The
Craft Beer Glossary
for
Beginners 

From adjunct to wort, an easy to understand craft beer glossary that will have you educating the bartender.

Case in point, my sister is not one to partake in alcoholic beverages very often.  I finally broke her into the world of craft beer by way of a hard cider with a low ABV (or alcoholic content).  Bless her heart, she goes out one evening to happy hour at a local bowling alley with a rather extensive craft beer selection; she asks for a hard cider, the waitress stated, "We don't have hard cider but you might enjoy this barleywine." OMG, nooooooo! 

FYI, barleywine is a rather strong beer with a high ABV, a little bit too much for my sister.

When she finally made it to my house later that night she was still feeling the effects of that good ol' barleywine.

All that being said, here is an introduction to craft beer terminology that will hopefully save you from a similar mishap.


A

Adjunct-Think "add junk" and that will help you remember this definition. The four key ingredients needed for brewing beer are barley, yeast, hops and water.  Adjunct refers to starches that are considered somewhat subpar because they are less expensive and tend to create a less flavorful beer, they include rice and corn and are used frequently in mass produced beers...I won't call any names.
The term can also refer to ingredients added to enhance the flavor, aid in foam retention or add nutritional value.

Alcohol-Do I really need to...I will anyhow.  Let me really break it down, the mashed (which simply means soaked or steeped, like tea) malted barley creates a sugary liquid called wort which when yeast is added it begins to ferment, fermentation creates the alcohol. For a more detailed lesson in fermentation feel free to check out an episode of "Moonshiners" on the Discovery Channel.

Alcohol By Volume-the measure of alcohol in beer (or other alcoholic beverage) as it pertains to space. Also known as ABV.

Alcohol By Weight-the measure of alcohol as it pertains to weight. Also known as ABW.

Ale-The oldest form of the two beer styles (the other being lagers). Ales are primarily characterized by where the yeast flocculate (I know funny word, it means gather) in the fermentation tank, with ales the yeast gather at the top of the tank. Brewed under warmer temperatures, ales produce a more complex flavorful beer.

Aroma Hops-Hops is the essence of beer, when you smell beer what you're smelling is the hops. Much like grapes hops come in different varieties which produce different results. Some hop varieties are strictly to provide a bittering component while others provide a prized aroma, the latter being classified as aroma hops.

 

B

Barley Wine (or Barleywine)-One of my newfound favorite styles of beer. Barley Wines are classified as an ale and have an unusually high, wine like alcohol content. They tend to have a strong flavor with fruity accents and are often fermented with wine or champagne yeast.

One To Try:
Brooklyn Monster Ale
(English Barley Wine)

 My very first glass of Barley Wine.  With an ABV of around 10% it was one heck of an introduction, and let me just say I loved every minute! It was amazingly smooth (considering the ABV) and lingered around for a couple of hours to help me soothe the cares of the day away. Defintely one I'll add to my list of favorites and one I'd highly recommend...just make sure you have a designated driver.

Barrel-A barrel is just what you would imagine, wood strips held together in a circle with the metal hoops. In terms of volume, a beer barrel is equivalent to 31 gallons or two kegs. A barrel is also referred to as a cask.

Beer-The umbrella of refreshing fermented beverages that consists of two types, ales and lagers. Beer is the world's most widely consumed alcoholic beverage.

Beer Engine-Also called a beer pump, a beer engine is used to draw beer from a cask or keg. Normally manually operated you will occasionally find an electric or gas powered pump.

Berliner Weisse-A wheat beer that is sour in flavor and normally a little cloudy; this ale is a regional beer from Northern Germany with a low alcohol content. Because of it's sour flavor it is often served with a special syrup. Berliner Weisse actually translates to "White Berlin" and in Germany Berliner Weisse is a protected term which can only be applied to beers brewed in Berlin.

Bier-German for Beer

Bittering Hops-The flip side of aroma hops, bittering hops are added to provide the bitterness in flavor that is the epitome of beer.

Bock-A heavy German lager that is high in alcohol content, usually ranging from amber in color for mai-bocks to rich, dark dopplebocks. Bock is German for goat so you'll often find a goat on the bottles of these fine lagers. The name is believed however to be derived from the town where this brew was originally produced, Einbeck. Bocks are generally served from winter to the early spring, which creates another spin on the origination of it's name, this beer is normally brewed during the months that coincide with the sign Capricorn...a goat.

