Glossary of Beer Terms

A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z

.08 – The blood alcohol concentration (BAC) level at which a person is considered “intoxicated.” A person may be charged with presuming to be driving under the influence with a .05 BAC, subject to the person rebutting the presumption.


A Drink is a Drink – A misnomer implying that all alcoholic beverages are the same and have the same alcohol content when in fact, the opposite is true. 12 ounces of beer is equal to one 4 ounce glass of wine which is equal to only 1.5 ounces of distilled liquor. [See definition of Alcohol Content]

ABV – Alcohol by volume; the most common measure of the strength of an alcoholic beverage.

ABW – Alcohol by weight; can be calculated from original and final specific gravities of the brew.

Alcohol –– ‘Alcohol’ means the product of distillation of any fermented liquid, whether rectified or diluted, whatever may be the origin thereof, and includes synthetic ethyl alcohol. It does not include denatured alcohol or wood alcohol. (Section 5/1-3.01 of the Illinois Liquor Control Act)

Alcoholic – A person characterized by abnormal alcohol-seeking behavior that leads to impaired control over drinking, preoccupation with alcohol, use of alcohol despite adverse consequences, and distortions in thinking, most notably denial.

Alcohol Abuse – A destructive pattern of alcohol use that leads to physical, social and occupational impairment for the duration of at least one month. (American Psychiatric Association)

Alcohol Caused – There is no such statistic as “alcohol caused”. The National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration (NHTSA) states that in their statistical estimates, ‘none of the tabulations presented can be interpreted as implying a direct casual relationship between alcohol use and any other attribute of fatal crashes.’ [see definition of Alcohol- Related or Alcohol Involvement]

Alcohol Content – The percentage of alcohol contained in alcoholic liquors. Example: Beer runs between 3% to 8% alcohol content (depending on the brand of beer), wines range between 12% and 14%, distilled liquors (vodka, rum, whiskey, gin) range between 20% and 80%, or 40 proof to 160 proof.

Alcohol-Related or Alcohol Involvement – The National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration (NHTSA) often reports “alcohol-related” statistics rather than “drunk driver” statistics [see definition of Drunk Driving Fatalities] which can be misleading. The use of “alcohol-related” can create the impression that the number of fatalities involving a drunk driver is larger than the number of fatalities there are in reality. In 2000, drunk driving fatalities represented 27.6% of total crash fatalities while “alcohol-related” fatalities represented 40% of total crash fatalities.

NHTSA defines “alcohol-related” or “alcohol-involved” as any fatal crash where either a driver or nonmotorist (pedestrian, bicyclist, motorcyclist, etc.) had any measurable or estimated BAC of .01 or above, which is 1/8 of the BAC level (.08) to be intoxicated in Illinois. “Alcohol-related” includes such incidences as a pedestrian killed with any BAC level in a crash involving a sober driver. This is not what one generally thinks of as “drunk driving.” (NHTSA 2000 Traffic Safety Facts/FARS) Alcoholic Liquor– ‘Alcoholic liquor’ includes alcohol, spirits, wine and beer, and every liquid or solid, patented or not, containing alcohol, spirits, wine or beer, and capable of being consumed as a beverage by a human being. This does not apply to alcohol used in the manufacture of any liquid or solid containing one-half of one per cent, or less, of alcohol by volume. (Section 5/1-3.05 of the Illinois Liquor Control Act)

Ale - A malt beverage brewed with (usually) barley malt and fermented at relatively high temperatures (60-75 Fº) with top fermenting yeast, which usually creates a fruity taste. Ales are produced with a wide variety of colors, palates and alcoholic strengths.


Barley Wine - An English term for an extra-strong ale (implied to be as potent as wine).

Barrel – A unit of measurement used by brewers in some countries. In the United States, a barrel holds 31.5 US gallons (US gallon = 3.8 liters), or 1.17 hectoliters.

Beer –– ‘Beer’ means a beverage obtained by the alcoholic fermentation of an infusion or concoction of barley, or other grain, malt, and hops in water, and includes, among other things, beer, ale, stout, lager beer, porter and the like. (Section 5/1-3.04 of the Illinois Liquor Control Act)

Beer Industry Fair Dealing Act (BIFDA) – Is an Illinois Law that specifically regulates the contractual relationship between brewers and beer distributors. This Act was enacted by Illinois under the provision of the Twenty-First Amendment to the United States Constitution granting States the power to regulate alcoholic liquors within their borders. The BIFDA assures distributors are free to manage its business enterprise, including the right to independently establish its selling prices. The Act prohibits brewers from canceling, failing to renew, or terminating the contractual relationship unless the brewer has ‘good cause.’ If the brewer cancels, fails to renew, or otherwise terminates the relationship, the supplier shall reasonably compensate the distributor for the fair market value of the distributor’s business for the affected brand or brands. This provision was added to the BIFDA to recognize that distributors provide equity to the affected brand or brands. [See definition of Brand Equity]

Bitter - A well-hopped beer similar to pale ale. The difference is essentially that pale ales are bottled whereas bitters are usually only draught beers.

Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) – The BAC level is measured as a percentage by weight of alcohol in the blood (grams/deciliter). A positive BAC level 0.01 (g/dl and higher) indicates that alcohol is present in the person tested. A person with a BAC level of 0.08 (8/100ths of a g/dl) is defined as intoxicated in Illinois. This was changed from .10 to .08 in 1996.

Bock - German word for strong beer. It is a lager, usually dark, made from barley malt that usually displays a malty sweetness and relatively high alcohol content while limiting the presence of hop bitterness. Bock beers are traditionally served in autumn, late winter or spring.

Brand Equity –The value added to a brand of beer through a beer distributor’s promotion and other efforts. Beer distributors, by contractual agreement, must promote the brand to the best of the distributor’s ability. Promotions include advertising, building special displays, taste testings, price specials, coupon incentives, and purchasing special equipment such as refrigerated warehouses and trucks in order to deliver the freshest beer possible to a retailer. Beer distributors spend more time, effort and money promoting their products than any other alcoholic beverage distributor.

Brewer – ‘Brewer’ means a person who is engaged in the manufacture of beer. (Section 5/1-3.09 of the Illinois Liquor Control Act)

Brewpub – An establishment that makes its own beer and sells at least 50% on the premises.

Brown Ale - A reddish-brown colored ale known in England as a thirst-quencher and displays hints of chocolate and fruity sweetness. American versions are more alcoholic (due to increased malt) and more bitter (due to increased hops) but they still display the basic features of chocolate and fruit.


Cash Beer Law - A requirement that all beer is paid for by the retail licensee in cash or its equivalent, i.e. checks, drafts, or electronic funds transfers, before or at the time of the delivery of the beer. Thirty-one states recognize that giving credit to a retailer is giving “something of value,” which can be used to influence the elimination of competition. For example, a retailer is offered credit if they agree not to sell another competing brand. The Cash Beer Law maintains a level competitive playing field by treating all retailers equally.

Cask-Conditioned - Draught beer that is neither filtered or pasteurized and has a secondary fermentation and natural clarification in the cellar of the pub. It is served at a cool temperature but not chilled in order to fully exhibit all of its flavors.


Designated Driver – A person who will not consume alcoholic beverages and will be the person who operates the motor vehicle.

Distributor & Importing Distributor – A ‘distributor’ is licensed to store, possess, or warehouse any alcoholic liquors for re-sale to retail licensees. An ‘importing distributor’ is licensed to bring alcoholic liquors into the state. It must be licensed as a distributor prior to becoming an importing distributor. (Section 5/1-3.15 and 5/1-3.16 of the Illinois Liquor Control Act.)

Dopplebock - Double Bock. An extra strong (alcohol content) bock beer that is usually tawny or dark brown in color.

Drunk Driving – In Illinois a blood alcohol level of .08 or higher while driving a motor vehicle is legally intoxicated. This can be determined by a blood test, or a breath test.

Drunk Driving Fatalities – Drunk driver fatalities represented 27.6% of total crash fatalities in 2000. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) often reports “alcohol-related” statistics rather than “drunk driving” statistics. The use of “alcohol-related” can lead many to believe that “drunk drivers” are involved in nearly half of all roadway fatalities.

NHTSA defines an intoxicated driver as having a BAC of .10 or higher. However, “alcohol-related” is defined as any fatal crash where either a driver or nonmotorist (pedestrians, pedacyclists, occupants of parked motor vehicles, skateboard riders, joggers, etc.) had any measurable or estimated BAC of .01 or above, which is 1/8 of the BAC level (.08) to be intoxicated in Illinois. [See definition of Alcohol-Related or Alcohol Involvement]


Eighteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution – Created Prohibition. On December 18, 1917 Congress passed the 18th Amendment to the United States Constitution that prohibited the manufacture, sale, transportation, importation and exportation of alcoholic liquors in the United States.


Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) – A division of the US Department of Transportation and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration that collects and reports data on vehicle crash information.


