Beer Bible

Knowledge and understanding enhance the enjoyment of any food and drink, indeed of any cultural activity; a tradition as long as the brewing and drinking of beer, and involving as many people, carries with it a history and language of it's own. We have compiled a small dictionary, a beer buff's bible, to enrich your knowledge of the craft and history of beer.

(Taken from The Story of Beer - A New Zealand History by Gordon McLauchlan published in 1994)
  • Alcohol by volume (Alc/Vol) ...is the indicator of beer strength expressed as a percentage of alcohol. For example, Steinlager has 5% Alc/Vol which means 5% of the liquor is pure alcohol.
  • Ale ...is now interchangeable with 'beer' but it originally referred to a stronger brew using hops. That's the generally accepted version, but according to the Oxford English Dictionary by the sixteenth century 'beer' was more commonly hopped than ale. The Oxford English Dictionary makes the point, though, that the use of the two words seemed even then interchangeable because they were used in different ways in different localities. The point is that ale was the more commonly used term for the traditional malt liquor throughout most of history in most of England, and it has come back into use in Britain as representing a drink made by more traditional methods, stronger than most of their tap beers. Its first recorded use in English was in AD940, about the time Beowulf was a best-seller. Technically, ale comes from top-fermenting yeasts and Lager from bottom-fermenting yeasts, and beer is now the more common generic name for malt liquor.
  • Aleberry ...was a common drink from the fifteenth century through until the eighteenth. The recipe was to boil ale with spice and sugar and sops of bread.
  • Ale cost ...is a name for the aromatic costmary plant, one of a number of herbs used by brewers before hops became universal.
  • Ale-dagger ...is a word that gives the lie to the common nostalgic view of the English past as euphoria, peopled by decent, honest, peaceable, sturdy chaps. The ale-dagger was commonly worn to the ale-house in the sixteenth century 'for use in ale-house brawls', as the Oxford English Dictionary so succinctly puts it.
  • Ale-hoof ...is a plant called ground-ivy which was once used for flavouring ale.
  • Ale-house ...was used from at least AD1000 until the middle of the nineteenth century.
  • Aleman ...was a name for an ale-house keeper in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries (at least), but reference is made in some histories to 'ale-draper' in the same role, presumably in jest by people who probably wore their ale-daggers in case the joke went bitter, to coin a pun.
  • Ale-tunning ...is an old term for brewing.
  • Ale wife ...was the family brewer in medieval England, always the wife and mother.
  • Apricot ale ...was popular in the 17th century and was still made in Belgium until recently. According to the New Zealand beer writer, the late Pat Lawlor, an un-sourced recipe for apricot ale is: Take to every gallon of ale one ounce and a half of wild carrot seed bruised a little, and hang them in a leather bag in your barrel until it is ready to drink, which will be in three weeks; then bottle it with a little sugar in every bottle.
  • Audit ale ...is the famous brew of Trinity College, Cambridge.
  • Barley ...is the grain now in worldwide use as the base for malting in the brewing of beer. The barley is germinated by adding water and this releases sugars and a number of enzymes important to the brewing process. Many breweries in various parts of the world use what they called carbohydrate 'additives' - usually cane sugar, corn syrup or rice. Wheat and other grains are still used in beer in some countries but almost everywhere now the taste has settled on barley. Barley is also the base material for that other malt liquor, whisky, which is distilled and not brewed.
  • Barley broth ...is a slang name for strong beer.
  • Barm ...is an old name for the froth on fermenting beer.
  • Barrels ...or kegs are now seldom, if ever, used in the brewing industry but were once integral. 'Barrel' is a general term for any wooden container coopered for beer but it also has a specific size of 36 imperial gallons. 'Keg' may also be used as a general term but specifically means 'less than 10 gallons' in England, and 31 US gallons in America. The various sizes are: pin, 4.5 gallons' or 20.25 litres; firken, 9 gallons or 40.5 litres; kilderkin, 18 gallons or 81 litres; barrel, 36 gallons or 162 litres; hogshead, 54 gallons or 243 litres (twelve times the size of a pin); and the real biggie, a tun which holds 252 gallons.
  • Beaker ...is the name for a drinking glass, with a wide mouth like a tumbler, once popular with beer drinkers; now used more as the term for a glass receptacle in scientific experiments.
