Beer Geek Speak: Words To Help Sound Like A Beer Pro

A gypsy brewer? Nanobrewery? A quick guide to beer lingo


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Microbrewery: According to the Brewers Association, a microbrewery produces fewer than 15,000 barrels of beer per year with 75 percent or more of its beer sold off-site.

Nanobrewery: These tiny producers are an offshoot of the home-brewing scene and usually produce three to four barrels per batch (and less than 100 per year), often brewed in home garages or rented industrial spaces. Sloop is a well-respected Poughkeepsie, New York, nanobrewer. 

Gypsy Brewer: This is a trend that started in Scandinavia, where brewers without home breweries use the facilities of others to make their beer. One of the most famous, Mikkeller, of Denmark, has brewed 200 beers in 40 countries. Gypsy brewers are known to use unusual ingredients in their often one-off brews.  

Contract Brewer: A business that hires another brewery to produce all or some of it beer. For instance, The Bronx Brewery is making its beer at the City Brewery in La Cross, Wisconsin, while Cisco Brewers, based on Nantucket, brews some of its beer at F.X. Matt Brewery in Utica, New York. In fact, F.X. Matt also brews two of Brooklyn Brewery’s beers, Brooklyn Lager and Brooklyn Summer Ale. 

Session/Sessionable: The terms “session” or “sessionable” beer come from England and are a category of lower-alcohol beer (typically under 5%)  that might be consumed in one drinking session that lasts four hours. (That specific length of time is said to be a relic of the UK’s once tightly restricted drinking hours during which workers could only drink during two four-hour periods.) Ideally, a sessionable beer can be consumed at a steady rate in a pub over the period of an evening and not leave its drinker incapacitated. 

IBU (International Bittering Units): Just as the Scoville scale categorizes the relative heat in peppers, IBU measure the bitterness in beer. At 2007 IBU, Mikkeller’s X Hop Juice is wildly hoppy, while Coors Light is rumored to have a minimal IBU of about 10. 

ABV (Alcohol By Volume): Higher ABV beers—barleywines, Imperial Stouts, and Double and Triple IPAs (India Pale Ales)—are more expensive to make and, therefore, to purchase. Captain Lawrence Xtra Gold American Tripel Ale comes in at 10% ABV, while Peekskill Brewery’s Lower Standard IPA rates a modest 3.9% ABV.  

Imperial/Double/Triple: Often used interchangeably, these modifiers of beer styles (stout, IPA) denote beers that have been brewed to contain higher ABV. For instance, Rushing Duck’s Ded Moroz Imperial Stout has a whopping 11.2% ABV, while Newburgh’s Peat Smoked Stout comes in at a more reasonable 4%.  

Wet-Hopped:  A fall specialty, wet-hopped beers use fresh hops that are not dried and must be brewed within 24 hours of being picked. The result is a grassy, fresh flavor that tastes even more precious when you appreciate how rare the treat is.  

Dry-Hopped: Dry-hopped beers get a second dose of hops during or after the fermentation has spent its initial dose. Essentially, dry hops are added after the beer has been made to infuse the beer with another layer (or layers) of hop flavor. 

Cask-Conditioned/Cask Beer: Generally, these ales are unfiltered and unpasteurized, and are not charged with gas at the tap. Usually, these beers are tapped right out of wooden casks resting behind the bar, and the oak itself adds flavor to the beer. Cask-conditioned ales are very geeky beers; they’re served at room temperature and bear modest levels of naturally occurring CO2.

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