Boil-The process of boiling the wort. During the boil hops is added in scheduled intervals providing bitterness and hoppiness (did I just make up that word?). The earlier scheduled intervals add bitterness to the flavor as the hops has longer to embed its glory in the wort and the latter scheduled intervals tend to add the hop aroma to beer. The boiling process also stops the enzyme activity and sterilizes the wort.

Bottle-Conditioned-Beers that allow for further fermentation while in the bottle are considered bottle-conditioned. It can be a rather tricky process, if too much sugar is left in the bottle to ferment you could have a small situation on your hands...a beer explosion, glass and beer everywhere!

Brettanomyces-Also commonly called "Brett", brettanomyces is a wild yeast strain used to brew beers such as lambics and gueuzes. 

Brew Kettle-Whatever big contraption is used to boil the wort during the brewing process; it can range from a stock pot looking kettle for home brewing to the AMAZING copper brew kettle used by Sierra Nevada.

C

California Common-The modern day version of Steam Beer.

Cask-a cask is simply put, a barrel. They are now also made of metal instead of the traditional wooden we're accumstomed to; for a visual think of a larger keg.

Cask Ale-Unfiltered, unpasteurised beer that undergoes a second fermentation while in the cask. Cask ale is often referred to as cask-conditioned beer or Real Ale; this wonderful form of brew delivers a beer that is still evolvoing due to the active yeast, creating delicate complex flavors. 

Cask-Conditioned-See Cask Ale

Cicerone-This information is straight from www.cicerone.org, they explain it best:
What is a Cicerone?
The word Cicerone (pronounced sis-uh-rohn) has been chosen to designate those with proven expertise in selecting, acquiring and serving today’s wide range of beers.  The titles “Certified Cicerone®” and “Master Cicerone®” are protected certification trademarks. Only those who have passed the requisite test of knowledge and tasting skill can call themselves a Cicerone.

What is the origin of the word “Cicerone”?
Cicerone is an English word referring to “one who conducts visitors and sightseers to museums and explains matters of archaeological, antiquarian, historic or artistic interest.” For beer, a Cicerone will possess the knowledge and skills to guide those interested in beer culture, including its historic and artistic aspects.  “Cicerone” now designates a person with demonstrated expertise in beer who can guide consumers to enjoyable and high-quality experiences with great beer.

Craft Brewer-According to the Brewer's Association (www.brewersassociation.org) "An American Craft Brewer is small, independent and traditional." So just what does that mean? By the Brewer's Association standards small is considered having annual production of 6 million barrels or less; independent means less than 25% of the craft brewery is owned or controlled (or equivalent economic interest) by an alcoholic beverage industry member who is not themselves a craft brewer; and traditional means what they brew is the real deal, it's either an all malt flagship (the beer which represents the greatest volume among that brewers brands) or has at least 50% of its volume in either all malt beers or in beers which use adjuncts to enhance rather than lighten flavor.

Craft Beer-Often the topic of passionate discussion, craft beer in general refers to beers brewed in traditional styles, by traditional standards and with traditional ingredients, no adjuncts (unless added for distinctiveness) or chemicals; usually produced in smaller batches and in smaller breweries

 

D

Doppelbock-The beer that introduced me to the Craft Beer World.  Also called double bock, a doppelbock is a richer, darker, maltier bock beer. Believe it or not, it was first brewed by Paulaner Monks, an order founded by St. Francis of Paula. It was drank by the monks during times of fasting, when solid food was not permitted, serving as a form of "liquid bread" with it's high alcohol content and sweetness. Doesn't add up for me, but whatever works for the Monks.

Dry Hopping-The part of the brewing process when you add the aroma hops.

Dubbel-I'm not sure what's up with the Monks and beer, but let me tell you, they seem to love it and they can most certainly brew it...very well! This style of beer first orginated at the Trappist brewery of Westmalle back in 1856. It is a dark malted brew that's heavy bodied with very mild bitterness and a fruitiness and cereal flavor. With an ABV somewhere between 6-8% I'm starting to think these Monks have more fun than we think.

E

Extreme Beers-First concentrate on that first word, extreme "of a character or kind farthest removed from the ordinary or average" per dictionary.com; then think of beer brewed with peanut butter, chocolate, heather, lavender, oysters and seaweed (not all together); with ABV's of 20% or more...Extreme Beer IS Extreme Beer!

