Sometimes, there’s nothing like a good beer at the end of a long day. But when you and your friends are out at the pub and one of them orders an IPA or a stout, what are they really ordering? What’s the difference between a malty and hoppy beer anyway? Here’s a quick guide to craft beer to get you started, or to at least get you through your next night out with the guys.
A Quick Vocabulary Lesson
There are a few terms that beer enthusiasts tend to use when talking about the taste of a beer. Even knowing just a few of these words can help carry you through a conversation and get you started on finding a beer style you enjoy.
- Body: You’ll hear beers referred to as light-, medium- or full-bodied. This refers to how heavy the beer is. If you’ve ever had a beer that tastes like water, that’s a light-bodied beer.
- ABV: This refers to the alcohol content of the beer and stands for “alcohol by volume.” Most craft beers range from five to ten percent ABV.
- Malt: During brewing, barley is processed malt, which is used as an ingredient in the beer. This gives the beer a slightly sweeter, bread-like taste. If you hear a beer referred to as “malty,” it has more of this flavor.
- Hops: Hops are added to beer during brewing to balance out the malty flavor. Hops tend to be bitter, and can pass that bitterness into the beer itself. Certain types of beer have more hops than others, which is why you’ll hear IPAs, for example, referred to as “hoppy.”
What Makes A Beer A Craft Beer?
While technically speaking there’s nothing to stop larger breweries from using the craft beer label, typically there are a few qualities that make a beer a “craft beer.” Annual production of craft beer is small, less than six million barrels. Additionally, only 25% of the brewery can be owned by a non-craft brewer, meaning that they tend to be smaller and more independent. Finally, craft breweries tend to use more traditional methods of making beer, mostly meaning higher quality ingredients.
Next time you’re out for a drink, try a new beer you haven’t tasted before; there are a wide variety of craft beer styles out there to explore and the best way to discover what your favorite is is to try something a little different every time.