Beer FAQs

How is beer made?
Making beer starts just like making a big pot of porridge. Water and barley malt are heated to a specific temperature between (generally) 60C-70C. This is called mashing. Enzymes in the grain break down the starches into smaller sugars. Think of starch as a chain, the enzymes take little bites of it to make smaller sugars like glucose and fructose (and maltose). The spent grain is discarded leaving behind a sugary liquid called wort. The wort is then boiled to kill any undesirable microbes and to boil off undesirable flavours (like DMS, which smells like cooked cabbage). Hops added at the beginning of the boil impart bitterness. If they’re added at the end of the boil, they add that hoppy flavour and aroma we know and love: citrus, perfume, potpourri etc. The wort is then chilled and yeast is added to ferment the sugars into alcohol, thus turning the wort into beer.

What is beer made of?
Beer is typically made of water, malt, hops, and yeast. Sometimes beer also contains adjuncts (other sources of fermentable sugar), or other flavourings like fruit or herbs.

Does the water matter that much?
It sure does. Beer is mostly water. The mineral content and PH of the water can make a big difference in the chemistry of how the beer is brewed and fermented. Sulfates make a beer taste drier and crispier. Chloride makes a beer taste fuller and sweeter. For a juicy IPA, the ideal water has a 2:1 ratio of chloride to sulfate, and is low in calcium carbonate.

What are hops?
Hops are a type of flower that looks like a green pine cone. Hops give beer its bitterness, and a lot of its flavour and aroma. Depending on the type of hops, they can give the beer citrusy, piney, fruity, herbal, or grassy flavours and aromas. Hops have been cultivated for thousands of years, and were first introduced to beer sometime in the 1500s. Beer without hops is commonly called "gruit" (pronounced GREW-it).

What is malt?
Malt typically refers to malted barley. Malting is the process of wetting the barley grains just until they start to sprout, and then drying them so they stop sprouting. Malting is mainly to break down the protein matrix inside of a barley kernel to make the starch more accessible to the enzymes during the mashing process. The level of hydration, and roast to the grain gives it the caramel flavours, or roasted flavours. All of the colour of a beer comes from malt.

Why is there yeast in the beer?
Yeast is a single celled organism, technically a fungus. It eats simple sugars from the malted barely, then farts out carbon dioxide, and pees out alcohol (for lack of a better analogy). There are thousands of different yeasts, each can impart a different flavour. The type of yeast also determines whether a beer is an ale or a lager.

What's the difference between an ale and a lager?
Most beers are either an ale or a lager. The difference is all about the type of yeast used to ferment the beer. Ales are fermented with saccharomyces cerevisiae yeast, while lagers are fermented with saccharomyces pastorianus yeast. Ale yeasts ferment best at higher temperatures for a shorter time, while lager yeasts ferment better at a lower temperature for a longer time. Some styles of ale include blonde ale, red ale, brown ale, IPA (India pale ale), APA (American pale ale), porter, stout, and saison. Some styles of lager include pilsner, helles lager, vienna lager, bock, dunkel, and schwartzbier. The flavour, colour, and alcohol content have nothing to do with whether a beer is an ale or a lager.

Are there types of beers other than ales and lagers?
Yes, there are several crossover styles of beer that have characteristics of both a lager and an ale. "Lagered ales", kolsches, and cream ales are beers brewed with an ale yeast, but fermented slower and longer like a lager. The California common style of beer is brewed with a lager yeast, but it's fermented hotter and faster like an ale.
Other beers that don't fit neatly into the ale or lager categories are mixed fermentation or alternative fermentation beers. These beers are closer to the beer brewed hundreds (or even thousands) of years ago, that didn't have just one specific cultured yeast added to ferment them. They were fermented with whatever yeasts and bacteria were in the environment and landed in the wort as it chilled. Some beers are still brewed this way, like Belgian lambic beers. In modern times some beers have a specific blend of yeasts and bacteria added to them, creating a "farmhouse style" beer.

What does ABV mean?
ABV means Alcohol By Volume. It's a measure of how much alcohol is in a beverage. 5% ABV means 5% of the volume of the beer is alcohol.

What does IBU mean?
IBU means International Bitterness Units. It's an objective way of measuring how bitter a food or drink is, but it can often be quite different than how bitter something tastes to you. Two different beers might have the same IBUs, but if one beer has more residual sugar in it, then it will likely taste less bitter, because the sweetness helps balance the bitterness.

What’s a Light Beer?

Technically, in beer terminology a “light beer” means a beer lower in alcohol content. But customers asking for a light beer might be looking for something light in colour, or light in flavour, or light in body. Often when a beer is light in one sense, it’s light in other ways too, but not always. Kettle sours (light Fickle Mistress) are light in colour and alcohol content, but have a stronger tart flavour. Session stouts are darker in colour, but can be mild in flavour, and light in alcohol content.