F

Fermentation-The process where the yeast convert the sugar from the wort into alcohol and carbon dioxide, this process can take up to seven days.

Filtration-Beer is naturally cloudy after the brewing process.  To achieve clarity, the beer must be filtrated to remove remaining yeast and other sediments left behind. One means of filtration that I found interesting is called Diatomaceous Earth, it's actually ancient (or fossilized) algae.  This method of filtration works very well at removing the leftover solids to provide a bright, clear beer...who knew!

Firkin-A small wooden cask, usually equal to a 1/4 of a barrel; it is also a British unit of measurement

Flocculate-Hands down the funnest word I've learned since diving in to the world of craft beer.  Flocculate simply means to gather, it refers to the positioning of the yeast during the brewing process;
Ale yeast are considered top-fermenting yeast, meaning they gather or loosely coagulate at the top of the fermentation tank and Lager yeast are considered bottom-fermenting yeast, they gather at the bottom of the fermentation tank.

G

Germination-You may remember this word from Earth Science back in the day. Germination is the second stage of malting when it comes to brewing beer.  At this stage the barley is allowed to "sprout" for four to seven days.

Gluten-"the tough, viscid, nitrogenous substance remaining when the flour of wheat or other grain is washed to remove the starch." per dictionary.com.  Don't you just hate it when you have to look up the words within the definition, seriously, "viscid...nitrogenous...huh?" How about this definition, gluten(s) are proteins that can be found in grains like wheat, rye and barley.

Gravity-Let me tell y'all, it took quite a bit a research (at least for me) to get a handle on the meaning of this "gravity" you hear about when it comes to beer.  So for all of you who are not into brewing and just want to enjoy a good beer remember this, if you see a beer that says "High Gravity" it's high in alcohol (ABV), yes my friend, you will have a buzz. There is an original gravity (OG) before the beer is fermented and a final gravity (FG) after the beer has finished fermenting, then there are fancy calcuations done to determine the ABV based on the original and final gravity numbers. And that's the gist of gravity.

Great American Beer Festival(GABF)-a three day event presented by the Brewer's Association held annually in Denver, Colorado usually in late September or early October.  The festival was started in 1982 by Charlie Papazian, currently the president of the Brewer's Associaton and the author of "The Complete Joy of Home Brewing".  There's drinking and judging and good times for all! Interesting fact, at the 2014 festival there were 90 beer categories covering 145 different beer styles, winners were chosen from 5,507 competition entries ...HOW FUN!

Growler-a refillable containter for purchasing beer.  It's most often a glass bottle designed to hold a specific amount of fabulous draft brew, usually between 1/2 gallon and one gallon.  Usually employed by breweries that don't offer a bottled form of their beers.

Gueuze-A special brew out of Belgium, a gueuze is a blend of an old and young lambic beer.  The old is usually dry and sour and the younger is sweet, the combination of the two create a second fermentation. It is considered a very complex beer, known as the Champagne of Brussels this distinct brew is not recommended for the rookie craft beer drinker.

H

Hefeweizen-Time for a lesson in German.  "Hefe" actually means yeast and "weizen" means wheat.  Hefeweizen is a wheat beer. Often unfiltered, these brews are actually good for you, that cloudiness comes from the yeast and wheat proteins that are still present, yes I said proteins and yes, they are low in carbs.  Sounds like a perfect replacement for a protein shake to me!

Hops-The true essence of beer.  One of the four main ingredients for beer, hops are actually flowers from the Humulus Lupulus (that's kind of fun to say) vine.  Much like grapes hops come in different varieties which produce different results. Hops can provide aroma, bitterness and also act as a preservative.

Hops Cone-the actual female flower clusters from the hops plant. They look like little green pine cones!

Hops Cone

I

IBU-International Bitterness Units.  IBU is the measurement of a beers bitterness. For many beer connisseaurs/lovers the bitter the better.  Wheat beers generally have the lowest IBU ranging from 10 to 40 while India Pale Ale (IPA) comes in with the highest with IBU that hang around 40+.

India Pale Ale-Known to be strong and bitter this style of ale originated in England back in the 18th century and was exported to troops in India. Brewed to be able to withstand the long voyage with high alcohol content and heavy on the hops, both serving as natural preservatives.

K

Kilning-the final step of the malting process; at this stage the moisture content is reduced and the color and flavor of the beer is developed.