Giving Things of Value – With the exception of signs and certain advertising materials, distributors may not “directly, or indirectly, sell, supply, furnish, giver or pay for, or loan or lease, any furnishing, fixture, or equipment on the premises of a place of business…authorized …to sell alcoholic liquor at retail nor may retail licensees receive such benefits.” The prohibition of giving things of value is an integral part of the three-tier (manufacturer, distributor and retailer) regulatory licensing structure. [See definition of Three-Tier System] The regulatory design of the industry is intended to assure that each licensee or tier, stand on its own and is not be controlled, coerced or manipulated by another licensee (tier). This provision of the Liquor Control Act is intended to prevent the reoccurrence of market control and influence, market concentration, and marketing practices that encourage over-consumption and abuse.


Happy Hour Prohibition – Due to drunk driving concerns, the law prohibits retailers from participating and promoting ‘Happy Hour.’ Retailers are prohibited from: serving 2 or more drinks of alcoholic liquor, at the same time, to one person for consumption by that one person; selling an unlimited number of drinks during any set period of time for a fixed price; increasing the volume of alcoholic liquor contained in a drink, without increasing the price regularly charged for the drink on that day; encouraging games or contests which involves drinking or awarding drinks as prizes; advertising for any of the above violations. Retailers are permitted to offer free food during set hours and may serve buckets, pitchers or carafes of alcoholic liquor provided the alcoholic liquor is delivered to at least 2 persons.

Hardcore Drunk Drivers – A phrase applied to persons who drive with a high blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .16 or above, who do so repeatedly, as demonstrated by having more than one drunk driving arrest, and who are highly resistant to changing their behavior despite previous sanctions, treatment, or education efforts.

Hop - A climbing plant much like a grape vine. Hops contain oils and resins that provide beer with a bittering balance in taste and aroma to the sweetness of the malt. Oils contribute to the taste and aroma with resins acting as bittering agents.


India Pale Ale - Commonly referred as an "IPA," it is a stronger, hoppier version of a pale ale. The term originates from the difficulties of British brewers to make beer that could sustain the long voyage from England to India in the 1700s. The solution was to add hops to already fermented beer to act as a perserving agent. Hops are now not only added to fermented beer (dry hopping) but are also boiled in the wort.

Interstate Direct Shipment – The importation of alcoholic liquor shipped from an out-of-state supplier or retailer directly to consumers in Illinois in violation of Illinois Law. These shipments violate the Three-Tier System [See definition of Three-Tier System] and; furthermore, violate the Liquor Control Act and the Illinois Revenue Code as no liquor gallonage tax and sales tax are collected and paid to the state. The Department of Revenue has estimated that Illinois loses millions of dollars of state revenue each year due to Interstate Direct Shipments.


Lager - Any beer fermented at low temperatures using bottom fermenting yeast and then stored (lagered) in cool conditions in order to clear away imperfections to ensure a clean taste. Usually golden in color but can be dark.

Lambic - Spontaneously fermenting style of beer brewed from malted barley and unmalted wheat and is unique to Belgium.

Legal Drinking Age – The legal age to consume alcoholic beverages in the United States is 21 years of age or older. The term “adult” can be misleading in terms of alcohol consumption. The age of 18 is the legal age of emancipation.

Light Beer - American term indicating a pilsner-style beer that is relatively low in calories and alcohol content.

Liquor Control Commission – The State regulatory agency responsible for the licensing and regulation of businesses that manufacture, sell or distribute alcoholic liquors and to enforce the Liquor Control Act.

Local Option – The right of a local unit of government (county, city, township, etc.) to determine to have, or not have, alcoholic liquor sold within its political boundaries - or to limit the sale of alcoholic liquor within its boundaries.


Malt - Malt refers to grains that have been soaked in water until they are partially germinated (malted) and then kilned. This releases starches which are turned into fermentable sugar. When yeast is added, these fermentable sugars become alcohol and carbon dioxide. Malt also gives beer its sweet flavor.


Non-Alcoholic Beer - Beer that contains less than one-half of 1% of alcohol by volume and marketed for adult consumption as an alternative to beer. (Section 720/1.1 of the Beer Industry Fair Dealing Act) Many other products have some alcohol content such as: Canada Dry Ginger Ale (.08%), Haagan-Daz Vanilla Ice Cream (.48%), Scope Mouthwash (18.5%), Vick’s NyQuil (25% label), Kroger Vanilla Extract (35% label), Sprite (.06%), Dr. Pepper (.03%), and Bailey’s Irish Cream Ice Cream (1.0%).


