Beer jargon thrown around on social media and forums can leave even the most passionate craft-beer fans scratching their heads. From the first ten issues of Craft Beer & Brewing Magazine®, we’ve collected this humorous key to deciphering some of the slang terms thrown around in the world of Beer Geekdom.
In simplest terms, “barrel-aged” means aged in a barrel. Barrel-aged beers have seen a dramatic increase in popularity in recent years with both homebrewers and professional brewers. Recently, “barrel-aged” has also come to mean that something is better than average, great, or downright fantastic. “The new album by Blitzen Trapper is so barrel-aged.”
Typically the result of someone suggesting, “Let’s open just one more” the night before, a beached whale is the super-special beer you regret opening the next day when you wake up and realize that you left half of it in the bottle. Beer geeks have occasionally been known to drink these warm in the morning so they don’t have to throw them away. “I found two beached whales on my patio this morning. Nothing like having to pour out warm Fuzzy and 3F while you have a hangover.”
Beer mail is actually not mail at all since it's illegal to ship alcohol via USPS (and craft-beer lovers always obey the laws). It is, however, a shipment of beer sent from one craft-beer lover to another. When one receives beer mail, it is often an event eliciting social media status updates such as “Unexpected beer mail arrived today from @phacebook . . . taking the afternoon off to gawk at my new haul of whales. #whalezbro #craftbeer #beermail.”
The practice of upgrading regular brainstorming sessions to include your favorite craft beer. Beerstorming sessions result in improved cooperation, creativity, and morale almost 100 percent of the time. “Before we changed our beer label brainstorming sessions into beerstorming sessions, all our IPA labels were using only black capital letters.”
Bottle bombs are bottles that explode before being opened due to over-carbonation. More common with homebrew than with commercially produced beer, the over-carbonation is usually a result of too much fermentable sugar remaining in the beer when it is capped, resulting in excess CO2 and pressure build up. Example: “I overdid the priming sugar in my last batch and ended up with a bunch of bottle bombs.”
Slang for the basket or vessel used to cradle and pour sour beers, lambics, etc. Usually made from wicker, wood, or wire, the cart is intended to disrupt the yeast in the bottom of the bottle as little as possible. “I wasn’t going to pour the entire bottle at once, so I put it in the cart so it wouldn’t cloud up.”
The ultimate sidekick. This is the person who accompanies a beer geek to a bottle release so that the aforementioned geek can get another allotment of beer. “Keith took his 89-year-old grandma to the Jester King release as his Chewbacca.”
The last beer of the night and one that seals the night as a success. “Doug busted out a bottle of Bourbon Abominable, and we knew we had our closer.”
Short for collaboration, a collab brings two or more breweries together to brew a beer that is mightier than the individual breweries alone. “Have you had the Perennial/Prairie collab, yet? It’s totally barrel-aged.”
Used by beer drinkers and homebrewers in an attempt to describe a beer that they can’t figure out. “This is a Belgian-style, dry-hopped dopplebock-blended quadruple IPA aged in bourbon barrels with cocoa nibs, kumquat extract, and used Kleenex. It’s really complex.” See also, BJCP crutch.
The coolship has been around since beer’s earliest beginnings, but its use has seen a resurgence in the United States in recent years as farmhouse ales have gained in popularity. A shallow cooling pan or trough that allows fresh, hot wort to cool slowly, the coolship also exposes the wort to yeast that occurs naturally in the air. After cooling, the wort is transferred to fermentors where it is monitored closely until it is ready to carbonate and package. “The krausen in the coolship was soaring this morning. I can’t wait to try that spont.”
An easygoing, super-drinkable beer. These are well-balanced beers with low-to-medium alcohol by volume (ABV) but tons of flavor that make you want to go back for more again and again. Example: “Oh man, Founders All Day IPA is so crushable.”
_noun & verb
_While sometimes used to indicate exceptional quality, cuvée generally means that the beer is a blend. While blending beers pre-carbonation has been a practice for centuries, blending finished beers has seen a boost in popularity of late (and is far more complicated than the traditional black and tan in a Shaker pint). Example: “Austin cuvée’d nineteen versions of pumpkin ale, and it tasted exactly the same.”
