The Hidden Language of Beer: Navigating the Urban Dictionary Terrain

The Hidden Language of Beer: Navigating the Urban Dictionary Terrain


Grab a pint and settle in, because today we’re talking about beer – and not just any beer. We’re going to explore the fascinating world of beer language, specifically the terms and expressions that make up the unofficial urban dictionary of beer drinkers.

If you’re new to the craft beer scene, or just haven’t spent much time exploring the beer subculture, you might feel a bit lost when you hear people toss around words like “session”, “haze”, and “lacing”. But fear not – we’re here to decode all of these words and more.

So buckle up, beer fans, and let’s dive into the hidden language of beer.

The Basics

Let’s start with the basics. When someone orders a beer, they might ask for it to be served “on draft” or “on tap”. These terms mean the same thing – the beer is being drawn directly from a keg or cask and served fresh, without needing to be bottled or canned.

Next, let’s talk about ABV (alcohol by volume). This term refers to the percentage of alcohol present in the beer, and can vary widely depending on the style. Some beers, like lagers, tend to have a lower ABV – around 3-4%. Others, like double IPAs, can have an ABV of 8% or higher.

Finally, when someone talks about the “head” of a beer, they’re referring to the foam that forms at the top of the glass when the beer is poured. A good head is a sign of a well-made beer, and can enhance the aroma and flavor of the drink.

Styles of Beer

Now let’s take a deeper dive into the different styles of beer, and the terms associated with each.


If you’re a beer fan, you’ve likely already heard of IPAs – they’re everywhere these days. IPA stands for India Pale Ale, and the style originated in England in the 19th century. IPAs are known for their strong hop flavor, which can range from citrusy to piney to floral.

Within the IPA category, there are several sub-styles. For example:

– West Coast IPA: This style is characterized by its hop-forward flavor and strong bitterness.
– New England IPA: Also known as a “hazy” IPA, this style is less bitter than a West Coast IPA and has a more fruity flavor profile.
– Session IPA: This style is designed to be lighter and more drinkable than a traditional IPA, with a lower ABV and less intense hop flavor.


Stouts are usually dark, rich, and creamy, with a flavor profile that can range from chocolatey to coffee-like. The term “imperial stout” is used to describe stouts with a higher ABV – usually above 8%.


Lagers are typically lighter in color and flavor than ales, with a crisp, clean taste. They’re often associated with big beer brands like Budweiser and Coors, but there are also many craft lagers available.

Advanced Beer Terminology

Once you’ve gotten the hang of the basics, you might start hearing beer aficionados throwing around terms like “lacing”, “mouthfeel”, and “cellaring”. Here’s a quick primer on some of the more advanced beer terminology you might encounter:


The term “lacing” refers to the ring-shaped residue that forms on the inside of the glass as you drink a beer. Good lacing is a sign of a well-made beer – it indicates that the carbonation is properly balanced and that the beer has a good head.


Mouthfeel describes the way a beer feels in your mouth. Some beers are light and crisp, while others are thick and creamy. The term “body” is often used to describe a beer’s mouthfeel – a beer with a “full body” will feel more substantial in your mouth than one with a “light body”.


Cellaring beer is the practice of storing beer in a cool, dark place to allow it to develop and mature over time. Some beer styles, like barleywines and Belgian dubbels, are particularly well-suited for cellaring.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What is a “session” beer?

A: A session beer is a beer with a lower ABV, typically between 3-5%. The term comes from the idea that you can drink multiple “sessions” of these beers without getting too intoxicated.

Q: What does “haze” mean when it comes to beer?

A: “Haze” refers to the cloudy appearance of some beers, particularly New England IPAs. The haze is caused by proteins and yeast particles that are left in the beer during the brewing process.

Q: What is a “beer flight”?

A: A beer flight is a tasting experience where you’re served several small glasses of different beers, allowing you to sample a variety of styles and flavors.

Q: What does “sour” mean in the context of beer?

A: A sour beer is a beer style that uses certain strains of bacteria to create a sour or tart flavor. These beers can range from mildly tart to extremely sour.


And there you have it – the hidden language of beer, decoded. Whether you’re a new beer drinker or a seasoned pro, understanding the terms and expressions that make up the beer subculture can enhance your enjoyment of this delicious beverage. So raise a glass – here’s to the language of beer, and all the stories it can tell.

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