Beer 101: Is that Code? Understanding Beer-Speak


The second post of a series of beer articles breaking down all there is to know about our favorite beverage.  As I mentioned before I’m no expert. I don’t have any beer sommelier qualifications. All I know is I like to drink beer and I drink a lot of it and I try lots of different kinds. I’ve listened and learned.


Previously… Beer 101: What’s Your Type?

Beer 101 Photo 1

Have you ever been to a beer festival or pub and listened to a hardcore beer enthusiast talk.

“Well Frank I really enjoy that session beer. It’s a bit hoppy and has a bitter mouthful. It must have a high IBU.”

Okay well maybe not exactly like that but there are beer terms floating around out there that we think we know and ones we just fake it through.

These are not names of styles like Saison or Dubbel;  these are technical words used to describe a beer or a brewing processing. And one thing I have learned by understanding these references is that they actually help me decide on what beer I will order or what I am to expect in a new pour.

Beer 101 Photo 2

Beer Establishment Terms

Do you know where you are consuming your favorite beers?  A PUB is an establishment that serves beer and other alcoholic beverages.  What turns it into a BREWPUB is when they make and sell (at least 50% of) their own beer.  A BREWHOUSE is not somewhere to drink at all.  It is what all the equipment used to make beer is collectively called.

Beer 101 Photo 3

Beer Production Terms

Probably the biggest confusion surrounds the term CRAFT BEER. It loosely defines brewers that are small, independent, and use traditional methods to brew their beer. As it should be!

SESSION BEER is a low alcohol beer ( usually less than 5%) with big flavour that generally only spans the length of a season. Sometimes popular session beers may end up being so successful they end up in the breweries regular rotation.

Most people understand ABV as the alcohol percentage in their bottle or the how many do I drink before I can do Karaoke, but do you know about IBU‘s?  This tiny little term, the International Bitter Units, has been a saviour at hardcore sampling events. Simply put, the higher the number the more bitter the flavour. Meaning I don’t waste my last token on an unenjoyable beer

Beer 101 Photo 4

Beer Tasting Terms

Beer tasting is an art unto itself  (a future post) with so many levels involved in properly reviewing the taste and aromas of different beers. If you just want to be able to make some intelligent conversion around beer nerds then these are the most popular terms used.

HOPPY- this is a board term but generally refers to the taste and aroma of hops. This could include fruity to flowery tastes. It is the one I hear used the most and generally in the wrong way. Beer is made with hops so you should taste it.

FRUITY- strong taste and aroma of any fruit. Yes that include obscure flavours such as watermelon and mango.

BITTER- a taste that hits the back of your tongue with a bitterness. It comes from the hops. Refer back to IBU.

SPICY- taste and aroma of various spices. Doesn’t just mean jalapeno pepper hot but can include taste of cloves or ginger.

CITRUS- fruity but with tastes and aroma of citrus fruit. You know lemons and limes and not just as a garnish shoved down the neck of your bottle.

COFFEE- taste and aromas of roasted coffee.  My least favorite taste but a very dominant in stouts and porters.

GRAINY- taste and aromas of grains and cereals. I have had several beers that left an amazing taste of fresh corn in my mouth.

FLOWERY- tastes and aromas of floral accents like rose and hibiscus. Can be done well or way over the top.

This is just a small sample of the terminology used in the beer world.  However it is some of the most common references you will hear and can give you a start to an expansive beer-speak vernacular.

Next Up….Beer 101: Does My Beer Just Look Good in that Glass? Beer and Glassware.

Share this with your friends:Share on Facebook
Tweet about this on Twitter
Pin on Pinterest
Email this to someone

Speak Your Mind