The independent consumer guide to beer product
BeerDates.com -- The Glossary!
Continuing the relentless display of my many bad habits, BeerDates.com
recklessly throws about words and terms that may be unfamiliar to people
who don't spend 40 hours a week around a beer cooler (such people are more
commonly referred to as "normal human beings"). Below is a quick
tour of some some professional jargon that I've picked up from salesreps
and truck drivers, rounded out with a few basic beer terms.
This isn't meant to be an exhaustive list of every term relating to
beer. In particular, this glossary only defines beer styles
when they're common enough to be (mis)used by the Big 4 breweries. If you
want to know all the esoteric definitions, try the Beer Hunter's list of beer
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- Technically, beer fermented using top-fermenting yeasts like
Saccharomyces cerevisiae. Legally, some states redefine any beer
with more than 4% alcohol (by weight) to be an ale.
- barley wine
- High-alcohol (at least 6% by volume) ales. Barley wines are the
classier cousins of malt liquors, strong beers, and superlagers
(q.q.v). Barley wines are really outside the scope of this site, at they're
designed to age well, much like "real" wine.
- Industry term for those flimsy carboard things that hold 6-packs (of
bottles) together. Also known as a carrier or liner.
Latrobe Brewery is the only company (that I'm aware of) using this term in
its advertising: they call a Rolling Rock 6-pack a "basket of
- bier forte
- French for strong beer
- Mead Packaging's trademarked name for baskets (q.v.). Meade Packaging prints boxes for
Miller Brewing and Anheuser-Busch.
- To avoid confusion, BeerDates.com always uses the word
"box" to refer to the cardboard package (of cans or bottles) sold
to the consumer. Such boxes should not be confused with cartons (q.v.), which may contain more than one box.
- A bar or restaurant that serves beer brewed on the premises. In many
states, the brewing licenses granted to brewpubs specifically prohibit
selling the brewpub's beer off premises, so that the brewpub is the
only place you can buy their beer.
- Canadian-style dating
- Most Canadian breweries use a
three-character product date. The first character is a single letter,
indicating the month the beer was brewed, ("A" is January,
"B" is February, and so on, except the breweries skip
"I", so the last four months of the year are J, K, L, and M). The
next two characters are the day of the month. Some breweries add a one- or
two-digit year immediately afterwards.
- Another term for basket (q.v.).
- Industry term for the rectangular box or tray that holds together a
case's worth of beer for shipping, but isn't necessarily meant to be
sold as a case. Cartons have short sides (the sides
with the handles, where applicable) and long sides (which are
usually the sides with production codes stamped on them.
- A carton containing four 6-packs is often referred to as a
"4/6" in print. Likewise, a carton containing two 12-packs is a
- Cartons are also called shells.
- In the United States, a "case of beer" usually contains 24
individual containers, (i.e., 1 loose
case (q.v.), 2/12 packs, 4/6 packs, etc). Large bottles (22 oz or
more) usually have 20 or less bottles per case.
- General Packaging's brand name for their alternative to six-pack
rings. Composipacs are wire-reinforced pieces of cardboard that are
wrapped around the top, bottom, and long sides of the six-pack, so the only
way to get cans out is to `pop' them out of the ends of the package.
General Packaging prints boxes for Unibev Ltd.
- contract brewery
- Beer companies that pay other breweries to brew their beer for them. Pete's Brewery, for
example, pays the Stroh Brewing Company to brew Pete's Ales at Stroh
- craft beers
- A vague term for all the beers who stake their reputation on
not being brewed by one of the major breweries, usually with
advertising campaigns emphasizing "old-fashioned brewing
techniques", family-owned companies, "hearty beer flavor"
and other homespun characteristics.
- The craft beer trend began with microbreweries, brewpubs (q.v.), and smaller national companies (like
Sam Adams), but the
major breweries now have their own craft brews, often put out by
subsidiaries intended to look like microbreweries.
- A case (q.v.) of beer
cans with the cans arranged in two "layers". Most breweries use
the word cube to refer to a 24-pack with two layers of 12 cans each, but
Miller Brewing cubes are 30-packs with two layers of 15 cans each.
(Neither "cube" is perfectly cubical.) Cubes are often seasonal
items, only available when breweries are making a promotional push.
- See also Duostack™ and
- The "middleman" in beer sales. The distributor buys the beer
from the breweries, and resells it to the retail stores, who sell it to
consumers, who then presumably drink it. When beer passes date on the
shelves, retailers return it to the distributor, who often absorb the lost
- double deuce
- Industry slang for a 22-once bottle of beer.
- Mead Packaging's trademarked name for a box holding 12 bottles.
- Mead Packaging's trademarked name for cube packaging (q.v.). (Do you get the feeling that
Mead takes this packaging thing way too seriously?) See also Twinstack™.
- dry beer
- Inspired by German beers designed for diabetics (really!), North
American dry beers were low-carbohydrate beers advertised as having less
aftertaste. Most beer drinkers just thought they had less taste, period.
- German word for wheat beer.
- ice beer™
- Ice beers are beers that have been cooled below 0° Celsius near
the end of the brewing process, so that loose water in the beer begins to
freeze, and can be filtered out, along with some "impurities".
Ice beers usually have a slightly higher alcohol content than their non-Ice
- Labatt Breweries,
Ltd. actually has a trademark on the term "Ice Beer". Look
carefully at competetors' ice beers, and you'll notice they always use
phrases like "ice-brewed beer" to avoid infringing on the Labatt
- Julian date
- A date expressed as a three-digit number representing a day of the year
(on a non-Leap year, January 1 is 001 and December 31 is 365); equivilent
to to the strftime(3) conversion specification. Many
breweries use Julian dates in production
codes (q.v.), often adding the year as a single digit before or after
the Julian date.
- Beer fermented using bottom-fermenting yeasts like Saccharomyces
carlsbergensis. Note that some states require lagers with more than 4%
alcohol (by weight) to be labeled as ales.
- Another term for basket (q.v.).
- loose (cans)
- Industry jargon (it appears on invoices) for a package of 24 cans (i.e.
"a suitcase box") because such a package can be shipped
"loose", without carriers or a carton (q.v.). 18- and 30-packs are not
referred to as loose cans, despite being as free-standing, too. See also
- malt liquor
- Malt liquors are traditionally made with excessive amounts of cheap
sweeteners, creating inexpensive, high-alcohol beers that can be marketed to
budget-conscious alcoholics. In some states, "malt liquor" is actually a
legal term, required to appear on any beers with more than 5% alcohol content.
- manufacturer number
- The first five digits of every beer's Universal Product
Code identify which company markets that beer -- two beers that have
the same manufacturer number were produced by the same brewing company.
Manufacturer numbers can therefore be used to help match brands to
breweries, and to dating schemes.
- Two beers having different manufacturer numbers, on the other hand,
doesn't guarantee the beers are really from different companies.
Corporations are allowed to use different numbers for subsidiary
- Merchandisers are annoying people that distributors (q.v.) send to retailers to help beer
sales. Merchandisers like to rearrange shelves (so their company's
products get all the good shelf space), put up big signs (advertising their
company's products), and stick rebate stickers on beer as appropriate (but
they never sticker all the beer). Merchandisers are kinda
- notched date
- Beer bottles with notched dates have a ruler-style list of months and
years along the edge of a label, with a notch on the label indicating which
month/year that particular bottle expires in.
- pilsener (pilsner)
- Originally, it referred to a style of golden lager originating from
Pilsen (Bohemia). For most American beer companies, however, "pilsener" is
just a codeword for "yellowish watery lager". You have been warned.
- premium beer
- A useless industry term. There are a lot of useless industry terms.
- production code
- The most general term I could
come up with (actually, I stole it from a Labatt employee) for the
mysterious strings of numbers printed on most beer sold in the United
States. Production codes usually contain a shipping or expiration date for
the beer in question.
- Retailers' practice of placing perishable products on shelves so that
the oldest products sell first. At its most basic, all good rotation
requires is that new deliveries are put on shelves behind previous
deliveries, but you would be surprised how many retail employees can't
figure that one out. Bad rotation obviously increases the chances beer
will be expired on the shelf.
- Ruff Rider™
- Riverwood International's trademarked name for basket (q.v.) packaging. Only seen on the baskets they
print for Guinness
- Shortened form of "sales representative", the person that beer distributors (q.v.) send to retail stores (and
bars) to take orders. (This entry exists mostly to note that the shortened
form of the word appears to be the favored non-gendered term for what were
formerly know as salesmen.)
- Another term for carton (q.v.).
- The area where a beer bottle flares out from the neck towards the body
of the bottle. The shoulder is a common location for production codes (q.v.).
- strong beer/bier forte
- In Canada, a marketing term for ice beers (q.v.)
with more than seven percent alcohol by volume. Two popular brands of
strong beer are Labatt Maximum Ice and Molson XXX. Strong beers are
not marketed in the United States.
- European term for "super strength lagers", a category of high-alcohol
(usually 8.5% to 11% by volume), low-prestige beers typically sold in large
cans. (So, in si