I’ll be the first to admit – beer can be a little confusing. Once you become interested in learning about beer, you’re hit with a number of acronyms and terminologies that you may have never heard of before. IBU? SRM? ABV? Huh?
Okay, so unless you’re a brewer it’s unlikely you’ll have to be an expert on every beer term imaginable. But when it comes to selecting a beer for yourself, understanding a few beer terms can help you make a more informed choice. Most craft breweries will list a little bit more advanced information about their product than an average macrobrewery. Let’s break down these terms and see what they mean.
This simply stands for international bitterness units. Once you know that, the rest is pretty self explanatory. IBU generally measures how bitter a beer is on the palate. As you can suspect, bitter tasting beers such as India Pale Ales tend to have higher IBUs. The IBU scale can technically range from 1 all the way up to 120 and over. Some beers even boast IBUs in the quadruple digits, but it’s rare to see beers that boast an extremely low or extremely high number. A standard lager is usually around 10 IBUs, while a run of the mill IPA can be anywhere from 50-80 IBUs. If you’re a fan of bitter beers, you can confidently order something on the higher end of the scale. If you’re a fan of more mild tasting beers, aim for something that scores a little lower.
Another handy acronym – ABV stands for alcohol by volume. This one is fairly easy and probably a measurement you’ve dealt with before when ordering a drink. The lower the percentage, the lower the amount of alcohol per given volume. Beer usually ranges from around 4% for a lighter beer up to a whopping 9% for a double or imperial IPA. Be careful – a drink with a higher ABV can get you intoxicated much faster.
Compared to the other two, this one is a little more technical. SRM stands for standard reference method. This is a way that brewers measure the color of a beer. The lower the SRM, the lighter the beer. A pale lager usually scores about a 2, while a stout is usually around 30-40. This isn’t very important for choosing the right beer for your tastes, but it’s a handy classification method for those who brew their own beer.
The last bit of beer terminology I will leave you with is a session ale or session beer. This is a classification I had heard before, but I had no clue what it meant. Simply put, session ales tend to be lower in ABV than other types of ales. These beers are usually around 3-4.5%, and are brewed so that you do not feel the effects of the alcohol as quickly. Here’s an easy way to remember – session ales mean that you can drink more beer in one session. It’s fun to drink something like a double IPA, but not so fun when you have half your glass and suddenly can’t stand. A session ale means you can prolong your drinking session, taking things at more of a relaxed pace.
Hopefully after this post, you’ve learned a bit or brushed up on your beer terminology. The specificity and variety of craft beer is what makes drinking it so fun. So next time you go to a bar with a board full of information on each beer, instead of confusing you it can maybe help you make a more informed decision!
Hops to you,