Filling up on Beer Terms

If you’ve browsed my Beer Terms page lately (i.e., before I posted this article), you might have noticed that it was starting to fill out nicely but that a few letters were remaining mysteriously empty. I’ve designed this article to fix that – and to make me seem smart, of course, which is why I chose words that sound all historical or sciency.

Filling the page with arbitrarily selected terms might seem pointless, as I had intended to add words when they popped up as relevant parts of articles. But, as it turns out, words like “xylose” and “reinheitsgebot” only pop up once every few centuries when our solar system aligns or when a beer nerd wants to impress someone. Please file this article under category number two.

Let’s start with J. Finding an appropriate word for J was surprisingly difficult. I managed to hunt one down, but it still feels like I’m stretching a bit.

Jeroboam: A curvaceous type of wine bottle that sometimes houses beers as well. Jeroboams are larger than your average beer bottle, ranging in size from 3 to 5 liters. (See? Totally stretching.)

Kräusening: This one’s German, of course. I doubt I could’ve found a more German-sounding word. Look, it even has an umlaut!

Before bottling a beer, brewers will sometimes discover that it’s gone flat. The yeast became inactive (a brewing term that means either “dead as crap” or “in a micro-coma”), and when that happened, they stopped excreting all those delicious byproducts. Kräusening fixes this problem. When a brewer adds kräusen, he or she pours new wort – with active yeast – into a beer that’s ready to bottle, which stimulates continued (or second) fermentation. This will give the beer a more lively, carbonated character and can reduce flavors of diacetyl and acetaldehyde. Lagers require kräusening more often than ales because their colder fermentation temperatures make yeast work slower, which extends the lagering process and gives yeast more time to fall asleep.

Note: Kräusen can also describe foaming during early fermentation.

Nitro: Sometimes a bar will employ phrases like “nitro conditioned” or “on nitro” to sell a beer, particularly a draught stout. Upon seeing this, you might think, “Someone’s ad campaign has gone horribly awry, because that sounds like something that will explode in my mouth.” Don’t worry. Nitro refers to a combo of CO2 and nitrogen that propels the beer from barrel to tap. Nitrogen produces tiny bubbles and gives the beer a smooth, creamy texture. This is why Guinness on draught usually tastes like a burnt creamsicle (and because most American bars serve it way too cold).

Reinheitsgebot: Another German word! You’d think they like beer or something. This Bavarian Purity Law of 1514 states that beer may contain only 4 ingredients: malted grains, hops, yeast, and water. It’s the oldest food purity law on the books, and most German brewers still adhere to it. (It was, however, struck down in 1987 after being labeled an enemy of free trade.)

Underback: Finding a term that starts with U took me into the depths of the human soul, and the best I found was underback. It’s a big tub into which wort is drained from the mash before being moved into another vessel for boiling. You may now disregard this knowledge because I doubt I’ll ever mention it again.

Vintage: The year of a beer’s production. Many beers can age like wine, so some craft breweries have started printing the vintage on the label.

Xylose: A sugar that exists in wort in very small quantities but doesn’t usually affect anything about the beer. I needed an X, all right?

Zymurgy: The chemistry term for the study of fermentation. Also known as zymology. If you brew, you’re a zymurgist! Or a zymologist. I think the latter sounds better.

2 Responses to “Filling up on Beer Terms”
  1. Deb says:

    Love the pic!

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