  • Beer ...at one time in England seemed to refer to a weaker, un-hopped drink for regular and common consumption by the masses (see Ale), but is now interchangeable with ale and even lager. The word comes from a Teutonic source, hence the German word, 'bier' and was first recorded in English about AD100.
  • Beer and skittles ...is a phrase used to symbolise the pleasures of life. In 1837, the Pickwick Papers by Charles Dickens carried the phrase; "It's a regular hobby to them - all porter and skittles" . Twenty years later, Tom Brown's Schooldays, carried the sentence; "Life isn't all beer and skittles". So skittles must be good fun.
  • Beer drinking records ...are not attempted nowadays nor the details kept. It is not only swinish but dangerous. In 1960, a one-legged Sydney man, Harold Fulton, drank sixty 10-ounce beers in 8 hours, a feat surpassed a short time later in Kumara by a 34-year-old New Zealander, Edward Case, who guzzled 61 long beers (totalling 4 gallons and 2.5 pints) in less than 8 hours.
  • Beer float ...is a common name for a hydrometer used to measure the specific gravity of beer.
  • Beer money ...was an allowance of one penny a day given to British soldiers during the nineteenth century in lieu of a daily issue of beer or spirits. The term is sometimes als used as a figure of speech for discretionary spending money.
  • Beer mugs ...have been fashioned over thousands of years from clay ceramics, leather, pewter, sliver, wood - from any material that has ever been made into a receptacle for liquid. Many were called tankards. Famous German ceramic beer mugs are called steins and may be ornately decorated and have a hinged lid, raised by the thumb for the act of drinking. In modern times glass has been favoured because glasses can be mass-produced and easily washed. A true imperial pint glass was called 'a handle' because, like ceramic mugs, it had a handle on a side. A 'West Coaster' was the name for a pint without a handle and, although that name has lapsed, the handle-less pint (or, rather, a metric measure approximating a pint) now predominates. During The Swill years, and more particularly when the price of beer was controlled, standard glasses used by hotels were, at first, twelve ounces, then ten ounces (a way to increase the price surreptitiously) and then, for may years, eight ounces. Some people, perhaps anticipating a long session, would drink from five-ounce glasses in an eight ounce school. The smaller glasses were also held in bars for spirit drinkers. Otherwise a drinker's choice was limited because standardisation helped with the efficient dispensing of beer in jam-packed bars during the truncated drinking hours of The Swill. But in private bars, lounge or house bars (often the same room under a different name) in which woman were likely to be among the drinkers, a 'lady's waist' glass - so-called because it was sveltely tall and curvaceous for its capacity - was usually served as a fairly feeble gesture to elegance. All the hotel glasses were invariably plain, however, mass-produced for many years by New Zealand's only glass company. Since light and bubbly lagers have come to dominate public taste during the past two decades, tall, conical glasses have become fashionable, and for a very good reason. As with champagne, beer looks liveliest in a glass in which it can work from a narrow bottom upwards and outwards. It is important that beer be served in glasses which have not been washed in detergent - and that includes dish-washing machine powder. The detergents make event he most lively beer go flat.
  • Bitter ...is a term which seems often misused these days. It implies the beer has a well hopped, piquant flavour, but where a brew is also primed with cane or corn sugar, it may have a sweet finish.
  • Blackberry ale ...was a special brew once made of strong wort with blackberry juice added for flavour.
  • Blackjack ...is a leather tankard, sometimes lined with silver, common in the 18th century.
  • Bock ...or boc, is a strong and dark German beer, usually bottom-fermented. Doppelbock is even stronger and darker.
  • Bottle conditioned beer ...is bottled on yeast lees and, therefore, conditioned in the bottle. The beer is cloudy when poured. Most commercial beer is conditioned before filtration at the brewery and is clear when poured.
  • Bottom fermentation ...occurs when the yeasts fall to the bottom of the fermentation vessel. It is characteristic of certain yeasts, whereas others may float to the top. Lagers were traditionally made with bottom-fermented yeasts, and almost all New Zealand beers are now made this way. (see Top fermentation).
  • Bottle-o ...was a name given to those who collected empties for return to the bottle-makers for re-use. The brown quart bottle, the standard beer receptacle, was taken back to the supplier for twopence or a penny each, cleaned, refilled and relabelled for sale. Almost every town in New Zealand had someone called 'Fred the Bottle-o' or 'Sid the Bottle-o'.