Kolsch-This light and easy to drink beer hails from Cologne, Germany and is served in a narrow, cylindrical glass called a "stange". But be warned, if you plan on going to Cologne and decide to try it's revered beer, you better know the rules of the Cologne bars; bluff waiters called "Kobes" who wear
blue shirts and long aprons serve up your brew, and they'll keep bringing them to you until you put your coaster over your glass.

L

Lager-the newest of the two beer styles (if you call the 15th century new), lagers are brewed with bottom fermenting yeast. Lagers are brewed in colder temperatures with a longer brewing period of months, as opposed to weeks for ales. Lagers are more crisp and clean, not as complex as ales.  Most American old school favorites are considered light lagers.

Lambic-A wheat beer brewed in Brussels, Belgium.  It is naturally fermented by wild yeast exclusive to this area, so true lambics can only come from Beligium. With hundreds of different yeast strains in the air at any given time you can be sure the taste of these beers will vary greatly.

Lovibond, Joseph-The creator of the "Degrees Lovibond" scale which resulted in the colorimeter called the "Lovibond Comparator".  Mr. Lovibond realized that the color of beer was often a good indicator of it's quality.  An updated version of the Lovibond Comparator is still produced to this day.

M

Macrobrewery-The big guys. The total opposite of microbrewery. Definitely not what you think of when you think of craft beer.

Malt-The end result of malted barley (or whatever grain is used to provide the starch need for the brewing process).

Malting-The soaking of barley (or whatever grain is used) is the easy way to explain it. It transforms the grain from it's raw form into a modified grain that is necessary to brew beer. The process includes three stages, steeping, germination and kilning.

Mash-Mash is grounded up malt blended with water, usually blended in what is known as a "Mash Tun".

Mashing-This is the actual process of combining the mash with the water. The trick of it all is that the mash is temperature gauged, sometimes a constant temperature, sometimes gradually rising temperature; it all depends on the equipment used, the ingredients and what kind of brew you're making.

Mash Tun-See Mash and Mashing, the mash tun is where it all happens.

 

Mash Tun

Many thanks to Sierra Nevada for providing a picture of the Mash Tun located in their West Brewhouse.  Just in case you didn't know Sierra Nevada is The King of American Pale Ale (talking about excited when they sent me this picture). With one of the coolest stories of humble beginnings they quickly became one of my favorites, follow your passion and the rest will fall into place ;o).  Be sure to check out their website, but only if you're of drinking age...and I mean legal drinking age, www.sierranevada.com.

Microbrewery-By industry associations it is a brewery that produces less than 15,000 barrels a year (105,000 cases)

Mouth Feel-Just what it says, mouth feel is how the beer feels in your mouth. Some beers have a light, thin feeling while others are heavy and full bodied. It may sound a bit strange but once you start to explore the different varieties of beer you'll start to detect the different mouth feels (yes, I said "feels") with little to no guidance, you just kinda notice it on your own.

N

Nanobrewery-Super small, smaller than a microbrewery producing somewhere between 50-500 barrels per year.  Many nanobrewery are often run as a hobby.

Noble Hops-The very rare hop varieties grown in Bavaria and Bohemia known for their distinct aroma and flavor characteristics. Although the definition of the term can sometimes vary it usually refers to the following hop varieties: Hallertauer, Hersbrucker, Saaz, Spalt and Tettnanger.

P

Pale Ale-Well, I guess you've figured out it's an ale. Also known as Burton (which is where it orginated in England), pale ales are often referred to as Bitter. Brewed with pale malts and heavy on the hops they are known to be very bitter (duh).  And be warned, the American versions tend to be even hoppier than the English version. We love our bitter beer!

Pasteurization-Bring on the heat! Pasteurization stops the growth of any stray yeast by heating the beer to very high temperatures.

Pilsner-The style of beer that most Americans are pretty fond of, or at least aware of.  Miller Lite touts itself as a "True Pilsner", however True Pilsner comes from the Bohemiam town of Pilsen (German pronunciation) or Plzen as it‘s pronounced in the Czech Repulic where it’s located. In 1842 Josef Groll created a masterpiece, a clear, golden, perfectly carbonated and ohhh so refreshing lager. Thanks Josef, you rock!

Pitch-"Throw some yeast in that wort!" And that sums it up, pitching is simply adding the yeast to the wort.
 
