Abbey, Not necessarily made in an abbey, or by monks, but imitating the Trappist style.

Ale, A brew made with a top-fermenting yeast, which should impart to it a distinctive fruitiness. Ales are produced in a wide variety of colors and strengths.

Altbier, A German term for a top-fermenting brew. Classic examples, copper in colour, mashed only from barley malt, fermented from a single cell yeast and cold conditioned, with an alcohol content of 4.5-4.7 by volume, are made in Dusseldorf.

Barley Wine, An English term for an extra-strong ale (implied to be as potent as wine). Usually more than 6% ABV and usually closer to 11. Most often bottled. Both pale and dark versions can be found.

Berliner Weisse, Berlin’s classic “white” (cloudy), sedimented, top-fermenting wheat beer, with the quenching sourness of a lactic fermentation, the sparkle of a high carbonation, and a low alcohol content of around 3 percent by volume.

Biere de Garde, French style. Often bronze or amber. Originally a strong, top-fermenting, bottle-conditioned brew intended for laying down. May have caramel flavours from long boil. Today, often bottom-fermented and filtered. 4.4-7.5 by volume.

Bitter, English term for a well-hopped ale, most often on draught. Although examples vary widely, the name implies a depth of hop bitterness. There is usually some acidity in the finish and colour vanes from bronze to deep copper. Basic bitters usually have an alcohol content of around 3.75-4 percent by volume, “Best” or “Special” bitters come in at 4.4 – 7.5, the odd “Extra Special” at about 5.5.

Bock, The German term for a strong beer. If unqualified, it indicates a bottom-fermenting brew from barley malt. In Germany, bock usually has more than 6.25 percent alcohol by volume, and may be golden, tawny or dark brown. Outside Germany, strengths vary, and a bock is usually dark. Bock beers are served in autumn, late winter or spring, depending upon the country

Brown Ale, In the south of England, a dark-brown ale, sweet in palate, low in alcohol (3-3.5 by volume). In the northeast, a reddish-brown ale, drier, of 4.4-5. The slightly sour, brown brews of Flanders are also ales, though they do not generally use the designation.

Cask-conditioned Ale, Draught ale that is neither filtered nor pasteurized and has a secondary fermentation and precipitation of yeast in a vented cask in the cellar of the pub. The beer should emerge relatively clear, with a natural carbonation (albeit very light). Unworkable if the beer is chilled.

Cream Ale, An American designation, implying a very pale (usually golden), mild, light bodied ale that may actually have been blended with a lager. Around 4.75 by volume.

Dark Beer, There are many, quite unrelated, styles of dark brew. If this vague term is used without qualification, it usually means a dark lager of the Munich type.

Doppelbock, German extra-strong bottom-fermenting beer, tawny or dark brown. Around 7.5 by volume or stronger. Southern speciality, seasonal to March and April. Names usually end in -ator.

Dortmunder, This indicates merely a beer brewed in Dortmund, but the city’s classic style is Export.

Double IPA, Generally, these types of beers use double the amount of hops and have double the ABV of a standard IPA. That makes them quite strong, but they can also be less sweet than many types out there.

Dunkel, German word for “dark”.

Eisbock, An extra-strong bock beer in which potency has been heightened by a process of freezing. Since water freezes before alcohol, the removal of ice (eis) concentrates the beer.

Export, In Germany, a pale, Dortmund style bottom-fermented beer, bigger bodied than a pilsner and less dry, but not as sweet as a Munich pale beer. At 5.25-5.5 by volume, stronger than either. Elsewhere: usually indicates a premium beer.

Faro, Once Brussels’ local style, a version of a lambic sweetened by candy sugar. 4.5-5.5 by volume.

Festbier, In Germany, any beer made for a festival. Styles vary, but they tend to be above average strength, often 5.5 – 6 volume.

Framboise/Frambozen, Raspberry beer, usually based on lambic. Alcohol content varies.

Gueuze, A blend of old and young lambic beers. Around 4.4-5.5 by volume.

Hefe, The German word for yeast, indicating that a beer is bottle-conditioned and sedimented.

