Glossary - The Ontario Craft Beer Guide - Robin LeBlanc, Jordan St. John

The Ontario Craft Beer Guide - Robin LeBlanc, Jordan St. John (2016)



An organic compound that presents as a flaw in beer above certain concentrations and is notable for its pungent green-apple aroma. Typically a sign of young beer that has been rushed through production.

American Farmhouse Ale

A North American derivation of the Belgian saison style of beer. Typically made with some percentage of wheat and fermented with a Belgian yeast strain, and frequently finished with Brettanomyces for a dry mouthfeel.

American IPA

An invention of the North American brewing renaissance, American IPA borrows the structure of the heavily hopped India pale ale from England and substitutes American hop varieties for English ones. The beer is usually quite bitter (between 40 and 70 IBU) and features notes of pine and citrus from C-hop varieties.

American Wheat Beer

American wheat beers are defined largely by the inclusion of wheat in their grist rather than the yeast esters prevalent in their German counterparts. The American version is frequently filtered, resulting in a light-coloured, clear beer with more hop than yeast character.

Alt (bier)

A hybrid style of beer from Dusseldorf that is fermented with ale yeast and then conditioned as though it were a lager. Typically coloured between amber and chestnut, alts tend to be earthy in character and lean toward malt dominance.

Barrel (BBL)

One of two commonly used brewery volume measurements. In America, a barrel represents 31.5 U.S. gallons, which is approximately 119 litres of beer.


Referring to a range of styles of English beers from the early decades of the twentieth century, bitter is something of a catch-all term for lower-alcohol English ales served on cask and featuring biscuit malts and mild hop bitterness.

Blonde Ale

A light ale, typically offered by breweries as an alternative to a pale lager. Although lightness in body and in flavour is of primary concern, the blonde ale can be a good showcase for fruit and hop flavours.


Properly a family of lager styles that has its origin in the town of Einbeck in northern Germany, bocks tend to enjoy a complex, malty character, although their primary commonality is their above-average strength. Since bock means ram in German, labels are frequently festooned with goats.

Bottle Conditioning

Instead of being bottled at the desired carbonation level, beer is packaged in bottles with a small amount of unfermented wort or priming sugar and left to carbonate naturally. This is popular in Belgian styles and may include a number of different yeast strains.


A strain of wild yeast most commonly found on the skin of fruit. The specific strain bruxellensis is a defining characteristic of sour beers made in Brussels. Brettanomyces typically dries out beers by eating sugars other yeast strains can’t. Frequently used descriptors of the resultant aroma include “horse blanket,” “sheep pen,” and the more general “funky.”


A general term for the equipment used in the first half of the brewing process, including but not limited to the mash tun, lauter tun, and kettle.


Properly, a professional designation afforded to the most senior member of staff at a large brewery after years of experience have been gained. Commonly, whoever is doing the brewing at a brewery.


Typically a restaurant that has its own in-house brewery and largely features its own beers on tap. Usually brewpubs sell their beers only on their own premises, but there are exceptions.

Brown Ale

Full-strength English ales that tend toward deep caramel and malt character; predictably coloured. American versions retain the colour but frequently have a cleaner yeast profile and substitute American hop varieties.

Butyric Acid

In beer, an off-flavour. At low concentrations it may present as vaguely cheesy, reminiscent of Parmesan. At high concentrations it is similar to baby vomit and therefore to be avoided.

Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA)

An English consumer-advocacy group concerned about the dwindling diversity of traditional beers on draught.

Candi Sugar

A specialty invert sugar typically used in stronger Belgian-style beers. The simple sugars (fructose and glucose) are more easily digestible by yeast and result in a quick and characteristic boost in alcohol.

Cream Ale

A North American hybrid-style beer that is fermented like an ale but conditioned like a lager. Developed as a response to the popularity of pale lagers, cream ale may contain adjuncts for lightness of body.

Czech Pilsner

The originator and most hop-forward version of the pilsner style, Czech pilsner tends to feature Saaz hops and a low level of diacetyl among its notable characteristics. Pilsner Urquell is a prime example.


