Archive for Beer Tech

Beer and food – how to pair like

“There is food in beer, but there is no beer in food. Beer is like liquid bread – it provides the same necessary nutrients. I say, just lay off the food.”
— Jim Koch, founder of Sam Adams Brewing

Pairing beer and food is an art form, not a set of rules. Thankfully, it’s really hard to truly mess up the multitude of combinations … one may overpower the other, or they may not compliment or contrast each other well, but rarely do the two clash. Therefore, crack open your favorite beer and snack, settle in, and treat this article as a guide, not as a manual. Read more

Ales and Lagers – How they differ

Beer comes in a near infinite variety of combinations and styles, but it can always be placed into one of two categories: ale or lager. Both can be light or dark, low-alcohol sippers (often called “session” beers) or boozy beasts, hop-forward or malty. So how are they different? The yeast.

Ales use … drum roll please … ALE yeast, whereas lagers use lager yeast. While there are technical ways these two yeasts are different (we’ll get into that later), the main difference that the average beer drinker is concerned about is flavor, and the flavors are distinctly different. Lagers tend to be smooth, subtle, and crisp. Ales are generally more robust and complex. Read more

Beer Glass Styles

The American shaker glass - avoid if possibleAmericans have truly messed up the beer glass. Here in the good ol’ US of A, we use the “shaker pint” for our beer … a glass that is so-named because it’s designed to mix drinks not serve beer. It’s also used for soda, milk, water, iced tea, and every other manner of drink. Its ubiquity isn’t the issue … its SHAPE is the issue.

If one set out to design the worst possible beer glass, it very well might look like the shaker. Aroma disappears quickly out the gaping top. The ever widening glass encourages carbonation to flee like guests at a bad party. The wide body forces one to grip it with the whole hand, leading to maximum body heat transfer and rapidly warming brew.

As a bonus, shaker glasses are nightmares to separate if they accidentally get stacked!

The shaker pint has literally no redeeming qualities as a beer glass and should not be used if other choices are available. This is why just about every other beer-loving country uses OTHER glassware. Don’t go throwing out all your shakers, they’re great utilitarian glasses … just not for beer (although it’s almost always better to pour a beer into a shaker than drink it from the bottle/can). Below are some better choices. Read more

IBUs Defined – How bitter is your beer?

The hop cone, source of beer bitterness.

The hop cone, source of beer bitterness and all that is holy!

On the surface, IBUs (International Bittering Units) is a straightforward measurement of how bitter a beer is, but it’s not that simple. Like a super-light colored IPA, appearances can be deceiving. While high-IBU beers are usually quite bitter, the IBU bite can be balanced by high-malt sweetness – so some heavy, sweet, not-at-all-bitter beers like imperial stouts can have higher IBUs than some “punch you in the tongue” IPAs. Read more

SRM Defined – The color of your beer

srm_verticalSRM, or Standard Reference Method, is the primary way we measure/define beer color. The chart to the right gives rough approximations as to the expected color at various degrees.

Below are a pair of charts that further explain what to expect:

Color and SRM
Straw: 2-3
Yellow: 3-4
Gold: 5-6
Amber: 6-9
Deep amber/light copper: 10-14
Copper: 14-17
Deep copper/light brown: 17-18
Brown: 19-22
Ruby Brown: 22-30
Deep Brown: 30-35
Black, opaque: 40+
Styles and SRM
American Light Lager: 2-3
Witbier, Berliner Weisse: 2-4
Pilsner: 2-7
Belgian Strong: 4-7
English Golden Ale: 4-8
Bavarian Weizen: 4-10
Maibock: 4-10
Oktoberfest: 4-12
Pale Ale: 5-14
IPA: 6-15
Vienna Lager: 7-14
Marzen: 7-15
California Common: 10-14
Amber: 11-18
Brown: 12-22
Bock: 15-30
Baltic Porter: 17-40
Porter: 20-40
Oatmeal Stout: 25-40
Foreign Stout: 30-65
Imperial Stout: 50-80

SRM is derived from a color scheme devised by Joseph Lovibond in the late 19th century. The Lovibond Scale was like a stereoscope with different colored glasses that were held next to the beer to determine the color. SRM follows the Lovibond Scale exactly, so sometimes you’ll also see SRM called “Degrees Lovibond.” The two terms are interchangeable.