Hell, A world without beer, German word for “pale”, indicating an everyday beer that is golden in colour. Ordered as a Helles (hell-es).

Imperial, Most often used to denote a variation on a style that is more extreme than the standard of the style. Basically more of everything.

IPA (India Pale Ale), British pale ales for the Indian Empire were made to a higher than normal strength, and given more hops, to protect them on the journey. Today, the hoppiest examples of this style are made by the new generation of American brewers. 5.0-plus, sometimes far higher.

Kellerbier, German term indicating an unfiltered lager, in which there is usually a high hop content and a low carbonation. Strengths vary according to the original style.  A style common to the Franconia region of Bavaria.

Kloster bier, German term for a beer that is, or formerly was, produced in a monastery or convent.

Kolsch, Cologne’s style. Golden top-fermenting, layered. Softly drinkable, with a delicate fruitiness 4.3-5.0 by volume.

Krausen, a term near and dear to Old Style drinkers, In German custom, a traditional technique of carbonation is to add a small dosage of unfermented malt sugars (in English, wort) to the conditioning tank. In a normally krausened beer, the wart ferments out and the beer is conventionally filtered. An unfiltered beer based on this technique is called Krausenbier.

Kriek, Cherry beer, usually based on lambic. 5-6 by volume.

Lager, Any beer made by bottom-fermentation. In Britain, lagers are usually golden in colour, but in continental Europe they can also be dark. In the German-speaking world and The Netherlands, the term may be used to indicate the most basic beer of the house, the biere ordinaire.

Lambic, Spontaneously fermenting style of wheat beer unique to Belgium, notably the Senne Valley. About 4.4% ABV.

Light Ale, English term describing the bottled counterpart of a basic bitter. In Scotland, “Light” indicates the lowest gravity draught beer (usually dark in colour), neither term implies a low-calorie beer.

Light Beer, In America, a beer labelled with its calorie count. It is required to be lower in calories than the brewery’s “normal” product (which probably has 145-150). Light beers are usually 10-35 percent lower in calories.  In Canada and Australia, “Light” means lower in alcohol.

Maibock, Celebratory springtime or “May”  bock, often released in April or even late March, Often pale.

Malt Liquor, Not malty, and sometimes containing substantial amounts of cheaper sugars. Not a liquor, either, but usually a strongish variation on a regular American lager.

Marzen, From “March” in German. Originally a beer brewed in March and laid down in caves before the summer weather rendered brewing impossible. Stocks would be drawn upon during the summer, and finally exhausted in October. In Germany, this tradition has come to be associated with one specific style. Marzenbier has a malty aroma, and is a medium-strong version (classically, more than 5.5 percent alcohol by volume) of the amber-red Vienna style. It is seasonal to the Oktoberfest, where it is offered as a traditional speciality alongside paler beers of a similar strength. Confusingly, in Austria the term refers not to style but to gravity.

Pale Ale, Pale in this instance means bronze or copper-coloured, as opposed to dark brown. Pale ale is a term used by some English brewers to identify their premium bitters.

Pilsner/Pils, Loosely, any golden-coloured, dry, bottom fermenting beer of conventional strength might be described as such (in its various spellings abbreviations) though this most famous designation properly belongs only to a product of “super-premium” quality. Too many brewers take it lightly, in more senses than one. In their all-round interpretation, German brewers take the style most seriously inspired by the Urquell (original) brew from the town of Pilsen, in the Czech province of Bohemia. A classic Pilsener, has a gravity of around 12 Balling and is characterized by the hoppiness of its flowery aroma and dry finish.

Porter, A London style that became extinct, though it has recently been revived. It was a lighter-bodied companion to stout, and the most accurate revivals are probably the porters made by American micro-brewers like Sierra Nevada. Around 5% ABV. In some countries, the porter tradition remains in roasty-tasting dark brews that are bottom-fermented, and often of a greater strength.

Rauchbier, Smoked malts are used in the production of this dark, bottom-fermented speciality, principally made in and around Bamberg, Franconia. Produced at around 5 percent by volume and in marzen and bock versions.