What’s a Session Beer?
A session is similar to a light beer. Session beers are lower in alcohol content, milder in flavour, easy-drinking and thirst-quenching. You can drink more session beers in a drinking session than stronger, heavier beers. A session IPA has less hopiness, less residual sugar, and less alcohol than a typical IPA. A session stout has less roasty flavour, less body, and less alcohol than a typical stout.

What’s an Imperial Beer?
Imperial beers are stronger versions of beers. Imperial stout, also known as "Russian Imperial stout", is a strong dark beer in the style that was brewed in the 18th century in London, England and exported to Russia. The exporter was awarded a Russian royal warrant which entitled them to use the name "Imperial". Since then similarly strong stouts have used the term “Imperial stout” or “Russian imperial stout”. The term “Imperial IPA” is also used by strong IPAs that have more hops, and more alcohol. A double IPA is another name for an Imperial IPA. There are also Triple IPAs, which are extra, extra strong IPAs.

How long will beer last before it goes bad?
Anywhere from a few minutes to a few years. Seriously. How long a beer stays good can depend greatly on the type of beer, the vessel it's in, and the storage conditions.
Things that will make a beer spoil quicker: lower alcohol content, clear glass containers, unsanitized growlers, warm conditions, light (especially sunlight).

Things that make a better last longer: higher alcohol content, barrel aged beers, dark brown glass bottles, cans, and kegs, and cool, dark storage conditions. Under these conditions a beer can potentially stay good for several years. Especially if the beer was "barrel aged". In fact, the beer might even taste better as it ages.
Hops can either be good or bad for an aging beer, depending on the type of hops and how it’s stored. The chemicals in hops break down with age (especially when exposed to light, heat, and oxygen) and change the flavour of the beer. Hoppy beers like pale ales and IPAs usually don’t taste as good as they age. But hops are also antimicrobial so they act as a preservative and help prevent the beer from spoiling.
A beer that's high in hops, in a clear bottle or glass, sitting in direct sunlight, can start tasting noticeably worse within a few minutes. The chemicals in hops break down quickly in the presence of light and produce skunky flavours in the beer. It’s literally the same chemical compound as a skunk spray. Try it. Pour a glass of Helles, smell it, put it in direct sunlight for like ten minutes. Smell it again.

What's a saison (like King Street Saison)?
A saison (pronounced say-ZON) is a traditional Belgian style of beer. Saison means season. Saisons were traditionally easy-drinking, low-alcohol beers, for farm workers. Some saisons and other beers may be described as "farmhouse style" if it's fermented with a blend of different yeasts and bacteria. Saisons are typically dry with little residual sugar content. Belgian yeasts produce fruity esters and phenolic compounds that can impart notes of citrus, bananas, flowers, cloves, coriander, and black pepper.

What's a kettle sour (like Fickle Mistress)?
Kettle souring is a relatively new process in the several thousand year history of beer. The wort starts in the kettle as a normal brew, then it’s boiled shortly to pasteurize it. Then it is cooled down to roughly 40C and a bacteria called Lactobacillus is added (Lacto for short). Lacto is the same bacteria that’s in yogurt. Much like yeast eats sugar and makes alcohol, Lacto eats sugar and makes lactic acid giving the beer a distinctive sourness. We usually leave this process overnight, and then boil it again the next day to stop the souring process.

What's the difference between a Helles Lager and a Vienna Lager?
Helles (pronounced HELL-es) is German for light or pale. A helles lager is a light, mild, easy drinking lager. Vienna lagers come from the city of Vienna Austria. Vienna lagers are made with darker malts, giving the beer a light amber colour, and notes of caramel, dried fruits, and bread crust. Weirdly, Vienna lager has mostly been ignored by continental Europe and mostly made in Mexico (Dos Equis Brown).

What's the difference between an IPA and a pale ale?
An IPA (India Pale Ale) is a type of pale ale. And there is a lot of crossover between the styles. There is a historical story of IPAs being brewed in England with a higher hop content and higher alcohol content (since both are preservatives) that would survive the trip around Africa to the colonies in India. Hence the name India Pale Ale. This story is mostly fantasy. They sent lots of beer styles to India. IPAs are generally bigger, stronger versions of pale ales. There are several substyles of both, but these days IPA and Pale Ale generally mean a hazy beer with a heavy hop load and huge citrus, melon, and tropical aromas. Pale ales typically have an alcohol content between 4-6% ABV. IPAs typically have an alcohol content between 6-8% ABV.

What's the difference between a porter and a stout?
There’s a large overlap between the two styles. They’re both dark brown in colour, and have a robust flavour. Porters typically have more caramel flavour and sweetness to them while stouts typically accent the roasty characteristics. Porters came first and as they became popular, stronger or “stouter” porters were developed. Stout was originally called “stout porter”, before being shortened to just “stout”. In the 1700s in England there was so much porter being made that a tank burst, and caused a tidal wave that killed several people.

Why do you put some beers in wooden barrels?
The most prominent reason is they take on the flavour of what was previously in the barrel. Whisky, Wine, Tequila, Rum etc. All of these leave behind flavour in the barrels that then gets extracted in the beer during the aging process. Most of the barrels here are wine barrels. Barrel aging also allows the flavour of the beer to mature, getting rid of potential unpleasant off-flavours.