A flavour compound in beer that is typically noted as a brewing flaw. At low levels it may help define a style, such as Czech pilsner or some English ales. At high concentrations it is detectable as butterscotch or imitation-butter flavouring and creates an unpleasant, slick mouthfeel.

Dimethyl Sulphide

A brewing flaw that typically presents as cooked or canned vegetables. In home-brewing it is frequently the result of an insufficiently vigorous boil or a covered kettle.

Double IPA

An outsized version of the American IPA, double IPA tends to be higher in alcohol and bitterness, frequently surpassing the human threshold for detection (110 IBU). Vibrant hop aromas define the style.

Dry Hopping

A technique whereby fermented beer is dosed with hops in order to produce a more vibrant aroma in the finished beer.

Export Stout

Historically, a version of stout brewed for international markets that is stronger and sweeter than usual in order to survive transport.


A modern version of the traditional marzen style usually served at Oktoberfest celebrations in Germany. This lager is typically just above 5% alcohol and is characterized by heavier malt sweetness than a typical lager.

Golden Ale

Typically, golden ale refers to a style of beer developed in England in the 1980s as a response to the prevalence of lagers in the market. Often includes North American hop varieties in some quantity.


A nearly forgotten style of beer originating in Leipzig, which has risen to prominence in North America in recent years. Typically consisting of 50 percent wheat, gose’s main attraction is that it is salted and dosed with coriander. It’s an acquired taste on the road to triumph, despite its oddity.


A low-alcohol Belgian ale in the style of a saison, designed for refreshment. Typically includes a significant portion of wheat and very low bitterness. Popular with miners, historically speaking.

Hectolitre (HL)

The more prevalent metric measurement of brewery volumes, a hectolitre is 100 litres. One hectolitre is approximately 0.85 barrels.


A German style of wheat beer typically redolent of banana, clove, or bubble gum yeast esters and featuring a creamy body. Often open-fermented. Asking for it with a slice of orange will get you hooted at in beer bars.


A style of lager developed in Munich in the late nineteenth century that is the culmination of a century of lightening malt character in the city’s beer. Typically finds a balance between a simple grain character and an herbal, floral hop aroma.


The flowers of the rhizomatous plant Humulus lupulus, hops are to beer what spices are to cooking. Hops provide bitterness if used early in the boil and aroma and flavour if used later in the brewing process.

India Pale Ale

An English style of higher-alcohol, heavily hopped ale that acquired the name as a result of being shipped from England to India during the nineteenth century, surviving due to the preservative nature of the hops. An inspiration for North American craft beer due to its assertive bitterness and pronounced flavour.

Imperial Stout

A type of export stout originally brewed in England for export to the court of Catherine II of Russia. It is typically high in alcohol with pronounced roasted- and dark-malt characters and a significant amount of sweetness due to residual sugars.

International Bittering Unit (IBU)

The standard unit of measurement for bitterness in a beer, the IBU scale runs from 0 (no bitterness) to 100 (very bitter indeed). It is theoretically possible to exceed the scale, but the perception threshold in humans sits at around 100, raising the question, “Who are you brewing that for? Robots?”


A style of beer from Cologne in Germany, kölsch is a hybrid style of beer fermented at ale temperatures and then lagered. It is noted for being lightly fruity and spicy, golden in colour and coming in 200 millilitre glasses in its native city.


A Dutch style of gruit recently in resurgence, featuring wheat and oats as significant percentages of the malt bill. Traditionally the style does not use hops, preferring instead sweet gale.


Beer produced with bottom-fermenting yeast strains and cold conditioned in storage. Typically central European in origin, lager styles are diverse and are frequently given a bad rap due to the prevalence of relatively bland pale lagers on the world stage.


Any germinated cereal grain that has had its sprouting process arrested. In brewing, malt usually refers to barley that has been kilned to some extent, resulting in different treatments and flavour profiles.


In normal usage, the term microbrewery connotes a brewery that is independently owned and produces less than

15,000 BBL of beer annually. In general parlance, it’s what craft breweries were called before the term caught on.


