With an almost predictable regularity, articles appear lamenting the over-saturation of the craft beer industry, with titles similarly asking “When will this bubble burst?,” or “Is this the end of the Craft Beer Boom?” And almost with the same regularity, follow-up articles show that the Craft Beer Biz is alive and well. And while this New American Beverage Boom has been steadily gaining traction for years now, the ongoing popularity of Craft Beer means there is a steady stream of new connoisseurs, often a bit overwhelmed by a dictionary’s worth of new terminology. This down-and-dirty primer is for them.

Ale vs. Lager: Simply put, this comes down to the style of yeast used in fermentation, nothing more. Ale yeast is more forgiving of temperature during fermentation and ferments more quickly. Lager yeast requires a cool environment of around 50° and takes around a month to completely ferment.

Wort: Pronounced “wurt.” A term you’ll probably only hear in brewery taprooms and amongst homebrewers, wort is pre-fermented beer. Basically all the ingredients and brew-goodness before the yeast does its part.

OG: Not a hip-hop term in this world. “OG” Refers to Original Gravity. This is the measurement, pre-fermentation of the amount of fermentable content in wort. It’s really only useful to brewers, and only truly informative when you know the Final Gravity, but it does show up from time to time on packaging, so it’s worth knowing. Still, if you’re a seasoned beer veteran, it can give you a rough idea as to the alcohol content, or the level of maltiness you could expect.

IBU: This is one you need to know. IBU stands for International Bittering Units. It’s essentially a scale from 0-Whatever that describes how many parts per million of isohumulone (the active ingredient in hops that tastes bitter) are in given volume of beer. Dumbed down, IBU should give you a general idea of how bitter a beer should taste. However, other factors do have an impact on the perceived bitterness such as the level of maltiness. For reference, your domestic lager generally comes in below 15 IBU’s, an American Pale Ale is usually between 40-60, while palate-destroying monsters like Lagunitas’ “Hop Stoopid” comes in at 102.

Nitro: You won’t have to visit taprooms for long before you’ll overhear someone inquiring as to whether that porter or stout is on “Nitro.” Most beers at your local Happiness Dispensary will be on CO2 lines for carbonation. However, some of the heavier-bodied brews do well from being on a mixture of CO2 and Nitrous Oxide. The result is a creamier and smoother pour. It requires special equipment and added expense so when you see this at your local taproom, it’s a good sign that the purveyors care about those extra details.

Hopefully this little cheat sheet has made some of the newer imbibers out there a little more comfortable in a culture of strange new words, flavors and experiences. As with anything, the only way to truly master anything is repetition. So taste, taste, and taste again.