What's the deal with the giant wooden barrel?
This is called a Foeder (pronounced FOOD-er). Barrels above 600L are called foeders. We use ours to ferment funky sour beers with a mixture of different yeasts and bacteria. Then we move the beer into the smaller barrels for aging and flavour purposes.

What makes the beer taste sour?
A sour flavour is usually produced by lactobacillus bacteria. The same type of bacteria that’s in yogurt. The bacteria eat the sugars from the malted barley and turn it into lactic acid. There are other bacteria that can also make acid in a beer and they range from mildly pleasant vinegar flavour like Acetobacter, to horrible day-after-a-college-party-vomit flavours and aromas.

What makes the beer taste bitter?

Usually the bitterness comes from the hops. The higher the Alpha Acid content, and the longer you boil hops, the higher the IBUs (International Bitterness Units) and the more bitter flavour there is in the beer. Dark roasted malts like you find in a stout can also impart some bitterness. Some other things can impart a bitterness or dryness like tea, or certain water chemistry.

What makes the beer taste citrusy or piney?
Those flavours also come from the hops. Old school North American varieties like cascade, centennial, and Columbus were famous for their piney, citrus, and dank aromas. New age hops tend to focus on more tropical fruit and melon-like flavours. 

What is Gravity in beer terminology?
Gravity is a measurement of beer’s density. An original gravity (OG) reading indicates the number of dissolved sugars in the beer that can be converted into alcohol. In short, the OG is an indication of the beer’s potential alcohol percentage. There's also a final gravity (FG) that takes place after fermentation. 
High original gravity (OG) beers have more dissolved sugars for the yeast to consume, typically resulting in a higher alcoholic beverage. Session beers and dry, less sweet beers are on the other end of the spectrum. Starting with less dissolved sugar, results in low gravity, low-alcoholic beers.

Gravity is read as a number like 1.043. After fermentation, the difference between the OG and FG is used to calculate the beer’s alcoholic content (ABV). Beers closer to an OG of 1.100 might land around 10% ABV, while those closer to 1.000 have a lower alcoholic content.
Several different scales have been used for measuring the original gravity. For historical reasons, the brewing industry largely uses the Plato scale (°P), which is essentially the same as the Brix scale used by the wine industry. For example, OG 1.050 is roughly equivalent to 12 °P.

What are Trappist or Abbey beers? 
Trappist beers were originally created at La Trappe abbey in Normandy, France by monks who became known as Trappists. Today, there are 14 abbeys, including six in Belgium, crafting Trappist ales, which are famous for their exceptional quality and distinctive flavours. In 1997, eight Trappist abbeys founded the International Trappist Association (ITA) to prevent non-Trappist commercial companies from abusing the Trappist name. 
Just as the designation of Champagne is only given to sparkling wines from the Champagne region of France, only ales made under the strict supervision of monks or nuns within the walls of a Trappist monastery can be considered authentic Trappist ales. Otherwise it's just sparkling cultural appropriation. Other breweries that brew beer similar in style or presentation to Trappist monastic beer use the term "Abbey beers". 
There are four styles of Trappist or Abbey beers. Higher numbers indicate stronger flavours and higher alcohol content. But they're not the same thing as double IPAs and triple IPAs. See "What's an Imperial beer?" 
Enkel, meaning "Single", is a term used by the Trappist breweries to describe the basic recipe of their beers. The term is often used interchangeably with 'Patersbier' (meaning Father's beer). Enkels are a weak beer brewed originally to be consumed by the monks themselves. 
The origin of the dubbel was Westmalle Dubbel, brewed in the Trappist Abbey of Westmalle in 1856. Dubbels are a fairly strong ale, with a deep copper brown colour, a medium-full body, high carbonation, and 6-8% ABV. Dubbels have understated bitterness, and a pronounced fruitiness and cereal character. Expect flavours of caramel, dark bread, chocolate malt, raisin, plum, banana, light clove and pepper. 
Tripel is a name traditionally used by Trappist breweries to describe the strongest beer in their range. Westmalle Tripel is considered to be the foundation of this beer style, and was developed in the 1930s. Tripels are golden, dry and highly effervescent with elevated ABVs of 7-10% ABV. These beers offer pronounced floral, herbal and hop characters with spicy white pepper, arugula, banana, orange and lemon notes. 
Quadrupel is the name Koningshoeven gave to a La Trappe ale they brew which is stronger and darker than their Tripel. Quadrupels are the darkest and strongest of the Trappist ales. These complex beers have a full body and are highly carbonated with 8-14% ABV. You’ll taste flavours of brown sugar, fig, date, raisin, cocoa, toasted malt and a hint of pepper. 

Coming soon...


What does "Dry Hop" mean?

What does "Wet Hop" mean?

What are Cryo Hops?

What is bottle-conditioning?