A BEER GLOSSARY

This section provides a fairly detailed discussion of the various terms that you may run into when discussing the various types of beers, especially in a foreign country.

Ale
This is a top fermenting style of brew. It is also fermented at the higher temperatures, usually just under normal room temperature. Because of these higher temperatures, it ferments much more quickly — sometimes as short as 3-4 days. They generally have what is referred to as a “fruity” accent. They should be served at moderate temperatures in order to taste the full body of the ale.
Barley Wine
This is the English term for a very strong ale. Although Barley Wine tastes as strong as wine, it not a wine. To obtain its high alcohol content, British brewers left the brew in the casks to mature for several months. Periodically, they would roll the casks to shake up the beer and get the yeast to convert more carbohydrates to alcohol.
Bitter
Bitter is a style of ale which provides a strong hops taste to the palate. In color, they normally range from gold to a coppery red. Originally, every brewery in England generally had two ales, a bitter and a mild. Compared to the mild, bitters were both dryer and hoppier. Bitters are classified into 3 categories, “ordinary” and “best”, or “Extra Special.” The main difference is that the latter two are considerably stronger in nature.
Bock
Bock is usually a very strong beer, which is normally served seasonally from January to May. Bock beers are bottom fermented, thus they are a lager type of beer. They come in a variety of different styles, ranging from the pale, Helles Bock, to the traditional dark colored Dunkels Bock. Bocks usually balance a definite malt flavor with a hops dryness in the finish. Double Bocks are even stronger than single Bocks and vary in taste from well balanced to that of an overwhelming malt taste. The term Bock literally means goat in German. The most accepted theory is that the word “Bock” is a derivation from the word “Einbeck.” Einbeck is the name of the town where the Bock style of beer is presumed to have originated.
Export
Export is a gold colored lager beer that is dryer than a Munich style lager. It tastes less of hops than a Pilsner, and is stronger than either one. It was originally produced in Dortmund and is sometimes known as “Dort”.
Hefe
Hefe is a German word meaning yeast. It indicates that this is a sediment brewed, or lager, style of beer.
Lager
Lager is the general term for a bottom fermenting beer. Lagers are fermented at cold temperatures for up to 2 weeks and then are “lagered” for up to 3 months at temperatures approaching freezing. The word “lager” comes from the German word meaning “to store.”
Light Beer
This is an American term for a low calorie beer. Generally, this is very watered down version of a Pilsner, with little to no taste, and is of a light yellow color.
Malt Liquor
Malt Liquor is an American term for a fairly strong lager. They are generally pale, golden colored, and have a light to medium body. Usually, they are cheaply made and are one of the most popular means for getting quickly and cheaply drunk. Also, Malt Liquor is neither malt tasting nor a liquor.
Marzen
The traditional Marzen style beer is amber red, malty, and has a medium to strong alcoholic strength. The maltiness is most present in the bouquet. The palate is malty too, but not overpoweringly so. Marzenbeer gets its name from the time when brewers brewed a large batch of beer in March to last through the summer. Then they would finish the beer in September or October. Today, it is the traditional beer of the Munich Oktoberfest and is still the traditional drink in September and October
Munich
Helles/Dunkel
The Munich Helles (light) is a golden colored pale lager beer. It is malt accented and is slightly less hoppy than a pilsener. The Munich Dunkel (dark) is a malty, dark lager beer.
Pale Ale
A copper colored style of ale from England. It has a clean and complex palate, with a yeasty fruitiness and a bit of malt character. Its finish is dry and hops tasting.
Pilsner
Traditionally, a premium pale lager with a classic gold color. Its bouquet is flowery and fragrant. The palate is soft while the finish is dry and hoppy. The Pilsener style of beer was founded in 1842 in the Bohemian brew town of Pilsen. It quickly won renown and was imitated throughout the world. This style is especially popular in Germany, where a slightly hoppier version is produced. In America, the term Pilsener is falsely used to denote any golden colored beer. While the watered down mass produced version is loosely based on the classic Pilsener, it is not a Pilsener. To taste the true Pilsener from the brewery that brews it properly, order one on your next trip to either Austria or Germany. It is a very great beer.
Rauchbier
Once upon a time, all beers were Rauchbiers, so to speak. The term Rauchbier simply means “smoke beer” in German, and with the ancient kilning methods of drying green brewer’s malt over open fires, all grains picked up smoky flavors and passed them on to the beers made from them.
Stout
A dark, almost black, top-fermented brew with a very roast flavored characteristic. The most widely known type of stout is the Irish stout. It is dryer and more intense flavored than its English counterpart, which is known for its sweetness.
Wheat
Weisse
Weissbier
Weizenbier
Wheat/Weisse/Weissbier/Weizenbier. The latter three are German words meaning “white” or wheat beers. The tastes of this style will vary tremendously. Wheat beers use at least 40% malted wheat in the grist and use top fermenting yeasts. They often show spicy, tart like, or fruitlike characteristics in their taste. It is fashionable to add a slice of lemon to them. Oftentimes, brewers add a second dose of yeast to the bottle to induce a secondary fermentation. They are then called Hefe-Weizens.