A low-alcohol English beer with regional variants (lighter in colour in the south U.K., darker in Wales and the north). Typically below 4% alcohol, mild is a sessionable option for refreshment.

Milk Stout

Named for the use of lactose as a sweetening agent, milk stout tends to take on a sweeter body and creamier texture than regular stouts. A good choice if you like the sweetness of an imperial stout but not the alcohol.


The texture of a beverage in your mouth. It might be sparkling and fizzy, or slick and coating, or bone dry. Texture is an important sensory element to take into account.


A very small brewhouse capable of producing an extremely limited amount of beer. If it could fit in your garage, it’s a nanobrewery.

Pale Ale

A popular style of English beer brewed mostly with pale malt and usually moderately hopped, meaning that it can vary in flavour immensely. Pale ale has spawned a number of regional and international variants.


A group of aromatic organic compounds that make up aromas in beer. In low concentrations they are appropriate, spicy, and pleasant. In high concentrations they’re a little like melting plastic or a dirty Band-Aid, and are therefore a brewing flaw.


A style of lager developed in the Czech town of Plzeˇn in 1842, which has spawned regional variants including a more lightly hopped German variety. Possibly the most influential beer style in history.


A style of dark English ale brewed in London since the beginning of the eighteenth century, sometimes

catastrophically as in the case of the London Beer Flood of 1814. Typically it includes a nutty malt presence in addition to dark malt flavours and roast. Historical recreations frequently include a souring note.

Real Ale

Cask conditioned rather than artificially carbonated, real ale still contains live yeast at time of service and is frequently a better treatment for subtle flavours and certain English styles like bitter and mild.


A law enacted in Bavaria in 1516 that limited the ingredients to be used in beer to barley, hops, and water. The law was as much about crop management and ensuring food supply as it was about beer quality, but it did result in some nice lager, which we’re all grateful for.


A Belgian style of farmhouse ale historically brewed for farmhands to drink during the summer planting and harvest seasons. It usually contains a significant amount of wheat and relatively few hops.


A dark lager made in Germany that typically has a light roast quality with hints of coffee or chocolate, which fade away into the body and a clean finish. Currently growing in popularity in North America.

Session IPA

A low-alcohol variant of the American IPA, which usually features large amounts of late and dry hopping in order to place the aromas of a regular IPA in a beer that you can drink all day. If you attempt to drink full-strength IPA all day, it’s going to be a short day.


A dark style of ale that is usually defined by the presence of roasted barley, which gives the beer a lightly burnt character in addition to other features. Extremely popular on St. Patrick’s Day.

Strong Ale

More than merely an ale with increased alcohol, strong

ale tends to connote increased malt complexity and assertive flavour, regardless of national genre. In the case of England, it denotes a specific genre of bottled beer. In the case of American and Belgian styles, the descriptor is something of a catch-all.

Table Beer

A Belgian style of ale noted for its extremely low alcohol content, managed without sacrificing flavour. Until the 1980s it was served to schoolchildren at lunchtime. Belgian children are less belligerent now but no happier.

Vienna-style lager

An early style of lager developed in the 1830s whose hallmark is its reddish tint and malt-forward, caramel- accented body. Popular as a gateway craft beer style for those acclimatizing to flavourful beer.

VLB Berlin

Versuch- u. Lehranstalt für Brauerei, a German institute that provides beer-making training and education.

West Coast IPA

Referring to the West Coast of the U.S.A., this IPA variant features American hops

Wheat Beer

A catch-all term for a number of styles featuring wheat as a significant part of their makeup. If you can use a more specific term, you’re wise to do so.


The German word for “white,” not for “wheat.” The name has to do with the light colour of wheat beers more than the content of their grist.


A Belgian ale made with a significant portion of wheat and featuring orange peel and coriander seeds as flavouring additions. The style nearly disappeared in the middle of the twentieth century but was revived by brewer Pierre Celis.


A technical brewing term for unfermented beer. Beer is wort right up until the yeast starts eating it, at which point you still want to wait a couple of weeks before drinking it.