers are hazy when produced.



The process of creating carbonation in the finished beer through secondary fermentation, typically taking place in the bottle or keg after sugar is added. Conditioning can also mean aging or lagering beer.


Contract Brewing

Making beer for other companies.



Non-fermentable carbohydrates. They remain in beer after fermentation and give beer body, mouthfeel, and contribute to caloric value.


Draft (Draught)

Beer dispensed from a cask or keg.


Dry Hopping

The addition of hops during primary or secondary fermentation to add a hoppy aroma and flavor to the beer without increasing the beer’s bitterness.



Organic compounds that result from the reaction between acids and alcohols. In beer, they are formed primarily during fermentation. Esters often have fruity flavors and aromas such as banana and pear. Ales often have higher levels of esters, and more fruity aroma than lagers.



The process through which yeast produces alcohol and carbon dioxide from sugars. Many other important flavor compounds (example: esters) are produced by yeast during fermentation.



The process of passing beer through a porous material to clarify it.


Specific Gravity

The weight of a liquid relative to the weight of an equal volume of water. Original gravity is the specific gravity of the wort (before fermentation). Final gravity is the specific gravity of the beer (after fermentation).



A process of producing a bright beer by clearing the beer of unwanted haze or yeast by adding ingredients such as isinglass, bentonite or Irish moss.



Descriptor of a cereal-like or raw grain flavor.



Dry mixture of milled barley malts and adjuncts used in mashing.



Foam that forms on top of the beer when it is poured.


Hopping Rate

The amount of hops added to a specified volume of wort or beer (if added to beer it would be a “dry hopping rate”).



A flavor descriptor for a beer with a lot of hop aroma and flavor.



A flowering perennial vine which produces flowers (cones) used in the brewing process. Hop flowers or cones are the third principal raw material for making beer after water and malted barley. Hops provide bitterness and part of the aroma/flavor of beer. Some hop compounds also inhibit growth of beer spoiling bacteria.


Hot Break

The organic material, primarily nitrogenous, that is precipitated during wort boiling. In many breweries this material is separated from the wort in the whirlpool and removed in the trub.



A device used to measure specific gravity or density. Used in brewing to measure wort concentration (original gravity or original extract, depending on the scale used) and final gravity (or apparent extract, depending on the scale used).


IBU (International Bitterness Unit)

See “bitterness unit”. “International” indicates that a common method is used by several different organizations that publish brewing analytical methods, such as American Society of Brewing Chemists and the European Brewing Convention.


Infusion Mashing

Grist is mixed with hot water to achieve a specific mash temperature.


Irish Moss

A seaweed that is added to boiling wort to coagulate proteins, or facilitate the “hot break”.



Material made from fish swim bladders used to clarify beer.



A vessel holding beer that is used for serving beer on draft.



A small quantity of actively fermenting wort added to fermented beer as an aid to the maturation process. v. To add a small quantity of unfermented wort to fermented beer.



A beer, usually lambic or brown, that is brewed with cherries.



Beer produced using lager yeast. Traditionally lager yeasts were harvested from the bottom of the fermentation vessel and ale yeasts from the top. This is no longer a useful distinction, as many ale brewers now harvest ale yeast from the bottom of their tanks. Beer styles are often divided into two broad categories, ale and lager, depending on the type of yeast used. Note that the terms ale and lager have nothing to do with beer color or strength or amount of hop usage. Lager beers often have a longer and cooler fermentation period than ales.



Aging a lager beer by storing it cold for a specific period of time. During this time undesirable compounds formed during fermentation are reduced.



Spontaneously fermented beer from Belgium. The yeast is not manually added; instead, it is allowed to drift in from the surrounding air.



The process of separating spent grains (insoluble fraction of the mash) from wort using a lauter vessel (there are other methods). A lauter vessel is constructed with a false (slotted) bottom to support the spent grain. The spent grain consists largely of barley husks which function as the filter media for the separation.


