Boise Weekly's Beer University 

Earn your bachelor's degree in Treasure Valley brews

Welcome, prospective students, to Boise Weekly's Beer University. The Treasure Valley is currently home to 18 craft breweries, and three more are slated to open in 2016. With so many microbrews making their way onto the local market, it's important to learn a little about what's going on in your glass. From ABV to zymurgy, BW has your buzzed back.

In the following brochure, you'll find an outline of our prestigious and totally fictional BW Beer University curriculum. From a 101 class on basic beer terms to an upper division course on homebrewing, this course will help you get your beer smarts on in Boise. With a little study and a lot of sampling, you can walk away with an imaginary degree in Treasure Valley Beer. Your parents will be so proud.

101: Learn the Lingo, A Glossary of Beer Terms

ABV or Alcohol by Volume: A measurement of how much alcohol a beer contains in relationship to its total volume.

Aromatic Hops: A type of hops that contain lower levels of bitter alpha acids. These hops are added later in the brewing process to impart aromatic qualities. Examples include Cascades and Chinooks.

Barrel: A hollow, cylindrical container crafted from wood staves used to age and condition beer. Also, a unit of measurement equal to 31 gallons of beer.

Beer Engine: A device for pumping beer from a cask in a pub's cellar.

Bomber: A term used to describe a 22-ounce bottle of beer that often contains unique or seasonal releases.

Brettanomyces: A type of yeast that lives on fruit skins in the wild. Brettanomyces is often viewed as a contaminant in beer that can impart off-flavors, but it is integral to certain beers like Belgian ales, wild yeast saisons and farmhouse-style beers.

Carbonation: Carbon dioxide can be introduced into beer in a number of ways. Some brewers inject finished beer with CO2 (forced carbonation), while others add sugar to beer prior to packaging, which creates a secondary fermentation inside the bottle that produces bubbles.

Carboy: A large glass or plastic container with a narrow neck used by homebrewers to hold beer while it ferments. Carboys are generally fitted with a rubber stopper and a fermentation lock that prevents oxygen and bacteria from entering and spoiling the beer.

Fresh-Hopping: Brewers add freshly harvested hops to their brews (when they're seasonally available) to impart unique flavors that aren't found in dried and processed hops. Also called Wet-Hopping.

Growler: A half-gallon (64-ounce) jug often made of glass or stainless steel that's used to transport beer.

Gruit: An herb mixture used to flavor beer before hops were widely available that often included a blend of heather, yarrow, sweet gale, mugwort, juniper berries or rosemary.

International Bitterness Units: A unit of measurement that assesses the amount of bitterness in beer. American light lagers tend to have low IBUs (around 8-17), while super bitter IPAs can clock in anywhere from 40 to 100+ IBUs.

click to enlarge Lactobacillus. - JEFFREY C. LOWE
  • Jeffrey C. Lowe
  • Lactobacillus.

Lactobacillus: A type of bacteria used to make yogurt or cheese that converts unfermented sugars into lactic acid. Though some consider it a beer spoiler, other brewers add it intentionally to impart a sour flavor in their brews.

Malt: Cereal grains (typically barley) soaked in water, germinated and then dried to stop germination and convert starches into sugars.

Mash: A mixture of ground malt and hot water that forms the sweet wort used to make beer.

Nitrogen: A gas used to carbonate beer. It produces a creamy mouth-feel, and bars often serve dark beers like porters or stouts on "nitro" to give them a thick, rich texture.

Primary Fermentation: In this process, yeast is pitched (added) to the wort and, as it reproduces, it converts available sugars into alcohol and carbon dioxide.

Priming: Sometimes brewers add small amounts of sugar to beer before bottling to reinvigorate fermentation in the bottle or keg, which carbonates the beer.

Secondary Fermentation: The second, slower stage of fermentation for top-fermenting beers. This term can also describe the process of adding sugar to beer prior to packaging, which produces bubbles.

Wild Yeast: Naturally occurring yeast in the environment that some brewers allow their beer to ferment with, despite it being much more difficult to control.

Wort: A mixture of mashed malt and boiled hops. When yeast is added to wort, the concoction will eventually ferment into beer.

Zymurgy: Also known as zymology, zymurgy is the applied science of fermentation in brewing, winemaking or distilling.

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