  • Bottoms up ...is an exhortation to drink up, usually a toast, not now in general use.
  • Brewer's grains ...is the residue of grain left after the beer has been drained off and was once sold for stock food.
  • Brewer's tree ...a ladder-like wooden structure placed across the top of vessels during brewing when vats were wooden and open.
  • Bride ale ...is an old English term which literally means wedding ale, as explained by John Bickerdyke in his The Curiosities of Ale and Beer, published in 1886: "Bride-ale, also called bride-bush, bride-wain and bride-stake, was the custom of the bride selling ale on her wedding day for which she received by way of contribution any sum or present which her friends may choose to give her".
  • Broaching ...is what you had to do when beer came in a keg - by tapping the bung.
  • Burton-on-Trent ...has been a centre of English brewing for hundreds of years, with many of the major British brewers still having plants in the town. The reason is the water supply which has high levels of calcium, magnesium and sulphate. The water has provided such a characteristic flavour for beer that breweries around the world, including New Zealand, have 'Burtonised' their water - that is, they have added calcium salts and other minerals. The famous pale ales of last century were made in the north Midlands town which had is heyday from the 1860s through the 1890s when it completely dominated the English industry. London brewers couldn't match them, even though they suspected it was the water which made the difference and tried many additives. The only British breweries who could make acceptable pale ales were in Edinburgh where the water was similarly hard.
  • Buttered ale ...is mentioned in Pepys diary (1662) '...had a morning draught of buttered ale'. Sugar, cinnamon and butter were added to beer brewed without hops. The Alcoholic Liquor Advisory Council would come out strongly against the use of buttered ale for a 'morning draught'.
  • Cane sugar ...is still used by major brewing companies as a carbohydrate adjunct which is fermented out by the yeasts and therefore is not tasted in the finished beer. It is also used to 'prime' the brew at the end of the process which will have the effect of sweetening it.
  • Canned beer ...was first marketed in the United States (home of the six-pack). It was introduced to New Zealand in the 1950's, when brewers here used steal containers because aluminium and the appropriate canning lines were not available. Now all brewers use aluminium cans. The advantages of cans are they are more portable and easier to stack than bottles and are not penetrated by light which can lead to deterioration of the beer quality. The disadvantage is cans require very careful filling to ensure the absolute minimum of air is left inside the seal. The more air left, the faster the flavour will deteriorate in time.
  • Caramel ...which is sugar burnt brown, is still used to colour some brews.
  • Cardinal ...is a mulled beer.
  • Cardinal huff ...was a popular beer-drinking game during the 1940s.
  • Ceres ...was the Roman god of renewal and, thus, grain from which beer is fermented; by extension he became the good-time god of beer. Other romance languages come closer to Ceres with their generic name for beer; for example, Cerveza in Spanish - and some pretty good brews they make too.
  • Chaser ...is the term for a beer drunk immediately after a spirit, usually a whisky.
  • 'Cheers!' ...is by far the most common toast call, all but obliterating once occasionally used alternatives such as 'Here's how!', 'Mud in your eye!', 'Good luck!', 'Skin off your nose!', 'Down the hatch!', 'Bottoms up!', and Casablanca's famous 'Here's looking at you!'
  • Church ale ...was the name given to the ale drunk at festivals held by churches to raise money, until the early 18th century, and came to represent the festivals themselves. Whitsun Ale and Christian Ale were similar festivals.
  • Cling ...is the term to describe how well the froth on a glass of beer holds on to the side of the glass. A beer is said to have good cling when beads and bubbles of froth hold on to the glass as it is emptied.
