Beer Vocab: Explained

We’ve all been there: walking up and down the craft aisle trying to discern what “double dry hopped” actually means, frantically googling what an “IBU” stands for, or even giving up all together and going to a tried and true favorite. Doll is here to help translate these terms so at your next beer run, you’re confident enough to find something you like - without all the guesswork. 


These terms are ubiquitous, and mean they are very refreshing and have a high drinkability. Typically, these beers are under 5% ABV which makes it easy to enjoy a few at a time, hence “sessionable.” 


Hops are one  of the four things you need while brewing beer, but how much  and when they are added in the brewing process really makes the difference.  For example, a double dry hopped beer has bittering hops added at the beginning of the boil, and the flavor and aroma hops are added around the end of the boil, and even added after the boil for the fermentation process. This makes the beer very bitter, almost dank tasting, which will wake your tastebuds right up! 


Alcohol by Volume, or ABV, is the percentage of volume of alcohol per volume  of beer. So, if a can of beer happens to be 5%, then that means 5% of the contents in that can  is alcohol.  ABV is the measure of how strong a beer is! 


International Bitter Units, or IBU, is the measure of how much bittering substances are in the beer. In layman's terms, IBU is a gauge of how bitter the beer will taste. 


An ale is a beer that is fermented with strains of yeast that gather towards the top of the tank and prefer brewing in warm temperatures. Ales are typically fruity, spicy, and a higher IBU. An example of this style would be the Sierra Nevada’s Pale Ale. 


A lager is a style of beer that is fermented in colder conditions, with the yeast fermenting in the bottom of the tank,  which gives it a more clean and neutral profile. Lagers tend to have a crisp mouthfeel and subtle flavors, which makes them one of the most popular beers commercially. A classic example of this is Budweiser. 


A stout is a dark beer that tends to be stronger and more viscous than say a lager or ale, and is around the 7%-8% ABV range. They range from milk stouts (sweet) to dry stouts (a somewhat bitter taste.) They tend to be flavored with chocolate, coffee, or vanilla and make a great sipping beer.  A good example of this style of beer is West O’s CoCo Stout.


An IPA (India Pale Ale) was founded when beers would not make it around the cape without turning flat and sour. In order to combat this, brewers added a sizable amount of hops to preserve the beer,  and thus the IPA was born! IPAs are known for their bitter, hoppy taste and tend to have notes of citrus or other fruit flavors. A good example of this style of brew is Dogfish Head’s 60 Minute IPA. 


You can never go wrong with a sour! Sours are a very tart, acidic, or dry tasting beer usually flavored with different fruits, spices, and even lactose. Beers similar to the sour beer are lambics, goses, and berliner weisses. One of our favorite sours at the moment is Backpocket’s Lemon Blueberry Sour. 

We hope this helped you better understand reading beer labels, happy shelf hunting!