Beer terms to know


The craft beer business is booming.

While overall beer volume sales in the United States decreased by 1 percent in 2017, the Brewers Association notes that craft brewery sales continued to grow at a rate of 5 percent. In fact, the Brewers Association notes that retail dollar sales of craft beer now account for more than 23 percent of the $111.4 billion U.S. beer market. No two beers are the same, and the following beer terms, courtesy of, can help craft beer afficionados better understand the beers they love.

• Top-fermenting yeast: Two types of yeast are used in brewing, and this type works better at warmer temperatures. Top-fermenting yeast, sometimes referred to as “ale yeast,” is better at tolerating high-alcohol concentrations than bottom-fermenting yeast. Because it is unable to ferment some sugars, top-fermenting yeast often produces fruitier, sweeter beers. Altbier, Kolsch, stouts, and wheat beers are some examples of beers brewed with top-fermenting yeast.

• Bottom-fermenting yeast: The other type of yeast used in brewing, bottom-fermenting yeast ferments more sugars than top-fermenting yeast, producing a crisp, clean taste. Bottom-fermenting yeast is often referred to as “lager yeast,” and the eventual flavor of beers produced with this yeast will depend a lot on the strain of lager yeast chosen and the temperatures at which it was fermented. Pilsners, bocks and dortmunders are some examples of beers brewed with bottom-fermenting yeast.

• Hops: People just beginning to explore craft beer will no doubt hear the word “hops” a lot. Hops refers to the herb added to boiling wort or fermenting beer to impart a bitter aroma or flavor.

• IBU: Expressed as a number, sometimes on the bottle or can in which the beer is sold, IBU stands for “International Bitterness Units” and indicates the hop bitterness in the finished beer. The higher the IBU, the more bitter the beer.

• ABV: ABV stands for “alcohol by volume” and indicates the amount of alcohol in beer in terms of percentage volume of alcohol per volume of beer.


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