  • Cock ale ...is an extreme example of a number of local variations over the ages to the simple process of brewing beer. Strong tasting herbs and mineral additives were used, often to smother the pretty awful flavours resulting from the intrusion of wild yeasts. The following is another unsourced recipe given by Pat Lawlor in his The Froth-Blowers Manual: Take a Cock of half a year old, kill him and truss him well, and put into a Cask of twelve Gallons of Ale, to which add four pounds of Raisins of the Sun well pick'd, ston'd, wash'd and dry'd; Dates sliced half a pound; Nutmegs and Mace two ounces. Infuse the Dates and Spices in a Quart of Canary twenty-four hours, then boil the Cock in a manner to a Jelly, till a Gallon of water is reduced to two Quarts; then press the body of him extremely well, and put the Liquor into the Cask where the Ale is, with the Spices and Fruit, adding a few blades of Mace; then put to it half a pint of new Ale Yeast, and let it work well for a day, and, then in two days, you may broach it for Use; or, in hot Weather the second day: and if it proves too strong, you may add more plain Ale to palliate this restorative Drink, which contributes much to the Invigoration of Nature. It will never catch on here.
  • Cold filtration ...beer is a marketing term which can mean sterile, filtrated, unpasteurised beer. The filtration removes microscopic yeast particles.
  • Collar ...is the ring of froth at the top of a glass of beer.
  • Computators ...is a poncey word for people who drink together in a school.
  • Conditioning ...is the maturation or finishing of beer after it has been fermented.
  • Continuous fermentation ...is a brewing process developed in New Zealand after the Second World War and adopted by some brewers in other countries. The man mainly responsible was Morton Coutts, from a family of early immigrant German brewers. Coutts was the Dominion Breweries expert and, although the development project was a joint operation with Lion, it was his skill, dedication and drive that contributed most to the system. After the 1930s depression and the war, the brewing industry in this country was operating antiquated and inefficient batch-brewing plant and a continuous fermentation plant required relatively less capital and was cheaper to operate. In the simplest terms, the system operated with a twenty-four-hour, seven-day continues feed of wort and yeast at one end of four aligned vessels and a constant flow of beer from the other end. During The Swill, the bulk of New Zealand beer was drunk in public bars out of the tap and one or two mainstay brews only were served in each bar. For this, continuous fermentation was ideal.
  • Cooper ...was a valued tradesman at a brewery who made and repaired barrels when beer was stored and sold in wooden kegs. The term was also used for a half-and-half of stout and porter.
  • Copper ...is another name for the 'kettle', the vessel the wort is boiled or cooked in.
  • Counter lunch ...was a term for the snack food a publican would put on the bar for drinkers until after the Second World War. Usual counter lunch was bread and cheese and sometimes saveloys and meat and pickles.
  • Dog's nose ...is a mixture of beer and gin used at one time as a reviver. It is referred to in Charles Dickens' Pickwick Papers: "He is not certain whether he did not twice a week for twenty years taste dog's noise, which your committee find upon enquiry, to be compounded of warm porter, moist sugar, gin and nutmeg". Forty years later, Mrs Gaskell, in her biography of Charlotte Bronte, said a dog's nose was also rum or ale or a mixture of both, suggesting she was a proper lady who should quite rightly know nothing of these things. In 1863 according to the Oxford English Dictionary, the matter was settled with a recorded reference to 'a mug of beer into which a noggin of gin had been put' as what was called in Yorkshire 'a dog's nose'. (see Noggin)
  • Draught beer ...was once only served through a tap but the term now means pretty well what you want it to. In New Zealand it has come to mean a style of beer as much as anything - brown beer of the flavour and texture you would expect to have pulled for you in a public bar.
  • Dry hopping ...gives a 'green hop' flavour by adding more hops during the conditioning, or maturation, period.
  • Fermentation ...is the action of yeast on sugars which converts them to alcohol. The action also produces carbon dioxide.
  • Filtration ...is the process that removes suspended solids in the beer.
  • Fining ...agents (isinglass or bentonite are the most common) remove suspended solids by attracting particles as they pass through the beer.
  • Flagons ...(see Half-gallon jars)
  • Glasses ...(see Beer mugs)
  • Globe ...is a pewter pot.
  • Green beer ...is a lager coloured with spinach, once common in England.
  • Grist ...is the mashed malt.
  • Grog ...is a course term for any alcoholic drink - in New Zealand particularly beer - although it originally referred specifically to a sailor's tot of rum. It is said to come from an Admiral Vernon, known as 'Old Grog' because he wore a cloak made of gorgram (a coarse cloth), who in 1740 ordered the rum to be watered down.
