If you simply want a pint or bottle of something ice-cold, you don't need to know any more than the words beer and perhaps please.
But if you're interested in the incredible plethora of beer styles being brewed today, in what is nothing less than America's Beer Renaissance, it can be useful to expand your beer vocabulary beyond just lager or ale.
Here are seven words every beer lover should know and why.
1. Adjunct. What it means: Anything that isn't malted barley. Why you should know it: Many industrial-sized breweries will use cheaper ingredients like corn or even sugars to increase alcohol content on the cheap. This why Malt Liquors can pack an 8 percent alcohol-by-volume punch and only cost 99 cents for 32 ounces. This is a great deal if you enjoy the taste of nail polish and corn husks. Not all adjuncts are simply a means to cheaper booze, though — see "craft beer," below.
2. Bomber. What it means: A 22-ounce beer bottle. Why you should know it: This oddball bottle size was embraced early by American craft brewers. Bombers are a perfect size for sharing and many breweries release their more limited beers only in this bottle size.
3. Bottle/cask-conditioned. What it means: Naturally carbonated via re-fermentation in the bottle or keg. Why you should know it: Beer purists insist this is the only proper way to make proper beer. Most beer is "force" carbonated, meaning carbon dioxide is infused into beer in a brite tank, rather than occurring naturally as a byproduct of fermentation. Bottle/cask-conditioned beer is usually unfiltered and has a softer, less biting feel on the tongue. Conditioning can also facilitate longer shelf life, and conditioned beers are better candidates for cellaring.
4. Craft brewery/beer. What it means: Brewers debate the meaning vociferously, but it generally means a brewery that brews all malt beverages — or if adjuncts are added, they are used to heighten flavor concentration rather than lessen flavor or provide alcohol on the cheap. Why you should know it: America is still leading the way in some fields, and beer is definitely one of them. Many countries, including Denmark, Norway and Scotland, are studying and imitating the "extreme" style of brewing that has flourished in America in the last decade. So the next time some uppity foreigner ridicules the good ol' U.S. of A., offer them a Dogfish Head 120 Minute IPA and ask them if they have anything like that back in their home country.
5. Hop bomb. What it means: Any beer that is made with so many hop additions that the hop aroma and flavor become dominated by said hops. Why you should know it: Hops can display floral, spruce, pine, grapefruit and other citrus aromas and flavors and also provide beer with its bitterness. A good hop bomb of a beer takes all the aromas of a grapefruit grove and blends it with the bitterness of hotly contested divorce.
6. Imperial. What it means: Originally a reference to Imperial Stout, a higher alcohol version of stout, the term has come to mean any higher-alcohol version of an existing beer style, such as Imperial Pilsner or Imperial IPA. Why you should know it: Because if you don't know what it means, and you order a few Imperial Pilsners thinking you're getting a 5 percent alcohol-by-volume lager, things could get out of hand. Quickly.
7. Session beer. What it means: A lower-alcohol brew designed so that one can consume several without feeling the need to become a disciple of the porcelain god. Why you should know it: Session beers actually take more skill to craft than high-alcohol bruisers. Lower-alcohol beers exhibit flaws more readily than those packed with tons of malt and hops. The true test of a great brewer is how well he or she brews these easy drinking ales and lagers.
— Joey Redner is a Tampa resident and world beer traveler.