A Helpful Beer Glossary

Terms your local craft brewers use—thus you should, too.

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ABV. Alcohol by volume. In other words, the percentage of your beer that is pure booze. Most lighter-drinking beers, like Sun King’s Sunlight Cream Ale, fall in the 4-to-6 percent range. Cutters Imperial Stout clocks in at a whopping 10 percent.

Ale. A general category of beer made with yeast that floats to the top during production due to the warm temperatures at which it is brewed.

ESB Extra Special Bitter, Broad Ripple Brewpub, Indianapolis
ESB Extra Special Bitter, Broad Ripple Brewpub, Indianapolis

ESB Extra Special Bitter. This English-style ale can be an acquired taste due to its bold flavor profile. Don’t let the “bitter” scare you, though; this brew goes down smoother than you might think. Broad Ripple Brewpub makes the quintessential local version.

Growler. A 64-ounce reusable jug, usually glass. You can pick (and fill) one up at almost any local microbrewery in town for about $10—although nobody beats Sun King’s $5 Fridays.

IBU International Bitterness Units. The measure of a beer’s hoppiness. Generally, IPAs rank high, like Flat12’s Half Cycle at 104 IBU; smoother malts and light beers rank low, like Fountain Square Brewing’s Workingman’s Pilsner at 25.

Imperial Pint. A pint is a pint, right? Wrong. Imperial pints, like the kind commonly served in Europe (and some local places like Broad Ripple Brewpub), contain 20 fluid ounces. American pints only hold 16.

BarFly IPA, Barley Island Brewing, Noblesville
BarFly IPA, Barley Island Brewing, Noblesville

IPA. India Pale Ale. The English made these beers extra hoppy to preserve them on the long trip to the colony in India, thus the name. Given the fact that they now sell better than any other craft variety, almost every local brewery makes one. Daredevil Brewing went as far as starting its operation producing nothing else.

Lager. A general category of beer made with yeast that sinks to the bottom during production due to the cold temperatures at which it is brewed.

Pilsner. A pale yellow beer, like the ones produced by Budweiser, Coors, and Miller. Craft versions, such as Outliers Blau Machen Pilsner, tend to be slightly more full-bodied and tastier. Sometimes confused with a Kolsch, a similar but less bitter variety.

Session Beer. The kind of low-alcohol beer you can drink slowly over a period of several hours (a session) without getting totally hammered. Typically, a light pale ale such as the Flat12 Walkabout (5.3 ABV) fits the bill.

Cream Stout, Black Swan Brewpub, Plainfield
Cream Stout, Black Swan Brewpub, Plainfield

Stout. A black malty beer that’s the source of many arguments over how it differs from a porter, another dark brew. Historically, a stout was just the name for a strong variety of porter. But today, they’re not always brutally high in alcohol—Triton’s Deadeye Stout only carries a 5.5 ABV.

Wheat. A beer brewed with a disproportionate amount of—you guessed it—wheat. Different strains of yeast also are used in the fermentation process, giving the beers a slight taste of banana. None sells better in Indiana than Upland’s variety.

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