Off Premise Sale – The purchase of alcoholic liquor from a retailer intended for off premise consumption (Example: grocery store, convenience store).

On Premise Sale – The purchase of alcoholic liquor with the intent that the alcoholic liquor is consumed on the retailers’ premises.


Pale Ale - An ale brewed with pale malts (lightly kilned) giving it an often honey-like or caramel sweetness. They are often bronze or copper colored as opposed to the dark brown or blakc of porters and stouts, hence the term "pale ale." Some English brewers use this term to describe their premium bitters.

Porter - A London style of beer. It is a lighter-bodied companion to stout. Porters are roasted-tasting dark brews that are bottom-fermented and stronger in alcohol.


Retailer –– ‘Retailer’ means a person who sells, or offers for sale, alcoholic liquor for use or consumption and not for resale in any form. (Section 5/1-3.17 of the Illinois Liquor Control Act)


Social-Norms Program – A positive new concept educating college students on healthy drinking behavior. The program stresses the campus norm is to drink sensibly – emphasizing moderation over abstinence. Research indicates students overestimated how much their peers drank by three drinks a week, on average. Because of this, many students feel pressured to drink more than they really want, believing that was the “norm” for a college student. The program teaches healthy lifestyle choices among college students and does not promote underage drinking in any manner. The Social- Norms program has been implemented in over 34 colleges and universities across the United States.

Special Event Retailer –– ‘Special event retailer’ means an educational, political, civic, religious, or non-profit organization which sells or offers for sale beer or wine, or both only for consumption at the location and on the dates designated by the special event retail license. (Section 5/1-3.17.1 of the Illinois Liquor Control Act)

Spirits – ‘Spirits’ means any beverage which contains alcohol obtained by distillation, mixed with water or other substance in solution, and includes brandy, rum, whiskey, gin or other spirituous liquors. (Section 5/1 – 3.02 of the Illinois Liquor Control Act). -T- Territory – Manufacturers assign a geographical area for alcoholic liquor to be serviced by licensed distributors. Manufacturers are required to register its alcoholic liquor products and geographic territory assignments with the Liquor Control Commission. Only retailers within the designated territory may purchase alcoholic beverages from the assigned licensed distributor. Distributors are prohibited from selling alcoholic beverages outside the designated territory.

Stout - Originally a "Stout Porter." It is a strong porter that is extra-dark, almost black in color, due to the use of highly roasted malts.


Tied House – Pre-Prohibition (before 1919), many brewers had some type of ownership “tie” to taverns and other retailers. They sold to taverns on extended credit terms, furnished supplies and paid rebates for pushing their brand or carrying it exclusively. Brewers ultimately controlled the retailers creating a vertical monopoly that became known as “tied houses.” The phrase “lock, stock and barrel” refers to the time when brewers literally owned the lock on the front door, the stock in the back room, and the barrel the product came in.

TIPS Program – Training for Intervention Procedures by Servers – a voluntary and industry sponsored program to educate bartenders, waiters and store clerks on techniques to deter people who have overconsumed without creating a server-customer confrontation. TIPS is also available for universities, hotel/ hospitality, and casinos.

Twenty-first Amendment to the United States Constitution – Repealed Prohibition. On February 20, 1933, the 21st Amendment to the United States Constitution was proposed by Congress. This amendment repealed Prohibition set forth by the 18th Amendment. Prohibition failed to achieve its goal. Instead it led to the creation of organized crime, disrespect for the law and political corruption. Alcohol was also seen as a source of revenue for local and national governments. The amendment mandated, for the first time, that conventions were to vote on the amendment rather than the legislatures, feeling that conventions would be more apt to ratify. On December 5, 1933, the 21st Amendment ratified the 18th Amendment repealed. [See definition of Prohibition]


Underage Drinking - Any person under the legal age of 21 who consumes alcoholic liquor. [See definition of Legal Drinking Age]


Weisse/Weissbier - A German term for beer made with malted wheat.

Wine – ‘Wine’ means any alcoholic beverage obtained by the fermentation of the natural contents of fruits, or vegetables, containing sugar, including such beverages when fortified by the addition of alcohol or spirits. [See definition of alcohol and spirits] (Section 5/1-3.03 of the Illinois Liquor Control Act

Wort - The sweet liquid made from malted grains, boiling water and hops that yeast cells cause to ferment.


Yeast - Yeast cells love to eat sugar. In doing so, they cause the wort to ferment, which produces alcohol and carbon dioxide. Yeast also conveys its own flavor and can be used to give a fruity flavor to beer.