Light Beer

Low-calorie beers that also usually have a low-alcohol content (for example, 3.2%). The primary sources of calories in beer are dextrin and alcohol. Since alcohol can only be reduced to a certain point (without making low-alcohol beer), the dextrin content is reduced. This can be accomplished using exogenous enzymes or through extended, low temperature mashing.



The brewer’s word for water used in the brewing process, as included in the mash or used to sparge the grains after mashing.



One of the main ingredients in beer, malt is barley (or another cereal) which has been steeped in water, allowed to germinate, and then dried with heat. The malting process causes enzymes to be formed or released that are used by the brewer in the mashing process to convert starch to sugars and dextrins and protein to peptides and amino acids. Important flavors are developed, and the barley endosperm cell walls are degraded. The type of barley (or other cereal), the level of germination allowed, and the temperature of drying all influence the resulting flavor of the malts.


Malt Extract

Syrups manufactured by evaporating water out of wort. Home brewers (and some commercial breweries) add water to these syrups to make wort, thus skipping the sensitive and time consuming mashing and lautering steps of the brewing process.



The primary sugar obtained from mashing malted grains. It is readily fermentable by yeast.


Mash Tun

(also called mash vessel) A vessel in which mashing occurs. The design and material can vary widely between breweries. Some have the capability to stir and heat the mash.



The process in which milled malted barley (grist) is mixed with hot water. The enzymes formed or released during the malting process convert starch to sugars and dextrins, and protein to peptides and amino acids. The brewer can control the fermentability of the wort to some degree by manipulating mashing parameters such as temperature, thickness, and pH. These factors affect the activities of the different enzymes which are active during mashing.



Breweries and brewpubs producing less than 15,000 barrels per year.



The perception of the density and viscosity of beer in the mouth, ranging from “thin” to “full”. Mouthfeel is influenced by many factors including alcohol concentration, carbonation and dextrin concentration. Different styles of beer have different mouthfeels, so “thin” and “full” are neither good nor bad unless related to appropriateness for a beer style.



Strictly: “Munich-style.” Generally, a dark brown lager style of beer that originated in Munich. The BJCP guidelines do not list Munchener, but the Munich Dunkle flavor is described as “Dominated by the rich and complex flavor of Munich malt, usually with melanoidins reminiscent of bread crusts” According to the late Michael Jackson “Bavarian brewers in general also impart their own distinctively malty accent to their everyday, lower-gravity (alcohol content around 3.7) pale beers. These are sometimes identified as Munchner Hell(es), to distinguish them from the same brewers’ Pilsner-style product”.


Natural Carbonation

Some brewers use the same carbon dioxide produced by the yeast during primary or secondary fermentation to carbonate the beer. The alternative is forced carbonation, or using carbon dioxide from another source to carbonate the beer. The gas itself is the same, but some brewers feel that the character of the carbonation is improved by using the natural process. At Summit, we only use natural carbonation.



Strictly: the roof of the mouth. According to Wikipedia “As the roof of the mouth was once considered the seat of the sense of taste, palate can also refer to this sense itself, as in the phrase ‘a discriminating palate’. By further extension, the flavor of a food (particularly beer or wine) may be called its palate, as when a wine is said to have an oaky palate.


Pale Ale

Strictly: light-colored beer fermented with ale yeast. More generally the term is associated with British and American light colored ales that derive their dominant characteristics from hops. The American Pale Ale, Extra Special Bitter and India Pale ale are all subtypes of Pale Ale.



The process of heating finished beer to kill most of the spoilage organisms in it, stabilizing it against microbiological spoilage. Some brewers believe that it can alter the beer, causing cooked flavors. At Summit, we never pasteurize our beer.



A type of lager beer, divided into three substyles by BJCP, Classic American Pilsner, Bohemian Pilsner, and German Pilsner. The Bohemian Pilsner, which originated in the city of Pilsen, located in what is now the Czech Republic is considered by many to be the ancestor to most modern pale lager beers.



Adding yeast to the wort.



A characteristically dark brown ale of English origin. The aroma and flavor is derived from the use of dark roasted malts. The BJCP, lists 3 subcategories, Brown Porter, Robust Porter and Baltic Porter.