Porter-One of my favorite styles of beer. This dark, full-bodied ale can range from an almost reddish slightly thin body style that hails from London to a black, dark roasty Scotish Porter.  It is thought to be the origin of stouts and mild ales. At one point being the most heavily exported beer to being almost extinct, this style of beer holds a rather interesting history.  A favorite of London street porters in the 18th century that somehow made it's way to the Russian Imperial Court and became a favorite there too.  Like I said, a rather interesting history.

Priming-the process of creating carbonation by adding sugar to the beer at the beginning of the secondary fermetation.

R

Rauchbier-Yet another lesson in German,"rauch" means smoke and "bier" of course means beer. Rauchbier is a beer that hails from the Bamberg area of Germany.  Brewed with grain that has been smoked, this brew can range from slightly smoky to "OMG this is smoky!" in flavor.

Reinheitsgebot-The "German Beer Purity Law" as it's also know was a regulation that was brought about in 1516 (April 23, 1516) stating that the only ingredients that could be used to produce beer was water, barley and hops; this was before it was known that yeast was an ingredient as well. Many German breweries still claim to abide by the Reinheitsgebot, something that definitely gives them the right to brag a little.

Roggenbier-Another lesson in German. "Roggen" means rye in German and of course, bier is beer.  Well, you guessed it, roggenbier is rye beer or beer that uses up to 60% of rye malt. It's brewed with the same yeast strain found in German Hefeweizen creating a similar taste. Disappering for almost 500 years, roggenbier made a comeback in 1988, with it's modern version having a ABV of about 5%.

S

Saison-Which means "season" in German and French is an ale that was originally brewed in the autumn or winter and kept to be drank in the summer. Also known as Farmhouse Ales because they were originally brewed for farm hands during the harvest season. I sure hope they served it AFTER all the work was done...just saying.

Secondary Fermentation-"Don't try this at home."  Okay that may be a pretty bold statement but do keep in mind the two-stage fermenting process is very tricky and should not be tried by amateurs. Secondary fermentation is just what it says, in a two-stage fermenting process it is the second stage which provides a cleaner, clearer beer. As it is removed from the waste of it's first fermenting container and exposed to oxygen which helps convert the yeast to alcohol and increase the fermentation rate it is easy to see why second fermentation is beneficial...if you know what you're doing.

Session Beer-Think of it like this, if it's going to be a "session" it's going to last a while and if it's going to be a "session" dealing with beer well it can't be too strong (or have a high ABV) because the session won't last too long. So, all that being said, session beers are beers with low ABV, usually 4% or less that allows you to drink several with out becoming too terribly inebriated.

Skunked-Ever wonder why beer can sometimes smell like a skunk? Well, beer is photosensitve (or sensitive to light); beer also contains hops, which when boiled produce isohumulones (these guys help make the beer bitter), when isohumulones are exposed to light and heat it creates the same chemical compound found in skunk spray. Pretty interesting, huh? My suggestion is to always buy brew in dark bottles and make sure it comes from the cooler not stacked up on the floor by the front window.

Sorghum-Nothing short of a blessing to those who love beer and suffer with celiac disease. Sorghum is actually a grass used to create the starch needed for the brewing process. Considered an adjunct (simply because it's not barley) sorghum does not irritate or cause discomfort to those with celiac disease, unlike your traditional brewing grain, barley and the more common adjuct grains like rice and corn.

Sour Beer-Just what it says. "Sour" meaning to taste, not as in gone bad. Sour Beer is brewed using wild yeast strains which makes the brewing process extremely difficult, as these yeast strains can be as unpredictable as the term "wild" would suggest. Brettanomyces is the most commonly known type of wild yeast. Your Belgian Lambics and Gueuzes are too fairly popular forms of sour beer.

Sparging-"Rinse and repeat; rinse and repeat..." Sparging is simply the step at the end of the mashing process where hot water is run through the grain bed to extract the good ol'sweet wort.

Standard Reference Method(SRM)-Is a method used by brewer's to specify beer color. If you're like me and you just enjoying drinking good brew and are not fully into the intricacies of brewing please don't bother looking any further into this term, it'll give you a headache. SRM=12.7xDxA430....Huh?!?! 
 

