Category Archives: About Beer

This is a topic that simply cannot be exhausted.

Brewing Glossary

I had put together this hand-out for brewing classes I teach in the SCA.  I put it here now for your amusement.

Brewing Glossary

Lord Donndubán Ó Domhnaill (Donovan O’Donnell)

Ale is a beer that uses a type of yeast called Saccharomyces cerevisiae, or “top-fermenting” yeast as opposed to a Lager (Saccharomyces uvarum) or “bottom-fermenting.”  During the late middle ages, the term was used to describe a malt beverage that was flavored with herbs other than hops.  It would otherwise be known as beer.  Beer is used to describe all malt beverages today.

Atenveldt Brewers Guild is the guild in the Kingdom of Atenveldt whose membership organizes brewing competitions and other events.   Gain rank by demonstrating your knowledge of the brewing arts.

Beer is the fermented product of grains such as barley and wheat.  Today the term is used to refer to any ale or lager.  During the late middle ages, the term was used to refer to a malt beverage that was flavored with hops instead of with other herbs.

Cyser is mead made with apples or apple juice.

Cool is a term that is used to describe anyone that remembers to enter brewing into kingdom or baronial arts and sciences competitions.

Distillation is the harvesting and concentration of alcohol from another source.  This is still illegal to do without licensing in the United States. is a place you can go to get step-by-step instructions on brewing your first beer or mead.

Fermentation is a metabolic process converting sugar to acids, gases and/or alcohol by yeast or bacteria.  In our case, it is the conversion of sugar by yeast into alcohol.

Gruit is an herbal mixture that was used before hops became popular.  Some herbs used included ground ivy, bog myrtle, carline thistle, yarrow, wild rosemary, heather, wormwood, sycamore sap, spruce, ginger, anise, cumin, laurel, marjoram, mint, sage, and acorns.

Hops is an herb used to help in the preservation and flavoring of beer.  The first recorded cultivation of hops was in a monastery in Bavaria 736 AD. The first documentation association of hops used in brewing is in 822 AD by Abbot Adalhard of a Benedictine monastery in Northern France.

Lager is a beer that uses a type of yeast called Saccharomyces uvarum, or “bottom-fermenting” yeast as opposed to a Ale (Saccharomyces cerevisiae) or “toop-fermenting.”  Lager brewing existed in Bavaria from the 1400s.

Malt is grain that has been allowed to germinate for a couple of days, thus releasing important proteins and sugars that are used to make beer.

Mead is a fermented product of honey and water.

Melomel is mead with added fruit.

Methoglyn is mead with added herbs.

Reinheitsgebot is the Bavarian Purity Law of 1516 which stated that beer could only be made from barley, hops, and water.

Yeast are fungal organisms that consume sugar and release the bi-products of alcohol and carbon dioxide.  Different strains of yeast impart different flavors and contribute a lot to the differentiation of the styles of beer or wine being made.

Zymology is the study of zymurgy, the area of applied science related to fermentation.

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Posted by on November 14, 2013 in About Beer


A High Level Introduction to the Brewing Process

As I polished off my Guide for Brewing Your First Beers, it quickly occurred to me that while it was a good guide for brewing, it was a bit wordy to be an introduction to the curious observer.  So I set out to provide an overview for the curious folk not quite ready to brew their own.

The making of any alcoholic beverage is the same.  Fermentation is the process where yeast consumes sugar to produce alcohol and carbon dioxide.  It is the specifics that make the beverage what it is.  Mead is honey fermented with a strain of yeast that is commonly used to make wine or Champaign.  Beer is made by letting ale or lager yeast digest the sugars in grain and adding hops.  Most beers are at 80 – 100% barley.  Many recipes also use wheat, but oats and rye are also sometimes added in small quantities.  The yeast, along with the balance between the malty sweet grains and the bittering hops, give the brewer the specific style of beer they are shooting for.

The process actually starts with the maltster.  They add a little of moisture to the grain and allow it to germinate for just a few days.  This releases enzymes that are required to convert the starchy grain into sugar.  The germination is halted by drying it out and adding heat.  That process and the amount of heat will vary to produce different kinds of malt that will also affect the flavor of the final beer.

The grain is now ready for the brewer.  It is ground and soaked in water at controlled warm temperatures.  This is what brewers call the mash.  These temperatures are chosen to make an ideal environment for those enzymes to get to work and convert those starches into sugars the yeast will like, and sugars that will leave some residual sweetness in the beer that we will like.  After a long soak, that water is drained.  The grains are discarded and we will call the resulting sugary mixture wort.

Side Note: If we were to concentrate this wort or dry it out, we would have malt extract.  Malt extract is sometimes used to short-cut the brewing process.  Just add water, and you again have wort.

Now we boil the wort and add our hops.  There are two basic hop additions that are made to our beer.  The first is called the bittering hops.  We’ll boil the hell out of these hops to extract the bittering agents.  With this boil, we’ll also loose flavor and aromas, so near the end of the boil we’ll add some aroma hops.  These will have the opposite effect where they won’t contribute much to the bitterness of the beer, but they will add flavor.

A variety of other things may be added ranging from fruits and vegetables to spices, flavor extracts, and just about anything you can think of.  We sometimes include something to help clarify the beer or adjust the water chemistry as well.

The wort is cooled to a temperature favorable to fermentation and the yeast is added, or “pitched” as we often like to say.  Once the yeast is mixed in with the wort, it is legally beer.  It doesn’t have any alcohol in it yet, but it soon will.  The yeast will first multiply to produce billions of yeast cells and eventually get to work.  We’ll watch the mixture bubble away as carbon dioxide is released and the alcohol content begins to rise.  Finally it will all settle down and we will have delicious but flat beer.

Before putting the beer into bottles or kegs, we will add a small bit of carefully measured sugar water.  This will be just enough to reactivate the yeast in the bottle again and produce the carbon dioxide that will carbonate our beer.  We’ll let it sit for a while longer and eventually refrigerate for consumption.  Because we carbonated the beer naturally, some yeast will settle in the bottom of the bottle.  Pour carefully into a glass and discard the bitter sediment.

Now rinse that bottle thoroughly.  Someone is going to want to fill it with beer again and it will be much harder to do if there is a moldy crust dried inside of it.  The brewer will appreciate it.

There you have it.  Its hours of geeky fun for everyone.  While I also enjoy making and drinking mead, I find there is more depth and challenge to beer.  Beer is also less expensive and has a quicker turn-around time that mead or wine.  Whatever you decide to start with, I think you will find it a rewarding hobby.   There are plenty of books on the subject to help you get started.

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Posted by on October 24, 2012 in About Beer, How-To Brew