Perhaps the saddest of beer slang, the drain pour is also the most expensive. Imagine opening that bottle of rare beer that you’ve been cellaring for ages only to find out it’s turned to vinegar and is so vile that it has to be poured down the drain. Brewers and drinkers alike universally hate drain pours. “Steve watched his tears fall into the sink and mix with the lacto-infected drain pour.”
Drinking from the Tips
Borrowed from the golf term for playing from the deepest tee markers, this term refers to drinking nothing but high-octane beers. These situations often occur when the first beer of the night is over 8 percent ABV, making it difficult to return to more “sessionable” styles. “Sucaba, Samael’s, and now Dark Lord? We’re drinking from the tips tonight, boys!”
Usually the result of a maiden trip to Germany, Dunkers are people who swear by German beer, particularly of the dunkel variety. “Those grad students who went to Munich last year departed as a bunch of hop heads and returned as a gang of dunkers.”
These are the beers that you buy before hosting a party and put in the front of your fridge, deftly blocking access to the better beer selection in the back. For homebrewers, fronters are often comprised of under-carbonated bottles of kolsch and Irish red homebrew. “I saw that John was coming to the party and knew I needed some fronters in the beer fridge so he wouldn’t drink my whales.”
The term for rare and desirable glassware, designed for serving beer. “Did you see that the new talkbeer.com beer glass sold out online in less than fifteen minutes? GlassWhale, bro.”
The orderly arrangement of empty bottles as tombstones in a cemetery following a craft-beer drinking session. Also known as “boneyards,” graveyards often appear in photos on social media. “Did you see the graveyard from Steve’s bottle share last night on Instagram? I think there were six or seven loons in there.”
In common usage, “In Search Of: For Trade,” where the “ISO” refers to a beer of incredible scarcity while “FT” is (typically) a beer more easily procured from store shelves. Example: “ISO: Barrel-aged Abraxas; FT: Zombie Dust.”
A photo taken of the boneyard or graveyard that results after a long session of drinking. During bottle shares, participants often line up the empty bottles in an impressive display of excess. Photos of such a line-up are kill shots. “I posted my kill shot from last night’s bottle share to Instagram and got 123 likes! #whalezbro”
Perhaps the most intriguing of all beer mail, the mystery box arrives without the recipient having a clue what’s inside (and sometimes without the recipient knowing it’s coming at all). Typically full of whales and regional specialties, a mystery box usually prompts another to be sent in return. “I found a mystery box on my porch today full of Texas shelf turds, but there was an Atrial Rubicite in there, too!”
Meant to refer to someone new to the craft beer or homebrewing scene, this term can be used in either an affectionate or condescending way. Noobs are often the most excited in their newfound love for great beer, and they should be encouraged. However, beware of appearing to be the noob who thinks he knows more than he does and embarrasses himself. Example: “Did you hear the noob at the party explaining how fresh hops impart more alcohol to the beer?”
_ noun, pl._
Beers with a high ABV—usually above 10 percent. Example: “I was at the bar when the USA blew that lead with Portugal and had to move on to the Octanes.”
A delivery of beer of immense quality or rarity. “I came home from work to discover a Porch Bomb containing Hill Farmstead, Casey, and Side Project bottles.”
Also known as a porró or porrón, this traditional glass vessel—historically used for drinking wine—has become popular among some craft-beer lovers. Typically an entire bottle of beer (often sour ales, meads, or other beers with low levels of carbonation) are decanted into the porron, which can then be passed from one person to another since the vessel spout never touches the lips or mouth.
A colorful array of seven or more tasters being consumed in one sitting. “When we hit up Toolbox Brewing Company after work, we tasted The Rainbow.”
_ noun or verb_
The name was coined in 2010 by the crew at Dogfish Head, who initially called their device “an organoleptic hops transducer module.” Since then, the term has become more generic for the process where a device such as a hopback or French press is used to infuse flavor into finished beer. Most frequently loading it with aromatic hops or herbs, beer experimenters have “randalled” beers with everything from ghost chilies to Rocky Mountain oysters.
In many bars and restaurants, certain breweries have a dedicated tap through which they can rotate their seasonal or special-release beers. For craft-beer lovers, these beers are often some of the most intriguing on the beer list. For servers, they are invariably the most difficult to remember.
The beer that you take to a party or event just in case all the beer that’s being served there sucks. These beers are typically better than your average beer, but nothing you’d get bent out of shape over if you had to share with strangers. “I went to this party at the Town & Country Resort in San Diego Friday night and luckily took a growler of Societe’s The Butcher with me as my safety beer.”
