A couple of weeks ago when I wrote my little column about Clarity in Labeling, a buddy of mine asked me afterwards, “Why would anybody need to know the original and final gravity of the beer they’re going to be drinking if the alcohol percentage is listed?” And it’s a fair question. Why indeed? He followed it up thereafter with, “And what does SRM refer to?” So for him and for many, many more people who probably have these questions, I write this post.

Hang with me. It might get a smidge technical and mathy, but by the end you’re going to get some good drinking advice.

I’ll start with SRM, since that’s easy and ends with itself.

SRM = Standard Reference Measure. It’s a standard method of referring to the color of beer.
Beer colors
Without getting too technical: 0 = clear. 40 = black.

How it’s measured (with a spectrophotometer, measuring the attenuation of light through a specifically sized sample of beer) is not important. What’s important is that it’s predictable. A brewer can guess pretty closely, when they are formulating the recipe, what the final SRM is going to be based on the grain bill. You, as a drinker, can know exactly what your beer is going to look like ahead of time if you know the SRM.

You may run into measures of beer color called Degrees Lovibond (°L) and EBC.

Joseph Lovibond used samples of colored glass to match beer colors in a standard manner. When the Standard Reference Measure was developed, it was done so at a particular wavelength of light to match °L as closely as possible, so °L and SRM are essentially interchangeable.

EBC is the European Brewing Convention. It is a color scale developed independently of SRM (which was developed by the American Society of Brewing Chemists). As it happens, EBC to SRM conversion is easy. It is almost twice SRM.

SRM * 1.97 = EBC

Further reading: Check out the Wikipedia Article about SRM and beercolor.com. In addition, Randy Mosher’s Tasting Beer also has an excellent section about beer color.

IBU = International Bittering Units. Sometimes referred to just as BU’s. (Remember that.)

IBUs refer to how bitter your beer is.

If you’re a homebrewer, you may be familiar with AAU (Alpha Acid Units) and HBU (Homebrew Bitterness Units). They are different. AAUs and HBUs refer to the bittering potential of hops based on the percent of alpha acids in the hops. IBUs are a metric measurement of one milligram of iso-alpha acid per liter of beer.

Okay, that’s technical.

The quick and dirty is that the higher the IBU the more bitter your beer is. There’s a fantastic article about it at BYO.

Hold on to BUs, we’ll get back to them.

OG = Original gravity, FG = Final gravity.

These both refer to the specific gravity of liquid. It’s a measure of density. The specific gravity of water at 60°F is 1.000. If you add sugar to water, say – for example – in the form of malt, the specific gravity rises because the liquid is more dense. Original gravity refers to the specific gravity of the wort pre-fermentation. The higher the number, the more sugar is present. The original gravity will look something like this: 1.054. Sometimes, you’ll drop the first two number and refer to the last two as GUs, or Gravity Units. An OG of 1.054 would be 54 GUs. Hang onto that. We’ll get back to it.

Final gravity refers to the specific gravity of the liquid post-fermentation. This is how brewers can calculate the Alcohol Percentage by Volume of the beer.

If your OG = 1.054 and your FG = 1.008, your ABV = 6.25% alcohol.

The formula is (OG – FG)*1000/7.36.

It’s easier if you just drop the “1.” (which I’m going to do for the rest of the article):

54-8 = 46
46/7.36 = 6.25

But! That’s not the most important thing that OG and FG tell you. If you know your OG (GUs!), FG, and BUs ahead of time, you as a drinker, can make a fairly accurate prediction about how your beer is going to taste.

So, if you know the OG and FG, here’s what you can tell about your beer – at least most of the time:

Low OG, low FG: Usually a dry, light-bodied beer. Think a lot of your crisp lagers, wheat beers, etc.

High OG, low FG: Usually a dry, full-bodied beer – probably also incredibly alcoholic. Think Abbey ales.

High OG, high FG: Usually a sweeter, full-bodied beer.

Low OG, high FG: Usually undrinkable. Wha? Yeah. If there’s not a lot of sugar (low OG), the yeast will almost definitely be able to work most of it out of the solution. If it’s a fairly low OG and a fairly high FG, there’s probably something wrong. You will probably never see this in a commercial product.

So what’s high and low? A normal beer – say, a medium-bodied Pale Ale – at 5.5% ABV will probably have an OG of ~50 and an FG of ~10. There’s your mid-range average. 90% of the beer you’ll run into the market will be mid-rangeish, but the numbers will trend in directions. Look for them (if they’re published). If you have homebrewing friends, ask. They should know.

BU:GU – Finally, this is the thing that can tell you what, in my mind, is the most important piece of information: How balanced your beer is going to be. Bittering Unit to Gravity Unit ratio. The only real guide I’ve seen published on this is (again) in Randy Mosher’s Tasting Beer. (Maybe I’ll throw a reference guide out on the web later.)