Saison, Seasonal summer style in the French-speaking part of Belgium. A sharply refreshing, faintly sour, top-fermenting brew, sometimes dry-hopped, often bottle-conditioned, 5.5 – 8% ABV.

Schwartzbier, “Black” or very dark beer. The most famous type is made in Kostritz, Germany.

Scotch Ale, The ales of Scotland generally have a malt accent. In their home country, a single brewery’s products may be identified in ascending order of gravity and strength as Light, Heavy, Export and Strong. Or by a system based on the old currency of shillings, probably once a reference to tax ratings: 60/-, 70/-, 80/-, 90/-. Alcohol content by volume might rise through 3, 4, 4.5 and 7-10. The term “Scotch ale” is something used specifically to identify a very strong, and often extremely dark, malt-accented speciality from that country.

Steam Beer, A name trademarked by the Anchor Steam Beer brewery of San Francisco. This brewery’s principal product is made by a distinctive method of bottom-fermentation at high temperatures and in unusually wide, shallow vessels. This technique, producing a beer with elements of both lager and ale in its character (though also distinctive in its own right), is said to have been common in California when, in the absence of supplies of ice, early brewers tried to make bottom-fermenting beers. The very lively beer was said to “steam” when the casks were tapped.

Stout, An extra-dark, almost black, top-fermenting brew, made with highly roasted malts. Sweet stout, an English style, is typified by Mackeson, which has only about 3.75 percent alcohol by volume in its domestic market but more than 5 in the Americas. Sweet stout usually contains milk sugars (lactose), and is a soothing restorative. Dry stout, the Irish style, is typified by Guinness, which comes in at around 4 percent in the British Isles, a little more in North America and as much as 8 in tropical countries. Dry stouts sometimes contain roasted unmalted barley. Imperial Stout, originally brewed as a winter warmer, for sale in the Tsarist Russian Empire, is medium dry and distinguished by its great strength: anything from 7 to more than 10.

Trappist, This order of monks has five breweries in Belgium and one in The Netherlands. By law, only they are entitled to use the term Trappist in describing their products. Each of them produces strong (6 – 12 percent by volume), top-fermenting brews, characteristically employing candy sugar in the kettle, and always bottle-conditioned.

Tripel, Dutch-language term usually applied to the strongest beer of the house, customarily top-fermenting often pale in colour, occasionally spiced with coriander. The most famous is made in Westmalle, Belgium.

Vienna, Amber-red or only medium-dark, lager. This was the style originally produced in Vienna. Brewers still talk of a “Vienna malt” to indicate a kilning to this amber-red colour, but the beer-style itself is no longer especially associated with the city.

Weisse/Weissbier/Weizernbier, The German term for “white” beer, implying a pale brew made from wheat. In the north, a special renown is enjoyed by Berliner Weisse, a style in its own right. A different style of Weissbier is made in the south, with a more conventional alcohol content (usually a little over 5 percent by volume), a higher proportion of wheat (at least 50 percent) and a yeast (again top-fermenting) that produces a tart, fruity, spicy palate, sometimes with notes of cooking apples and cloves. Often, instead of Weissbier, the southerners prefer the term Weizen (a similar-sounding word but it means, quite simply “wheat”). If the beer is sedimented with yeast, it may be prefixed Hefe-. Southern wheat beers are also produced in dark versions (these Dunkel Weizen brews have a delicious complex of fruitiness and maltiness), and in Export and Bock strengths. Weizenbock is sometimes served as a Christmas beer.

Wheat, A beer that is brewed with a large proportion of wheat in addition to malted barley. Wheat beers are usually top-fermented.

White, A term once used to describe wheat beers. Apart from those of German-speaking countries, Belgium’s white beers (Witbier, Biere Blanche) are of considerable interest.

Witbier, A Dutch/Flemish term used in Belgium and, increasingly, the United States. See White.

Zwickl, German term for an unfiltered beer without the distinguishing features of either a Kellerbier or a Krausenbier.


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