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Whats the difference? Craft beer terminology in a nutshell - Part 1

Maybe you know this feeling, you just bought some #cans of tasty craft beer. You pour the #brew, and start checking out the can. And for most beers there is a lot going on there, different numbers, abbreviations and terms that make you think you're drinking some kind of scientific #experimental liquid. Zurich Beer Tour is here to help you understand a couple of these terms and numbers. So next time you visit a craft beer place, you can beat the beer geeks at their own game.


High Gravity/Session beers

#Gravity is a term that refers to how much #sugar is dissolved in the beer, mostly stated on beer labels with one of these terms OG/FG, ° Plato or Brix. Important are the sugars before (original gravity) and after fermentation (final gravity). During #fermentation, yeast cells eat those sugars and convert them to ethanol and CO2. Which means the more "food" there is for the #yeast, the more alcohol and carbonation will be in the final product. So high gravity beers, given the right conditions, environment and care for the yeast, are used as a synonym for beers with a high alcohol percentage. #Session beers are kind of the opposite, session means that you can drink more than one of these per day without getting shitfaced, thanks to their low alcohol percentage. In other words, you can have a session with these beers.



At the end of the brewing process, the beer is left with a lot of sediment from the malt, hops and yeast. It now depends on the style and also the preferences of the brewery, if they want to #filter their beer, or package it #unfiltered. A lot of craft beer breweries decide to sell unfiltered beer only. That is for a couples of reasons:

1. It is faster because you skip one step in the #process, which makes it cheaper for the brewery.

2. A lot of the cheaper methods of #clarifying the beer involve animal products, for example gelatin and isinglass (a substance obtained from the dried swim bladders of fish). This would make the beer unsuitable for vegans, which would be bad in an #inclusive scene like the craft beer scene

3. Because its #trendy. #Hazy IPAs are a trend in craft beer that many people thought would disappear again soon, but they were wrong. Those opaque colored hop bombs are more hyped than ever, and they still sell extremely well. There are of course other, more traditional styles that were always produced unfiltered like the German Keller- or Zwickelbier.



These are the two main types of beers. The only thing that makes categorizes a beer as either one, is the yeast that ferments it.

#Lagers are fermented with bottom-fermenting yeast. The yeast ferments at lower temperatures from 7 - 15°C. They grow less rapidly than ale yeasts, which means that #fermentation process takes a bit longer. When done fermenting, they tend to settle out to the bottom of the vessel (bottom-fermenting). Lagers have mostly cleaner and crisper aromas than ales.

#Ales are fermented with top fermenting yeast. The yeast ferments at higher temperatures from 12 - 25°C. The yeast forms a very thick foam on the surface of the fermenting beer, that's why they're called top fermenting. Fermenting beers at higher temperatures makes yeasts produce more fruity esters (byproduct of fermentation). That's why ales tend to have fruitier, more complex and bolder #aromas.



Those terms are used for a lot of styles, but known mostly for #IPAs and #Stouts. Double and Imperial actually mean the same: this is a stronger version of this beer style. Even though the word "Double" seems to be very specific, it doesn't always mean there is double of anything in this beer. It usually refers to more malt being used. More malt means more sugars, which results in a higher alcohol by volume (ABV). Malt has a very sweet taste, to balance that out you will probably also need a lot more hops. So in a Double/Imperial beer, a lot of things can be "imperialized", but there is no law or rule (maybe the BJCP would disagree).



Two very common abbreviations to be found on beer labels.

#IBU stands for International #Bitterness Unit. The IBUs are the international standard for measuring bitterness in beer. The higher the IBU, the more bitterness. To calculate it, you need to know how much hops were added at which point in the brewing process and what amount of alpha acids they contain (alpha acids are what gives hops their bittering ability). But IBUs are only theoretical, because the perception of bitterness is very individual.

#EBC stands for European Brewery Convention. It refers to the color of a beer measured in a technical manner. The higher the EBC the darker the beer. The EBC is mostly used in Europe. In the Americas the SRM (Standard Reference Method) is more common, this scale is a bit closer to the usual scale to measure the color of any liquid, the "Degrees Lovibond".


Dry-Hopping / Wet-Hopping

Two words that sound like they are the exact opposite of each other. But they are about totally different methods of using #hops on beer.

Dry-hopping is a term used about hops being used very late in the brewing process to get the most aroma out of them. Dry-hopping is done mostly during fermentation and shortly before #packaging, often done with hop pellets, but whole hop cones could also be used. Using this method hop aromas are going to be #dominant in this beer.

Wet-hopping concerns using whole hop cones at any point of the brewing process. Because whole hop cones #spoil very quickly after harvesting, wet hopping must be used in brewing the same day the hops are harvested. Using this method, hop aromas can be, but don't have to be dominant in a beer.


Purity Law/Adjunct

The #German purity law of 1516 says that the only ingredients that are allowed in beer brewing are: #water, malted #barley and #hops (when yeast was discovered, it was also added). It is the oldest food & beverage related law in #Germany that is still in use. So what the purity law forbids, is the addition of what is nowadays called #adjuncts. Some brewers may define the word differently, but in general adjunct means any unmalted source of #starch added to the beer. There is also some types of malted #grain (like rye or wheat) that could be considered an adjunct. You can divide adjuncts in two groups: #mashable adjuncts and #kettle adjuncts. Mashable adjuncts, for example corn or rice, contain starches that have to be converted to sugars first, which is done by soaking them in hot water, this is the so called mashing process. Kettle adjuncts, for example #honey or candi sugar, already contain fermentable sugars and can be directly added to the beer before fermentation. Also #fruit or spices used in beer could be called adjuncts. The reasons for using adjuncts in beer are numerous, e.g. to add new aromas and flavors, to cut costs or even to raise the ABV of the beer.


We hope that we brought some light in the dark world of beer terms for you. If you have any questions, write them down in the comments below or contact us directly.

As there are many other beer related terms to talk about, there will be a second part (and maybe even more) to this new series on our blog. Subscribe to get noticed when a new blog is published and follow our social media channels to stay updated about everything we do.


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