If you’ve ever been to a brewery, chances are you’ve been exposed to what I like to call ‘brewer-ese’ — the unofficial language of beer brewing. Suddenly, a ‘malt’ is no longer a cold, cream-based treat, and ‘hops’ aren’t the Easter bunny’s preferred method of travel. So, what’s a wannabe beer connoisseur to do? Consult the Loopster’s beer dictionary, of course, courtesy of BeerAdvocate.com. Find out the difference between lager and ale, top-fermenting yeast and bottom-fermenting yeast, and everything else you need to know before making your way to your local brewery.
Alcohol: Ethyl alcohol or ethanol. An intoxicating by-product of fermentation, which is caused by yeast acting on sugars in the malt. Alcohol content is expressed as a percentage of volume or weight.
Ale: Beers distinguished by use of top-fermenting yeast strains. The top fermenting yeast perform at warmer temperatures than do yeast’s used to brew lager beer, and their byproducts are more evident in taste and aroma. Fruitiness and esters are often part of an ale’s character.
Bottom-Fermenting Yeast: One of the two types of yeast used in brewing. Bottom-fermenting yeast works well at low temperatures and ferments more sugars leaving a crisp, clean taste and then settles to the bottom of the tank. Also referred to as “lager yeast.”
Draft (Draught): The process of dispensing beer from a bright tank, cask or, keg, by hand pump, pressure from an air pump or, injected carbon dioxide inserted into the beer container prior to sealing.
Fermentation: Conversion of sugars into ethyl alcohol and carbon dioxide, through the action of yeast.
Hops: Herb added to boiling wort or fermenting beer to impart a bitter aroma and flavor.
Lager: Beers produced with bottom-fermenting yeast strains at colder fermentation temperatures than ales. This cooler environment inhibits the natural production of esters and other byproducts, creating a crisper tasting product.
Malt(ing): The process by which barley is steeped in water, germinated, then kilned to convert insoluble starch to soluble substances and sugar. The foundation ingredient of beer.
Pasteurization: Heating of beer to 60-79˚C/140-174˚F to stabilize it microbiologically. Flash-pasteurization is applied very briefly, for 15-60 seconds by heating the beer as it passes through the pipe. Alternately, the bottled beer can be passed on a conveyor belt through a heated tunnel. This more gradual process takes at least 20 minutes and sometimes much longer.
Secondary Fermentation: Stage of fermentation occurring in a closed container from several weeks to several months.
Shelf Life: Describes the number of days a beer will retain it’s peak drinkability. The shelf life for commercially produced beers is usually a maximum of four months.
Top-Fermenting Yeast: One of the two types of yeast used in brewing. Top-fermenting yeast works better at warmer temperatures and are able to tolerate higher alcohol concentrations than bottom-fermenting yeast. It is unable to ferment some sugars, and results in a fruitier, sweeter beer. Also known as “ale yeast.”
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