Stange Glass

 Most notably used to serve Kolsch, the cylinder stange glass is also used to serve more "delicate" craft brews. Here you see Fox Barrel Pacific Pear Cider being served in a stange glass; naturally fermented using 100% pear juice and with only 4.5% ABV it's a really nice introduction to the craft beer world.  If you like sparkling cider you can definitely handle this one, fun, bubbly and simply maaaaarvelous!

Stealth Micorbrewery-I love this term.  It's come about recently as we now have many macrobreweries that understand the craft beer revolution is here! They create a brand name that suggests it's a smaller brewery that markets craft beer.  Those slicksters!!!

Steam Beer-A native American Brew that came about in 19th century and was very popular during the Gold Rush. Steam Beer is unique because it uses lager yeast that ferment at ale type temperatures. The modern day form of steam beer is often referred to as California Common.

Steeping-Think "steeping of tea". Pretty much the same process applies with beer; steeping is the first part of the brewing process where the barley is soaked to increase the moisture content and get it ready for the germination phase of the malting process.

Stout-One of my favorites! Cousin to the Porter, Stout is actually a term the English used to describe a beer that had a higher ABV or was a bit heavier. One of the porters brewed around the 18th century in England was known as a "Stout-Porter". Sometime during the 20th century the term Porter was dropped and it just became Stout. Stouts are usually dark (although there are some blonde stouts) and flavorful with ABV and gravity that can range from low to extremely high.

T

Terroir-If you can see the word "territory" having something to do with this you're right. Terroir refers to a specific region or territory that provides the conditions needed to grow or produce a certain food (or beer) and give that food (or beer) its unique characteristics and flavor.
 
Trappist Monks-Let me tell you about these Monks! THEY MAKE BEER...REALLY GOOD BEER!!!  The history here is long, like back to the Middle Ages. There are currently eight Monasteries that act as breweries as well, they are:  Achel, Chimay, Orval, Westmalle, Westvleteren, and Rochefort in Belgium; La Trappe in the Netherlands and Stift Engelszell in Austria (which just resumed brewing in 2012, after production stopped in 1929). These Monks are known for brewing very high quality beer with dynamite flavor, the most coveted being the Westvleteren 12. Interesting stuff, right?!?!

Trappist Beer-You guessed it, the beer brewed by the Trappist Monks.  And don't just think you're gonna slap that "Trappist" designation on any old beer, there's an International Trappist Association (ITA) that polices the use of the Trappist name. If it say's "Trappist" you'd better believe it was brewed in the walls of a Trappist Monastery.

Tripel-Main thing to remember about this style of beer, it's a strong pale ale that usually has a high ABV.  There are numerous tales of how this ale got it's name, not real sure which one to believe, not real sure it even matters.  It is documented that the first Tripel created was from the Trappist brewery, Westmalle...there go the Monks again! Tripels tend to be hazy with a creamy mouth feel and are usually lightly malted.

W

Weizen-Break out the German To English translator.  Weizen is "wheat" in German.

Wet Hopping-"Fresh Hops, Get your Fresh Hops Here!" Wet Hopping is using fresh hops during your brewing process, fresh being straight from the bine. Most beers use dried hops, which give a more bitter flavor and those prized IBU's.  Fresh hops start to compost almost as soon as they're picked (or cut), requiring them to be added to the beer within 24 hours, so move swiftly to reap the benefits.

Wild Ale-An American style of beer that uses wild yeast strains like Brettanomyces aka Brett to create a unique flavor that you either love or hate.

Witbier-Now it's time for a lesson in Dutch. "Wit" is Dutch for white and "Bier" is Dutch (and German) for beer.  Witbier is a wheat beer brewed mainly in Belgium and the Netherlands and often referred to as "Belgian White Ale". Known for its hazy appearance which comes from the suspended wheat proteins and yeast, this haze can make the beer appear white, hence the name "White Beer/WitBier". Blue Moon and Shock Top have made this style of beer pretty popular.

Wort-The wort is where it all starts. It's the sugary liquid you get when you drain the solids left behind from the mash. Sweet, clear and amber in color the wort provides the sugar the yeast needs for fermentation.

Y

Yeast-One of the four main ingredients in beer yeast is the single cell organism that converts the sugar in wort to alcohol and carbon dioxide.  There is the top-fermenting yeast used in ales, Saccharomyces Cerevisiae; and the bottom-fermenting yeast used to make lagers, Saccharomyces Carlsbergensis. 

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