The ABCs of craft beer – Part 1

Craft beerAre you a budding beer aficionado? Trying to hang with your craft beer buddies? Just can’t figure out how to order a pint at the local beer pub?

Beer talk can be intimidating when you’re first introduced to craft beer or you’re around friends who are experienced connoisseurs. Certain terms and phrases can leave new drinkers thirsty for knowledge. That’s why knowing the correct terminology can help you not only understand the depth of beer choices, but also be able to chill with the conversation.

In this three-part blog series, we’ll take a closer look at topics related to craft beer.

First, let’s review the definitions of some common terms used among beer drinkers, so you can order and enjoy a new brew with confidence:

  • Chill haze: Most beers are clear or translucent at room temperature. Very cold temperatures can cause protein compounds – which are present from the malt used to make the beer – to precipitate partially, which makes beer appear cloudy, hazy or even milky. Haziness does not affect flavor and should disappear if the beer is kept in the refrigerator or soon after the beer is opened or poured.
  • Depth: If you ask the bartender for a recommendation, he or she might suggest a brew with nice depth. Depth refers to richness and complexity of flavors or aromas – not the amount of alcohol or anything else. It’s somewhat subjective based on the beer drinker’s preferences, but this endorsement means the recommended beer should be flavorful.
  • Growler: Usually with a volume of 64 or 68 ounces, this jug-like container is used to sell or serve draft beer at a pub, brewery or specialty beer store. You can check your local stores and bars to see if they sell growlers, and some offer discount loyalty programs for growler refills.
  • Hang: Hang refers to a lingering taste of bitterness or harshness. This is an advanced term that may be unknown to some beer fans. If you want to try it out, use it in a sentence like this: “That IPA was crisp and hoppy, but it had a little too much hang for my taste.”
  • High-gravity beer: These are beers with higher alcohol content. Specific gravity is the measure of the density of a substance in comparison to the density of water, and this term is used to communicate the amount of sugar dissolved in unfermented wort or finished beer. It is expressed as a ratio, and a higher ratio or higher gravity usually indicates higher alcohol content. However, depending on where you live, you might apply high gravity to refer to beers that are only sold in liquor stores or liquor-by-the-drink establishments or other similar restrictions due their alcohol content. The exact percentage of alcohol by volume (ABV) or alcohol by weight (ABW) that classifies a beer at high gravity can vary by state, depending on beverage laws. In Tennessee, that cap is 5% ABW or 6.25% ABV. However, in 2017, that is changing to 8% ABW or 10% ABV, allowing more high gravity beer to be sold in grocery stores.
  • Bomber: This is slang for a 22-ounce bottle of beer. You often may find high-gravity beers in larger size bottles like bombers.
  • Session beers: These are beers with a lighter body and lower alcohol content, usually less than 5% ABV. The term refers to the fact that someone could drink more than one of these refreshing, often light brews in one session – as opposed to heavier, more filling beers. Similarly, these beers may be called “sessionable.”

Now that your knowledge of brewing terminology is crisper, we hope you can smooth talk your way into more conversations about your favorite brews.

Next, we’ll explore the ingredients and attributes of craft beer before our last post in the series when we’ll talk about the difference between types of breweries.

Whether it be a session beer or a high-gravity brew we hope you order confidently and drink responsibly. Cheers!