The independent consumer guide to beer product dating. -- The Glossary!

Continuing the relentless display of my many bad habits, recklessly throws about words and terms that may be unfamiliar to people who don't spend 40 hours a week around a beer cooler (such people are more commonly referred to as "normal human beings"). Below is a quick tour of some some professional jargon that I've picked up from salesreps and truck drivers, rounded out with a few basic beer terms.

This isn't meant to be an exhaustive list of every term relating to beer. In particular, this glossary only defines beer styles when they're common enough to be (mis)used by the Big 4 breweries. If you want to know all the esoteric definitions, try the Beer Hunter's list of beer styles.

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Technically, beer fermented using top-fermenting yeasts like Saccharomyces cerevisiae. Legally, some states redefine any beer with more than 4% alcohol (by weight) to be an ale.
barley wine
High-alcohol (at least 6% by volume) ales. Barley wines are the classier cousins of malt liquors, strong beers, and superlagers (q.q.v). Barley wines are really outside the scope of this site, at they're designed to age well, much like "real" wine.
Industry term for those flimsy carboard things that hold 6-packs (of bottles) together. Also known as a carrier or liner. Latrobe Brewery is the only company (that I'm aware of) using this term in its advertising: they call a Rolling Rock 6-pack a "basket of rocks".
bier forte
French for strong beer (q.v.).
Mead Packaging's trademarked name for baskets (q.v.). Meade Packaging prints boxes for Miller Brewing and Anheuser-Busch.
To avoid confusion, always uses the word "box" to refer to the cardboard package (of cans or bottles) sold to the consumer. Such boxes should not be confused with cartons (q.v.), which may contain more than one box.
A bar or restaurant that serves beer brewed on the premises. In many states, the brewing licenses granted to brewpubs specifically prohibit selling the brewpub's beer off premises, so that the brewpub is the only place you can buy their beer.
Canadian-style dating
Most Canadian breweries use a three-character product date. The first character is a single letter, indicating the month the beer was brewed, ("A" is January, "B" is February, and so on, except the breweries skip "I", so the last four months of the year are J, K, L, and M). The next two characters are the day of the month. Some breweries add a one- or two-digit year immediately afterwards.
Another term for basket (q.v.).
Industry term for the rectangular box or tray that holds together a case's worth of beer for shipping, but isn't necessarily meant to be sold as a case. Cartons have short sides (the sides with the handles, where applicable) and long sides (which are usually the sides with production codes stamped on them.
A carton containing four 6-packs is often referred to as a "4/6" in print. Likewise, a carton containing two 12-packs is a "2/12".
Cartons are also called shells.
In the United States, a "case of beer" usually contains 24 individual containers, (i.e., 1 loose case (q.v.), 2/12 packs, 4/6 packs, etc). Large bottles (22 oz or more) usually have 20 or less bottles per case.
General Packaging's brand name for their alternative to six-pack rings. Composipacs are wire-reinforced pieces of cardboard that are wrapped around the top, bottom, and long sides of the six-pack, so the only way to get cans out is to `pop' them out of the ends of the package. General Packaging prints boxes for Unibev Ltd.
contract brewery
Beer companies that pay other breweries to brew their beer for them. Pete's Brewery, for example, pays the Stroh Brewing Company to brew Pete's Ales at Stroh breweries.
craft beers
A vague term for all the beers who stake their reputation on not being brewed by one of the major breweries, usually with advertising campaigns emphasizing "old-fashioned brewing techniques", family-owned companies, "hearty beer flavor" and other homespun characteristics.
The craft beer trend began with microbreweries, brewpubs (q.v.), and smaller national companies (like Sam Adams), but the major breweries now have their own craft brews, often put out by subsidiaries intended to look like microbreweries.
A case (q.v.) of beer cans with the cans arranged in two "layers". Most breweries use the word cube to refer to a 24-pack with two layers of 12 cans each, but Miller Brewing cubes are 30-packs with two layers of 15 cans each. (Neither "cube" is perfectly cubical.) Cubes are often seasonal items, only available when breweries are making a promotional push.
See also Duostack™ and Twinstack™.
The "middleman" in beer sales. The distributor buys the beer from the breweries, and resells it to the retail stores, who sell it to consumers, who then presumably drink it. When beer passes date on the shelves, retailers return it to the distributor, who often absorb the lost revenue.
double deuce
Industry slang for a 22-once bottle of beer.
Mead Packaging's trademarked name for a box holding 12 bottles.
Mead Packaging's trademarked name for cube packaging (q.v.). (Do you get the feeling that Mead takes this packaging thing way too seriously?) See also Twinstack™.
dry beer
Inspired by German beers designed for diabetics (really!), North American dry beers were low-carbohydrate beers advertised as having less aftertaste. Most beer drinkers just thought they had less taste, period.
German word for wheat beer.
ice beer™