  • Guinness ...has become a synonym for the beautiful, velvety stout produced by the Guinness Brewery in Dublin, and one of the few family names included in the Oxford English Dictionary. Guinness is now brewed in New Zealand under licence by Lion Breweries, and is imported in cans. The large cans effect the same volatile drink as the creamy, foaming draught by virtue of a 'widget' inserted in the bottom which releases nitrogen when the can is opened. The 'widget' - yes, they named it that in their inimitable Irish way - won a British Industry invention award some years ago.
  • Gyles ...are wooden vats used before the modern stainless steel technology took over. Kauri was a good timber for gyles because it is knot-free and very strong. Consequently, much of it was sent to Britain for use there. Unlike wine, beer does not improve by leaching flavour from the wood, so the inside surfaces of the gyles had to be vigorously and carefully waxed.
  • Half-gallon jars ...of flagons, became popular during The Swill. They were filled with the same draught beer available in public bars to take home for evening or weekend drinking. Drinkers could take their own washed flagons or swap their empties for those pre-filled and corked ready for sale. Some hotels had large flagon-filling stations, usually in or near the bottle store. Flagon beer would keep in good condition for up to forty-eight hours lying sideways in the fridge, but once opened needed to be drunk at one session - no great hardship during the fairly bleak days of the quiet old Kiwi weekend. It was used in the title of a number of books as symbolic of a lifestyle, including Austin Mitchell's famous The Half-Gallon Quarter-Acre Pavalova Paradise (1972). The half-gallon jar was preceded by the 'flagon' which, in turn, was preceded by the 'square rigger' and the 'bluey'. They all died with six o clock closing although a trade exists in the smaller, plastic 'party pets', a name which would never have taken hold in the macho days in the public bar.
  • Hops (humulus lupulus) ...catkins, or flowers are traditionally added to the beer at the brewing stage as a natural preservative and to give that bitter taste which has become a characteristic of the beer flavour. Modern varieties have been developed to increase the amount of alpha acid in the plant, and therefore, the degree of bitterness, enabling brewers either to use less hops or to produce a stronger flavour. Nowadays, the dried catkins are compressed into pellets at a factory in Nelson, making them easier to handle and transport; in some countries further processing into hop oil is carried out.
  • Huff ...was the name of a strong beer made in Winchester. It was also known as 'huff-cap'.
  • Hydrometer ...(see Beer float)
  • Kettle ...is the vessel in which the wort is cooked. (see Copper)
  • Lager ...has come to mean any light, lively beer but was originally descriptive of a German method of brewing using bottom-fermenting yeasts, followed by a traditionally long period of cold storage called 'lagering'. Most modern beers are brewed using bottom-fermenting yeasts and so are technically lagers.
  • Lambic ...beer is made in Belgium traditionally using wild yeasts rather than a specific yeast.
  • Lauter tun ...is the vessel used in the brewing process to drain clear wort from mash residue. Hence the word 'lautering' from draining the wort.
  • Light strike ...is the term for beer which has come into contact with light and developed a sulphurous flavour, known as 'skunky'. The condition may occur quite quickly, after as little as thirty minutes in bright sunlight. Beer has traditionally been put in brown bottles to reduce light exposure.
  • Little brown jug ...is a beer drinking vessel of the 18th century, immortalised in the popular song, 'Little Brown Jug, I love thee...'
  • Malt ...is produced by steeping the grain (almost invariably barley) in water to start germination which produces sugar and enzymes basic to the fermentation process. Once an appropriate level of germination is complete, the grain is heated, or 'roasted' in a kiln to halt the germination and give that rich malt flavour to the beer. Malt liquor is a generic term for any beverage made from fermented malt.
  • Mashing ...is the process by which the grist is mixed with hot water to extract the sugars from the malt.
  • Matai beer ...was a liquor made by pioneer bushmen in the 'dry' King Country from the sap of the matai tree fermented with sugar; it was reputedly very strong.
  • Mild ...beer is an English term for a lightly hopped, lower alcohol brew.
  • Mind your p's and q's ...is a saying which some historians say comes from the days when drinks were slated for payment later and listed under p's for pints and q's for quarts. Thus the injunction to a drinker and bar person to mind their p's and q's. However, possibly a more likely origin is from the printing industry. When type was hand-set, a printer would snatch the fonts from a series of boxes, each one of which held a single letter. The boxes with p's and q's were next to one another.