Primary Fermentation

The first fermentation, or the one in which all or almost all of the wort sugars are consumed by the yeast. Some brewers use a secondary fermentation for some beers for aging and/or carbonating purposes. Many beers are produced using a single fermentation step, in which case the primary fermentation is the only fermentation.


Priming Sugar

Sugar added before bottling or racking into a keg in order to produce a secondary fermentation.



Polymers of amino acids. Proteins serve important roles in all living organisms, including barley seeds. Enzymes are a special class of proteins, for example. Most of the “protein” in beer is from the malt. Strictly speaking this is not really protein, because degradation of the native barley protein has occurred during malting and brewing. The degradation of the barley releases amino acids, which are important for yeast growth, and peptides, chunks of the original seed’s protein. These peptides are important for foam stabilization and are also a primary component of beer haze.



The process of packaging beer into casks or kegs.


Rathskeller (Ratskeller)

The term originated in Germany, describing a restaurant in the cellar or basement of a city hall. It now refers to any bar below street level. The literal translation is “council cellar”.



A German purity law enacted in 1516 stipulating that beer can be made only from barley, hops and water. Yeast, which was not fully understood at the time, is also necessary for producing beer, and was added as the fourth ingredient in an amended version of the Reinheitsgebot.



Insoluble material at the bottom of a bottle or keg. May be composed of yeast and/or other materials such as beer peptides, polyphenols, or polysaccharides. Many beers are supposed to have a sediment; it is considered a defect in others. Unfiltered beers almost always will form at least a light sediment.


Shelf Life

Length of time that a beer retains optimum quality. In general, pathogenic organisms do not grow in beer, and so expired beer is generally safe. Spoilage organisms can grow in beer however, and produce unpleasant flavors. In modern brewing, shelf life is often limited by oxidative reactions. Oxidation of beer causes loss of some important aroma and flavor components as well as development of new, often unpleasant aroma and flavor compounds. Shelf life is dependent on many factors, but temperature is one of the most important. Beer always tastes better for a longer time when stored cold.



Rinsing the mashed grains with hot water to increase extraction of the sugar and other material from the mash.



BJCP list six subcategories of stout; Dry stout, Sweet Stout, Oatmeal stout, Foreign Extra Stout, American Stout, Russian Imperial Stout. Historically, a special Porter with higher gravity and fuller body. All these subcategories use very dark roasted malts to achieve roasted and burnt aromas and flavors.


Top-Fermenting Yeast (ale yeast)

Traditionally ale yeasts were harvested from the top of the fermentation vessel and lager yeasts from the bottom. This is no longer a useful distinction, as many ale brewers now harvest ale yeast from the bottom of their tanks. Beer styles are often divided into two broad categories, ale and lager, depending on the type of yeast used. Note that the terms ale and lager have nothing to do with beer color or strength or amount of hop usage. Ales often have a warmer and shorter fermentation than lagers.



Peptides precipitated during wort boiling mixed with vegetal material from hops that are usually separated and removed from the wort before it is cooled.



Wheat beer. A beer made with some proportion of wheat malt, instead of 100% barley malt (or other grains or adjuncts). There are many types of wheat beers. German wheat beers typically use specific yeast strains that give these beers unique fruity and phenolic characteristics. Wheat beers of the “American Wheat” style do not use these yeasts and rely on the characteristics of the wheat itself and other ingredients for their characters.



The sweet liquid derived from mashing. This liquid is separated from the insoluble fraction of the mash (barley husks and other material) during lautering, boiled in the kettle (where hops are added and it becomes “hopped wort”) and then is transformed into beer by yeast in the fermenter.



A single-celled organism that converts sugars to alcohol and carbon dioxide. Also produces many beer flavors during fermentation. The type and level of these flavors is dependent on yeast strain, fermentation conditions, and the characteristics of the wort being fermented. For brewing, yeasts are often divided into two broad categories, Ale and Lager.

Are you 21 years of age or older?
This site is intended for those of legal drinking age. By entering the website, you affirm that you are of legal drinking age.