All industries come with their own collections of jargon. Understanding this technical language is key to understanding the industry as a whole. The same is true of brewing. Even people who have been crafting beer for years can often benefit from a refresher of important beer and brewing terms. By getting back to the brewing basics, you can pave the way for new innovations.
Lagers vs. Ales
“Lager” and “ale” are two of the most important beer and brewing terms to know. After all, almost all the commercial beers in the world can be divided into these two categories. Knowing the difference between the two will help you determine your brand identity.
Lagers are some of the more common beers on the market. They have a milder, crisper taste; a lighter color; and a colder brew temperature. Along with this, they utilize bottom-fermenting yeast in their brewing process. Some examples of lagers include:
- American lager
- Märzen (Oktoberfest beer)
On the other side of the spectrum, ales tend to have a fuller-bodied taste, a darker color, and a warmer brewing temperature. Initially, ales were not brewed with hops, but most are these days. They also utilize top-fermenting yeast instead of bottom-fermenting yeast. A few common types of ales include:
Top- vs. Bottom-Fermenting Yeast
To further understand the difference between lagers and ales, it’s necessary to understand the primary ingredient difference between them: their yeast.
As the name would suggest, top-fermenting yeast (Saccharomyces cerevisiae) begins the process of metabolizing the sugar near the surface of the wort. Bottom-fermenting yeast (Saccharomyces pastorianus) begins metabolizing the sugar at the bottom of the wort. Because of this, top-fermenting yeast takes less time to ferment, and the brewing process can be done at much higher temperatures than its lager cousin.
Terms from the Brewing Process
When you’re brewing beer, you need four ingredients: water, hops, yeast, and a grain. Malt refers to the grain being put in the beer. Malts may be utilize barley, wheat, or rye.
Milling refers to the process of crushing the outer shell of the malt to release the starch. After the malt is milled, it’s then referred to as grist.
After the grist has finished being milled, it’s poured into a container called a mash mixer. Mash mixers are large kettles filled with hot water. In the mash mixer, the starches in the grist convert to sugars, and the remaining material is called mash.
The lauter tun is a piece of equipment fitted with a screen to filter the solids out of the mash. The process of filtering the mash is referred to as lautering.
Even though the previous steps are effective for removing most of the sugars from the grain, but some sugars are usually left at this point. Some brewers then do a process called sparging. During sparging, brewers spray hot water on the grain in order to rinse off the rest of the sugars.
When the solids are completely removed from the mash in the lauter tun, what’s left is a clear liquid filled with sugars. This liquid is called the wort.
Humulus lupulus is a type of plant that produces small, green flowers that look similar to pinecones. These flowers are hops, and they’re what give beer its flavor and bitterness. After the wort is filtered, it’s boiled, and hops are added.
After this, the wort is poured into a fermentation tank. Here, either top-fermenting or bottom-fermenting yeast is introduced. The yeast consumes the sugars in the wort and produces carbon dioxide and alcohol.
The gravity of the beer refers to the amount of sugar in it. Because the yeast consumes the sugar, gravity affects a beer’s taste, carbonation, and alcohol content. Gravity is typically measured before and after fermentation using a hydrometer. The sugar levels at the end of the process are referred to as the brew’s final gravity.
When applied to brewing, the term “attenuation” directly relates to a beer’s gravity. It refers to how much of the sugar in a beer was turned into alcohol during fermentation. Beers with a higher attenuation have higher alcohol levels and drier tastes.
As the beer is fermenting, foam builds up on the surface. This foamy head is called the krausen. The krausen is important in the brewing process because it indicates how far along the beer is in the fermentation process. Once the krausen “crashes,” or falls, that typically means fermentation has been completed.
After the beer has finished fermenting, it typically isn’t ready to be consumed. This beer is referred to as green beer. To prepare it for sale, it must undergo a short aging process called maturation, which usually only takes around a week.
Although beer maturation can occur in the fermentation tank, brewers often need the tank to make other batches. To open up space, brewers will often do maturation in a separate tank called a bright tank.
Kegs vs. Casks
Anyone who has heard of beer has usually heard of these two terms. But people outside of the industry often mistakenly use the two terms interchangeably. Both are used to hold beer after it’s brewed, but the difference is their shape. Kegs have a straighter shape and a single opening, while casks are more curved. However, the difference in these terms often goes beyond the container itself. In the United Kingdom specifically, cask ales are those that have undergone a second fermentation process in a wooden cask without as many secondary filtrations. This is meant to give the beer a richer flavor, and the beer is typically served at warmer temperatures without as much carbonation. Keg beers don’t undergo this second fermentation, and they’re typically more carbonated and served cold.
Whether you’re new to the brewing scene or a seasoned veteran, Cedarstone Industry has proven a reliable choice of brewery tank manufacturer to meet all your company’s needs.