We all know that one person who uses big words and acronyms when describing something they love, those people who like to be referred to as connoisseurs and take things way more seriously than normal people. That is me with craft beer. But I am here to show that anyone can talk like a beer snob and impress that cute bartender with some simple terminology and classification of beers. Take this guide to heart and you can be the official beer snob of your friend group. Long live craft beer. #nomoreshittybeer
ABV – Alcohol by volume. This number refers to how wasted you’ll get from one beer. The higher the number the more alcohol is in the beer, therefore the faster you will get drunk. For reference a normal grocery store beer is about 4-5% while craft beer can be anywhere between 4-9% most likely.
IBU – International bitterness unit. This ingenious system tells you just how bitter your beer is going to be without even tasting it. The lower the number, the less bitter, and therefore the more sweet or mild taste. The higher IBUs are usually reserved for cask ales and IPAs. If you drink something like Corona regularly you’re going to want something between 20-30 IBUs so it goes down nice and easy. IBUs above 50 are for those people that love their hops, and is usually found in double or triple IPAs.
Hops – Hops are what give craft beers their bitterness and aromas. They also extend the life of your beer so it can sit in the fridge until you’re ready to drink it. The hops are what determine the IBU as previously mentioned. Hops can have different flavor profiles, but the most common are bitter, piney, grassy, floral, or grapefruity. You will see the most hops in a rather new type of beer called the “imperial” IPA, where the bitterness and alcohol contents are the highest.
Malt – Barley grains are soaked in water to form something called malt. This process develops the enzymes required for modifying the grain’s starches into various types of sugar. Malted grains aren’t just used for beer, they are also used for whisky, malted milkshakes, and malt vinegar. All of the color in beer is due to the malted barley. A lightly roasted malt with produce a very pale color while deeply roasted malts produce a dark color. Malt’s main job is to make beer sweet, and give it a heavier feeling with darker beers.
There are two main classifications of beer, lagers and ales. These are the two most common types of yeast that brewers use, lager yeast and ale yeast.
- American Lager – A highly carbonated beer usually described as “crisp”
- Pilsner – A highly carbonated beer similar to a lager with a typically dense head
- Pale ale – A light beer with earthy flavors and aromas
- India pale ale (IPA) – A beer with a significant amount of hops that has that hoppy profile from start to finish
- Cream ale – My personal favorite type of beer, this usually darker ale is brewer with Madagascar vanilla beans for a sweeter flavor
- Amber ale – A darker ale with a malty taste profile
- Red ale – A darker ale with an understated caramel flavor
- Porter – A dark ale that usually has hints of chocolate and coffee
- Imperial stout – A deeply roasted ale with hints of chocolate, molasses, and coffee
- Wheat (like heffeweizen) – a cloudy beer with a prominent yeast flavor
- Gose – A sour German beer that is typically citrusy and salty
- Saison – These beers are usually seasonal using local ingredients such as fruit to make pronounced flavors. Similar to a heffeweizen.
- Nitro – this is a relatively new modification to beer. It actually takes out some of the carbonation for a smooth velvety texture. The liquid is more smooth – think more coffee than soda.
Snifter – This is usually used for imperial stouts or IPAs and English style ales
Pint glass – this common beer glass is usually used for Belgian witbiers and american wheat ales. This glass has different derivations and special shapes including English vs Shaker vs Imperial.
Tulip glass – this glass is typically used for sour beer including goses and saisons.
Wheat glass – This class is similar to a regular pint glass but is used for specific wheat beers such as heffeweizens.
Mug – This classic pub glass is used for extremely common beers that you can put back easily, such as lagers and pilsners.
Pilsner glass – You guessed it, this is for pilsners! This glass can also be used for another light type of beer, the lager.
Here are some helpful infographics: