All the craft beer terms you were afraid to ask about, explained

We talked to a brewer to find out what all those weird words and abbreviations mean.

Have you ever wondered what the heck your friend means when they're talking about beer? 

We've been there, so we're here to help. We talked to head brewer Keigan Knee of Modist Brewing in Minneapolis and had him explain some common – and sometimes misunderstood – words that are used when talking about craft beer. 

Here they are (with more coming soon): 

What does ABV mean? 

ABV – alcohol by volume – is the percentage of alcohol content in a beer. The average, according to CNBC, is an ABV of 5.9 percent. 

What does it mean when a beer is clean?

Clean can refer to how well the beer is produced (there aren't any flaws in it), to the equipment and brewery being clean, to the yeast that's used (one that doesn't have much flavor). 

What does easy to drink mean?

The beer is literally easy to drink. The flavor isn't aggressive, it's approachable – like a pale lager. It's light on alcohol and body, and typically pretty refreshing. 

What does hoppy mean?

Hoppy is a blanket term that can mean anything from something tasting bitter to being very aromatic and flavorful. So when saying the type of beer you like to drink, it's good to specify whether you like a beer bitter or not – don't just say you do or don't like hoppy beers. 

What's an IBU in beer?

IBU – international bitterness unit – is a measurement of how bitterness is perceived in a beer, but the term isn't that accurate because sometimes a beer can have high IBUs, but not taste bitter at all. 

What does piney mean?

It's when a beer smells and/or tastes kind of like pine needles or is reminiscent of fresh-cut lumber. This can come from the hops, or if a brewer adds pine needles or spruce tips into the beer. 

What's a malty beer?

Malty (it comes from what malt – or grain – is used in the beer) can mean how sweet a beer could be or how rich the flavor is. The less hop-forward beers tend to have a more malt-forward taste. 

What's mouthfeel?

Mouthfeel is how the beer feels in your mouth, or how much body it has. It can range from feeling like water, with little flavor, all the way up to a heavy, thick body.

What does SRM mean?

SRM – standard reference model/method – is a way to measure what color the beer is. Technically, it's how much light can go through a beer. 

Is there a beer term you don't quite understand? Let us know, and we'll get it defined and add it to the list above. Just send Melissa an email at 

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