Spring Travel | Magazine

A mini glossary of beer terms

Brush up on your lingo before you brewery hop.

2/4/17 Salem, MA -- Tasting samples lined up at Smuttynose Brewery in Hampton, NH February 4, 2017. Erik Jacobs for the Boston Globe
Erik Jacobs for the Boston Globe

Visiting a brewery gives you the chance to taste flagship beers fresh from the source and to try (and buy) trial beers you can’t get anywhere else. “The one thing I’d recommend is that, at each place, you try the mainstay beer and their beer of the moment,” says beer columnist Jason Notte. Here are more tips to get the most of your visit, and the specialized vocabulary to go with them.

> Flights, commonly a set of four small (3- to 5-ounce) glasses of different beers, are a good way to compare styles and find your favorites. Some breweries offer individual sample glasses for $1.50 to $2.50. Or you can try asking the bartender for a small taste of a draft beer before going all in on a pint of it.

> ABV stands for alcohol by volume, a standard measurement of alcohol content expressed as a percentage. So a 6% ABV means that the beer is 6% ethanol. (Liquors commonly use “proof,” which is simply double the ABV.)


> Wort is essentially unfermented beer—the sugary result of soaking the malt and boiling the hops. During fermentation, yeast will eat the sugar and create alcohol and carbonation as byproducts.

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> A mash tun is the large vessel where ground malt and grains are soaked in hot water, converting the starch to sugars and extracting color and flavor.

> IBU refers to International Bitterness Units: The higher the IBU score, the more bitter the flavor. For example, a pilsner like Budweiser has 10 IBU, Samuel Adams Boston Lager has 30, Harpoon IPA has 42, and Alchemist Heady Topper has 75.

> Dry-hopping is a brewing technique where additional hops are introduced after fermentation, giving the beer more hop aroma without releasing acidic bitterness.

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