  • Mulled ale ...is warmed and spiced or sugared. Heated beer is sometimes called 'Poker Beer'. In both cases, the beer is best if it is a brown or dark ale rather than a lighter lager style.
  • Near beer ...has a maximum alcoholic content of 2% and is rarely brewed commercially, except in Belgium which has a remarkable range of beers, some fermented with wild yeasts and using a variety of herbs for flavouring. Modern low-alcohol beers brewed commercially since the drink-driving laws became so tight are as low as 1% but not quite the same as the traditional small beer.
  • Noggin ...goes back to the 17th century in English (and even further in Gaelic) as a name for 'a small drinking vessel; a mug or cup', according to the Oxford English Dictionary, which seemed more often used for spirits than beer but also for measuring additives to the beer once poured. It is also an informal name for one's head.
  • Oast house ...is a kiln in which hops are dried.
  • Osiris ...was the god of fertility in ancient Egypt whose festivals included the symbolic watering of grain to make it sprout; it's not surprising the Egyptians and many since have credited him with being the god who gave us the blessing of beer.
  • Pale ale ...is a term not much used nowadays, replaced by 'lager'. It means what its name suggests - a beer lighter in colour, but not necessarily of lower strength. In fact, the original and famous India Pale was made higher in alcohol to protect it during its sea voyage from Britain to India in colonial days. Some made its way to New Zealand and was relished. Brewers have since used the name for beers of similar style.
  • Pewter ...is an alloy of tin with, usually, lead, copper or antimony and commonly used for drinking vessels. It was once favoured for beer in New Zealand. Beer writer Pat Lawlor wrote in the early 1960s: 'Beer connoisseurs will agree that it (pewter) is the most desirable vessel from which to drink beer'. Few modern connoisseurs would agree. (See Glasses)
  • Pilsener ...beer, sometimes called Pilsner or Pils, is bottom-fermented, lightish in colour and once peculiar to the town of its origin - Pilsen, in the Czech Republic.
  • Pitching ...is the term for adding yeast to the wort to trigger fermentation.
  • Pony ...was a commonly used term in public bars during the days of The Swill for a small glass, usually a five-ounce, either to limit one's intake or, for the hardened drinker, to use as a chaser to a spirit.
  • Porter ...is a term for a dark beer, about midway between the traditional brown beer and stout. It is brewed with some roasted malt. In London, market porters drank a blend of beer and stout, half and half, so brewers made the special brew to meet their demand. It was popular in Britain for many years and here during the 1920s and 1930s.
  • Portergaff ...is a drink once quite popular in New Zealand, a mixture of stout and lemonade or stout and a dash of raspberry.
  • Purl ...was originally the name for beer or ale with an infusion of wormwood as a bittering agent. By the 19th century it had become hot beer with gin and sometimes ginger and sugar, along with some repute as one of those kick starting morning draughts. The great 18th century journalist and essayist Joesph Addison wrote in The Spectator in 1712; "Twelve o'clock...Drank a glass of purl to recover Appetite'. New Zealand beer historian Pat Lawlor refers to it in the 1960s as a hot beer with a dash of gin in it.
  • Rauschbier ...is smoked beer, liked by German drinkers. It has been described as absolutely the right drink to go with blue cod.
  • Rosemary ...was used as a flavouring and preservative for beer in the 16th and 17th centuries when some brewers, including those who made beer for Henry VIII, believed hops were bad for you. Rosemary is sometimes used by home gardeners as a preservative with stored potatoes.
  • Sarsaparilla ...was once commonly ordered in bars as a non-alcoholic drink.
  • Schooner ...is a large beer glass, a name most commonly used in Australia.
  • Secondary fermentation ...is a second fermentation which occurs during a cool maturation period before full chilling.
  • Shandy ...is a beer with a dash of lemonade.
  • Shicker or shickered ...was a common term a couple of decades ago for drunk. A person was said to be shicker or shickered. It derived from the yiddish word, shiker, and before that from the Hebrew, sikkor.
  • Small beer ...is a weak beer, a synonym for 'near beer'. Small beer is used metaphorically to decry something or someone as of little importance.
  • Sparging ...is the term for spraying the mash with hot water to extract the sugars during lautering. (See Lauter tun.)
  • Spot ...is an euphemism for a drink. Twenty years ago it was common for a person to ask another to 'have a spot', but it's rare now.