Synonym for pale ale. Boom!
Often made from newspaper or cardboard boxes, shame shields are placed on top of recycling bins in an attempt to disguise the contents of the bin. “I used a Pampers box as a shame shield this morning so my neighbors wouldn’t think I have a drinking problem. What I really need is a larger bin with a lid.” Alternative definitions include sunglasses to hide your bloodshot eyes and the partition found between urinals in men’s restrooms.
noun, plural shelf turds
A beer that has been sitting on the shelf of a retail establishment well past its prime, turning it into the equivalent of brewing excrement. Often on the higher end of price, they may lure unsuspecting or hurried beer lovers into making a purchase they will soon regret. Drain pours of shelf turds are completely acceptable and often cathartic. “Who brought that six-year-old IPA shelf turd to the party?”
Taking on a big beer all by one’s lonesome. Usually refers to a 750ml bottle or a bomber with a high ABV. Example: “I got a raise yesterday but couldn’t find anyone to join me, so I soloed a 750 of Chocolate Rain last night, straight #tothedome."
_ noun, pl._
Spontaneously fermented ales—beers that have been exposed to the air in their natural surroundings to capture the local airborne yeast and bacteria. “Abby was in Tillamook this weekend and scored a bunch of de Garde Bu sponts.”
It’s 25 percent bigger! The Tallboy can holds a sweet 16 ounces of barley soda. Some breweries have taken it a step further, such as Oskar Blues with their 19.2-ounce “Stovepipe” and Sixpoint with their 22-ounce ”SILO.” “Crush that Heady Tallboy and then solo that SILO of Resin, bro."
Based on the eastern concept of erotic spiritualism and frequently referenced in popular culture to Sting’s sexual stamina, tantric beers get better and better as you drink them. Cradled lovingly in a tulip glass, these beers are often nursed for an hour or more. Most often used in reference to barrel-aged beers and stouts. For a tantric beer lasting more than eight hours, please consult a physician. “Dude, this beer is tantric.”
A brewery or beer that achieves cult status within a short time of opening. While some take years to make an impact on the scene, thoroughbreds are immediately noticed and highly sought after. “Dude, did you read that new review on dontdrinkbeer.com? Oak Theory from Casey Brewing and Blending is such a thoroughbred.”
To mark another beer off your list of beers to try. “Tickers” are those whose goal is not to enjoy beer, but rather to drink the largest possible number of unique beers. Example: “Although they had her favorite stout on draft, Trish decided to order the hefeweizen so she could tick it off her list.”
To the Dome
Literally meaning “straight to the head,” this expression may mean opening a bottle of craft beer without delay or drinking a high gravity beer straight out of the bottle. It has also generally come to mean “I can’t wait to drink this and I’m going to RIGHT NOW.” Example:“ Just got a bottle of Double Barrel Hunahpu for my birthday #ToTheDome.”
Unexplained beer injury. The origin of this term is often attributed to doctors in Britain, who would encounter inebriated patients in the emergency room unable to explain how they sustained their injuries. Example: “I got nine stitches from a UBI last night. And apparently I also got married.”
Often the most sought-after of collectible beers, variants are typically a result of the brewer either barrel aging or adding an adjunct ingredient such as coffee, cacao nibs, or vanilla to a base beer and then releasing it in a limited way. “Hey Abby, did you get the coffee variant of Dark Star this year or just the regular?”
Poorly made Belgian beers. “Man, I went to Brussels for the loons but ended up drinking a ton of waffles, too.”
_ noun, pl._
Beers that end up spending all their time along the walls of your fridge, often long past their prime, because you just can’t bring yourself to drink them. Example: “Did you see the new sampler 12-pack that they just released? It’s like 50 percent wallflowers.”
noun, plural whales
alternate waelz, whalez
The rarest and most sought-after of craft beers, whales are produced in extremely limited amounts and/or with very limited distribution. Photos of whale drain-pours on Instagram are often grounds for public shaming and/or banishment. (S)he who brings a Whale to a bottle-share will certainly be invited again. The rarest of these are often referred to as “white whales” or “mobys.” Belgian whales may be referred to as “loons.” “And then Andrew showed up with an armload of whales! FTW.”