After telling everyone to read a book to figure out what mouthfeel is, the thought struck me that there are a lot of words out there that may confuse novice beer drinkers when they’re at a bar, the LCBO, touring a brewery or hanging out with a bunch of beer geeks throwing around acronyms like BFFs.
ABV: Short for alcohol by volume, ABV is quite simply the acoholic strength of the beer expressed as a percentage of total volume. Some states still use alcohol by weight (ABW) as a measurement, which reflects a lower percentage compared to ABV. Fun fact: this is how Canadian beer got its reputation as being strong, when it fact we were just measuring by ABV. ABV is the international standard.
Bottle conditioned: I’ve tried not to insult your intelligence, which is why this list doesn’t contain the four basic elements to every beer (grains, hops, yeast, water). Most beers are filtered before being bottled to remove any leftover yeast to prevent sediment from forming in the bottle. Bottle conditioned beers are either unfiltered or have yeast added again after the filtering process, letting the beers undergo a second fermentation in the bottle. The yeast continues to work away on the residual sugars, creating a live, evolving beer. Bottle conditioning is likely to take place in higher alcohol beers, adding further complexity and smoothing out any harsh flavours.
IBU: Beer geeks love this stat – International Bitterness Units. I hated bio and chem in school so don’t ask how it works, but it is a measure of how much bitterness is in the beer. For example, most pale lagers clock in at 5-10 IBUs, meaning there is very little bitterness. Each beer style has its own standard range of IBUs, though not all breweries follow these guidelines. The limit for IBUs is 100 after which point they become theoretical IBUs, which is awesome in a string theory/Twilight Zone way. If you find that statement absurd, remember that comment I made about hating science (grade 11 physics was the last time I touched the stuff).
Also important to note when you’re looking at IBUs is that bitterness affects paler beers more than maltier ones. The bitterness of a 50 IBU IPA will be more noticeable than a 50 IBU stout. And more IBUs don’t necessarily mean a beer is better, it just has more bitterness.
Mouthfeel: This is not a tricky one and you can probably guess what mouthfeel is – the feel of the beer in your mouth and on the tongue. Think density, viscosity and consistency (thin, slick, oily, creamy, etc). Unlike ABV and IBU, mouthfeel is subjective and will differ between drinkers. See also: body.
Those are four terms that I thought might be confusing to beer newbs. Leave a comment if you’ve got any other head scratchers and I’ll include them in the next round of beer words.