Published on April 26, 2016

5 Beer Brewing Terms to Geek Out About

For beer lovers, there’s nothing better than an ice cold brew. If you’re like us, you know that there are lots of unfamiliar beer “buzz” words floating around that could help deepen your appreciation. Here’s a top list of beer brewing terms every serious drinker is bound to run into:

1. Malt

Malt is steeped, germinated and dried cereal grain that's used to make beer, whiskey, malted shakes, malt vinegar and sweet confections, among other things. For beer brewing, the malting process involves soaking the grains (most often barley), allowing them to germinate (grow or sprout), and then stopping germination with heat.

Beer on malt grains. Beer on malt grains.

All the color in beer comes from malted barley. Lightly roasted malts produce very pale beers (such as a pale ale or pale lager) while deeply roasted malts produce darker beers (porters and stouts). So what does pure malt taste like? If you’ve ever had Grape Nuts, then you know. Depending on the beer, malt can taste honeyed, caramelly, grain-like or simply sweet.

2. Hops

Hops are flowers, used primarily as stabilizing and flavoring agents in beer, that impart bitter, zesty or citric flavors.

Hops and beer. Hops and beer.

Hops’ antibacterial effect helps cut down on undesirable microorganisms in brewer's yeast and also balances the sweetness from any malt with bitterness, contributing lots of different flavors and aromas.

3. Mashing

In beer brewing, the term “mashing,” which is derived from an Old English word meaning “to mix with hot water,” involves combining milled grain (usually malted barley, sometimes including other grains like corn, sorghum, rye or wheat) with water, then heating this mixture. Mashing converts the grain starches into fermentable sugars, creating the malty liquid called “wort.”

4. Wort

Wort is the sweet, amber liquid extracted from the mashing process in the brewing of whiskey or beer.

Wort. Wort.

Wort contains the sugars that the yeast will later ferment into beer.

5. Yeast

Yeast is the microorganism responsible for the fermentation in beer. It’s the same agent that’s used in bread baking.

Yeast. Yeast.

In beer brewing, yeast metabolizes the sugars in grains, which produces alcohol and carbon dioxide, ultimately turning wort into beer. Depending on the type, yeast also influences aroma and flavor. As you may recall from a previous post on the two main types of beer, top-fermenting yeasts are used to make ales, while bottom-fermenting yeasts are used to make lagers.

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