Ice beers are beers that have been cooled below 0° Celsius near the end of the brewing process, so that loose water in the beer begins to freeze, and can be filtered out, along with some "impurities". Ice beers usually have a slightly higher alcohol content than their non-Ice counterparts.
Labatt Breweries, Ltd. actually has a trademark on the term "Ice Beer". Look carefully at competetors' ice beers, and you'll notice they always use phrases like "ice-brewed beer" to avoid infringing on the Labatt trademark.
Julian date
A date expressed as a three-digit number representing a day of the year (on a non-Leap year, January 1 is 001 and December 31 is 365); equivilent to to the strftime(3) conversion specification. Many breweries use Julian dates in production codes (q.v.), often adding the year as a single digit before or after the Julian date.
Beer fermented using bottom-fermenting yeasts like Saccharomyces carlsbergensis. Note that some states require lagers with more than 4% alcohol (by weight) to be labeled as ales.
Another term for basket (q.v.).
loose (cans)
Industry jargon (it appears on invoices) for a package of 24 cans (i.e. "a suitcase box") because such a package can be shipped "loose", without carriers or a carton (q.v.). 18- and 30-packs are not referred to as loose cans, despite being as free-standing, too. See also cube.
malt liquor
Malt liquors are traditionally made with excessive amounts of cheap sweeteners, creating inexpensive, high-alcohol beers that can be marketed to budget-conscious alcoholics. In some states, "malt liquor" is actually a legal term, required to appear on any beers with more than 5% alcohol content.
manufacturer number
The first five digits of every beer's Universal Product Code identify which company markets that beer -- two beers that have the same manufacturer number were produced by the same brewing company. Manufacturer numbers can therefore be used to help match brands to breweries, and to dating schemes.
Two beers having different manufacturer numbers, on the other hand, doesn't guarantee the beers are really from different companies. Corporations are allowed to use different numbers for subsidiary companies.
Merchandisers are annoying people that distributors (q.v.) send to retailers to help beer sales. Merchandisers like to rearrange shelves (so their company's products get all the good shelf space), put up big signs (advertising their company's products), and stick rebate stickers on beer as appropriate (but they never sticker all the beer). Merchandisers are kinda annoying.
notched date
Beer bottles with notched dates have a ruler-style list of months and years along the edge of a label, with a notch on the label indicating which month/year that particular bottle expires in.
pilsener (pilsner)
Originally, it referred to a style of golden lager originating from Pilsen (Bohemia). For most American beer companies, however, "pilsener" is just a codeword for "yellowish watery lager". You have been warned.
premium beer
A useless industry term. There are a lot of useless industry terms.
production code
The most general term I could come up with (actually, I stole it from a Labatt employee) for the mysterious strings of numbers printed on most beer sold in the United States. Production codes usually contain a shipping or expiration date for the beer in question.
Retailers' practice of placing perishable products on shelves so that the oldest products sell first. At its most basic, all good rotation requires is that new deliveries are put on shelves behind previous deliveries, but you would be surprised how many retail employees can't figure that one out. Bad rotation obviously increases the chances beer will be expired on the shelf.
Ruff Rider™
Riverwood International's trademarked name for basket (q.v.) packaging. Only seen on the baskets they print for Guinness beers?
Shortened form of "sales representative", the person that beer distributors (q.v.) send to retail stores (and bars) to take orders. (This entry exists mostly to note that the shortened form of the word appears to be the favored non-gendered term for what were formerly know as salesmen.)
Another term for carton (q.v.).
The area where a beer bottle flares out from the neck towards the body of the bottle. The shoulder is a common location for production codes (q.v.).
strong beer/bier forte
In Canada, a marketing term for ice beers (q.v.) with more than seven percent alcohol by volume. Two popular brands of strong beer are Labatt Maximum Ice and Molson XXX. Strong beers are not marketed in the United States.
European term for "super strength lagers", a category of high-alcohol (usually 8.5% to 11% by volume), low-prestige beers typically sold in large cans. (So, in situations where American alcoholics would buy a 40-oz bottle of malt liquor (q.v.), their European counterparts look for a 500mL can of superlager.) The definitive site for information on superlagers is, of course,
Slang term for a loose case (q.v.). I don't actually hear this term very often in the Midwest, but it seems to be more common in other parts of the country.
Riverwood International's trademarked name for a cube package (q.v.). Riverwood International prints boxes for Pabst.
A "two-four" is Canadian slang for a (24-pack) case (q.v.) of bottles. is the independent consumer guide to beer product dating. It is not owned, operated, affiliated with, or endorsed by any brewery or brewing company. In other words, if you want to send e-mail to a beer company, don't send it to me. "Bottlemaster", "Duodozen" and "Duostack" are trademarks of Mead Packaging. "Ruff Rider" and "Twinstack" are trademarks of Riverwood International. Composipac is a trademark of General Packaging. "Ice beer" is a trademark of Labatt Breweries.