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Beer Basics: A Short Glossary
Jordan Mackay | Photo: Georg Antony, Courtesy of Getty Images | October 18, 2012
You can’t join the party until you have these beer terms figured out.
A balanced beer of low alcohol content and mild flavor (à la Boont Amber Ale and Anchor Steam), which, theoretically, allows a person to drink more than one without getting drunk or palatefatigued. Why should such an obvious style need a special term? See "IPAs and Extreme Beers."
Binary oppositions (good/evil, inside/outside, Niners/Raiders) keep things balanced. In beer, it’s ale/lager. Ales require a topfermenting yeast to produce heavier beers. Lager yeasts ferment on the bottom, slowly and in cool temperatures, to make more delicate beers.
IPAs and Extreme Beers:
India pale ale, or IPA—a stronger, hoppier version of the classic pale ale—became a favorite vehicle for California brewers in the creation of extreme beers, a trend that saw unprecedented levels of alcohol, hops, and malt richness. While they’re impressive, extreme beers, such as Lagunitas Maximus, are often too intense to drink copiously, and the hype surrounding them helped fuel the session beer movement.
Belgian and Belgian-Style Beers:
Belgium is a very small country (11 million people) that creates an outsize array of brilliant beers. Mostly ales, Belgian brews often employ unusual yeast strains, fruit, barrel aging, and souring bacteria. In the last decade, many American brewers have embraced Belgium’s diverse styles, adding a whole new dimension to the U.S. beer landscape.