  • Steeping ...is the process by which grain is moistened to make it germinate.
  • Stein ...is an earthenware beer mug in the German style.
  • Stout ...is a black beer, usually top-fermented, which gains its colour by heavily roasting the malt (see Guinness). But it's original meaning was 'a very strong malt drink' to quote a 1677 scribe, and 'a beer of extraordinary strength called stout that will bear being made weaker by mixing with small beer' according to another bloke nearly a century later. The meaning comes from the word 'stout' in its sense of a robust person having a strong and heavy body, and it seems to have held that meaning until the 19th century. However, stout doesn't mean strong today even if it looks robust and full of body. The world's most famous stout, Guinness, is only 4%A/V.
  • Swipes ...is a term for bad beer, perhaps spillage returned to the keg or tank. During the worst days of The Swill in New Zealand, some unscrupulous publicans would collect the spillage and recycle it the next day.
  • Tap room ...is a genteel English name for a public bar.
  • Tight ...was used extensively in polite company until quite recently for 'drunk'. The Oxford English Dictionary suggests it began in the middle of the 19th century and is extant but in New Zealand it went out about the time 'pissed' arrived.
  • Top fermentation ...occurs when the particular strain of yeast used stays on the top of the fermentation vessel. At one time, almost all New Zealand beers were top-fermented, but now very few.
  • Toss-pot ...is a disparaging name for a beer drinker who drinks, alas, too much too often.
  • Tumbler ...is a glass drinking vessel with no handle or foot, not ideal for beer but often used. It derives its name from an old Saxon glass which had a rounded bottom so that it had to be emptied before it could be put back on the table.
  • Tun ...is a term used for a huge keg (see Barrels), and for a vat in which beer is fermented.
  • Vat ...is used in the brewing process, and is also know as a tun.
  • Wheat ...beer is nowhere near as common as barley beer but is still made in some countries. The process is the same and the beer is sometimes drunk with a wedge of lemon to enhance the acidity. Traditionally, wheat beers were cloudy.
  • White ale ...brewed with eggs, was once a popular drink in south-west England.
  • Wort ...is the basic ingredient of beer, the unfermented liquid derived from the malting of grain. (Pronounced as in 'Hail to thee blythe Spirit! Bird thou never wert...)
  • X ...was once widely used as a symbol of beer strength by monks. XX represented double strength and XXX triple strength, but what base strength of one X represented no one really knows. One claim is that X was once also used as a stamp by government inspectors to denote a cask or barrel that contained less than the legal thirty-six gallons.
  • Yard ...(sometimes called the 'ale-yard) is a trumpet-shaped glass vessel, with a bell at one end, exactly a yard in length, and is used for drinking competitions. It may contain not much more than a pint but the beer rushes down the length of the vessel once it has been put to the mouth and lifted. The drinker must consume the contents in one swallow or risk being doused with the flood of ale.
  • Ye ancient order of frothblowers ...was established in England in the 1920s, mainly as a source of funds for charities. A 'blower' who enrols twenty-five members becomes a 'blaster' and a 'tornado' for more than a hundred enrolements. The organisations song is the famous, simple and congenial air:
    The more we are together, together, together
    The more we are together, the merrier we will be
    For your friends are my friends and my friends are your friends
    The more we are together, the merrier we will be.
  • Yeasts ...used for the fermentation of beer belong to the species, Saccharomyces cerevisiae. Some of the varieties ferment from the top of the vats and some from the bottom for no fully understood reason. But the varieties can be bred to be true to either the top-fermenting or bottom-fermenting characteristic. Because wild yeasts float in the air most of the time, brewers must keep the environment and all their equipment scrupulously clean to avoid 'infections' which would either vary the flavour of the beer and/or destabilise the brew. In days before the equipment technology was as advanced as today, breweries would have to be abandoned if infections by undesirable yeasts rampaged. But in some countries, Belgium for example, beer is brewed in specific localities and the local wild yeasts allowed to aid fermentation for special brews whose flavour may also be enhanced by fruit additives, although the chance of fairly wide flavour-changes from brew to brew is high. It was only a century ago that Loui Pasteur identified yeasts and gave brewers, for the first time, precise knowledge of the process by which beer had been made for millennia.