Beer terms you need to know if you want to sound like someone who knows beer

Beer is great, obviously. But you could enjoy it even more by learning some of these actual terms that craft brewers, beer snobs, and hardcore beer fans use to more accurately describe exactly how a certain beer tastes, looks, smells, and feels like on the tongue. So learn these and impress everyone with how well-versed you are in the terminology of zymergy—that’s the science of fermentation, or beer-making. There you go. There’s one fancy term right there.


Chill haze

Chet Haze is Tom Hanks’s rapper son. Chill haze is somehow not the name of a rapper (or a Sublime song), but it is the element of cloudiness that many beers possess, particularly wheat beers. It’s a result of protein and tannin molecules attaching to each other during the beer fermentation process.



A regular dude who’s had too many beers already and goes back to find a bottle of beer he drank half of only to find it’s gone stale would say, “Aw, this beer is skunked!” But a refined, educated beer enthusiast who has had too many beers already and goes back to finish a beer he only drank half of would say, “Aw, this beer has been light-struck!” (Prolonged exposure to light can make beer taste bad.)



Brewers add extra ingredients before bottling in order to clarify the beer’s appearance or to add hints of flavor or color. A common ingredient of this nature is a digestible form of powdered plastic called polyclar. And if your beer tastes like plastic, either because of polyclar or other compounds,  you could tell everybody that the beer is “way phenolic.”



You know that head refers to the layer of white, foamy stuff on top of a beer. But when that white stuff slowly slides down the inside of the glass after you’ve had a gulp, it’s called lace, because it looks like lace, what with its elegant and luxurious balance of white and empty space.



Instead of saying, “I like how the beer feels nice when it’s in my mouth,” you could instead say, “This IPA offers a well-rounded mouthfeel.”


Head retention

This is how fast that layer of white stuff on top of a beer dissipates before it leaves the beer headless. If the head is rocky, which just doesn’t sound pleasant in any context, it means that the foam is made up of huge bubbles, and that it takes a long time to disappear.



Yes, there’s even a technical term for taking a damn sip of beer. Pretentious? Sure. But quaff, like the beer you’re tasting, or quaffing, has such a good mouthfeel to it, right?



This sounds like the kind of thing you’d shout out if you saw a leprechaun, which is totally possible and valid, depending on how many beers you’ve had. Invoking this word is a way to note when a beer has a particularly flowery or even peachlike aroma—linalool is a naturally occurring chemical found in many varieties of hops, the flavoring agent in most craft beers.



It sounds like the name of a breakthrough in muscle-building nutritional supplements, but dextrin is a very science-ish word to describe that unique mix of maltiness and sweetness that only malty, sweet beer can provide. If you’re hanging (sorry, having a session) with some beer guys and you note that the beer has a “prominent dextrin profile,” you’re saying that the beer has lots of good beer flavor.


Session beer

A “session” in this case means “a period of prolonged beer-tasting.” In other words, sitting around, drinking beers, and talking about the beers as you drink them. However, a “session beer” is technically a brew with a relatively low alcohol content: 4 percent by volume or less. These are the kind of beers that you drink one, or two of in rapid succession, and then you don’t feel too tipsy.



A “hang” would also be a nice way to describe sitting around drinking session beers, but in serious beer circles it actually refers to how much the bitter flavor element of the beer itself lingers on the tongue. Or, you know, hangs.

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