To give you a quick and dirty idea here are some values based on average numbers from BJCP guidelines.

Light lager: 10 BUs to 30 GUs (1:3) (little-to-no hop flavor)
Bohemian Pilsner (like Pilsner Urquell): 40 BUs to 50 GUs (1:1.25) (fairly well-balanced, hops evident)
English IPA: 50 BUs to 62 GUs (1:1.25) (fairly well-balanced, hops evident)
American IPA: 65 BUs to 65 GUs (1:1) (hoppy)
Imperial IPA: 90 BUs to 80 GUs (1.125:1) (very hoppy)
English Barleywine: 52 BUs to 100 GUs (1:2) (sweet, low hop flavor)
American Barleywine: 85 BUs to 100 GUs (1:1.2) (sweet, hops evident)

Of course, these are average values, each individual beer that you have will be different, but knowing the values up front can tell you what to expect.

To tie this all together, let’s go back to the example that I posted in my “Clarity in Labeling” column, which happens to be the Irish Red ale that I made for a friend’s wedding.

What makes my Irish Red great.

You can see from the SRM of 17 that it’s fairly dark, but not opaque. The Roasted Barley listed up in the grain list is what I was depending on to give the beer a reddish color. Indeed, I came out with a ruby-red kind of color that I think was quite lovely.

You can see from the OG of 50 and the FG if 13 that I listed Alcohol by Weight when I meant to list Alcohol by Volume (whoops). The ABV should read 5%. Heh heh.

Mid-range OG and FG tells you that this is a fairly medium-bodied beer. Maybe a tinge sweet because of the FG over 10.

The IBU listing of 25 tells you that this is not a very hoppy beer and looking at the BU:GU ratio (1:2) tells you that this is balanced toward being a malty beer with low hop character which, I hope, is exactly what we’re looking for out of an Irish Red.

This is just a guide. They’re not rules. Overall, nothing’s going to teach you this stuff better than experience. Until commercial labels carry this kind of information, the best way to do it is to make your own beer or find someone who does. Every time you can drink a beer with these types of descriptive numbers, do so. Think about what they mean to the beer that you’re tasting.

And if you have any questions, by all means, post ’em here.

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Categories: appreciation, homebrew
Posted By: erik
Last Edit: 19 Aug 2009 @ 10 06 AM

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 17 Aug 2009 @ 9:16 AM 

The Greensboro Summertime Brews Festival in photos:

[nggallery id=1]

Good times. I really appreciate indoor beer festivals, and for a couple of reasons:

First off, climate control is your friend. It’s nice to be able to drink beer and NOT be in the blazing heat. The World Beer Festivals in Durham and Raleigh are some of my favorite festivals ever, but when it’s hot you can get drained pretty damn quick. It’s fairly often that I come home from the WBF with a sunburn.

Second, indoor bathrooms always win over port-a-johns.

Last of all, the most magical thing about indoor beer festivals – no smoking. No offense to smokers, but I’m here to taste the beer. Smoking kills your palate. It also kills mine, so I’m happy to taste with as few cigarettes around as possible.

Quick note for people making beer festival programs: Maps and/or booth numbers are nice. Sometimes you’re sitting around going, “Okay, I can see from this list that My Favorite Brewery is here, but where the hell are they?” and they’re hiding behind some bunting or something – maps and numbers help plan what you’re looking for.

Also? Room for notes. Good heavens – room for notes. I might even suggest putting a notes column down the side of the alphabetical list of breweries so that you can look a brewery up and write a note about the beer right there. It makes it a lot easier for people to appreciate the beer now and later.

For whatever reason, I felt like there was a higher percentage of drink-to-get-drunk people at this festival than normal, but to be honest it’s been a while since I’ve been to a smaller festival. Maybe they were just more noticeable. I always consider it a bad sign when you’ve got someone staggering around with a beer-soaked shirt and you’re only an hour or so into a four-hour session.

That said, I really quite enjoyed this. I was pleased to see that a lot of breweries took the time to roll out a special cask or keg specifically for the festival, it was quite a treat. Of particular note were:

Natty Greene’s Southern Ale, wet-hopped with fresh Cascade hops (grown in Mebane, NC) – I understand that it may be making another appearance later in the fall.

Foothills had hourly rollouts of some of their brews aged in Pappy van Winkle barrels. I missed the first two, but the Sexual Chocolate was excellent.

Olde Hickory also had an English Barleywine aged in a bourbon barrel that was excellent – far smoother than without aging – that had just a ton of wonderful vanilla character.

(Next up, I’d like to see somebody age a beer in a barrel that wasn’t used for bourbon previously.)

All in all, the beer that I took away with me the most was Holy Mackerel’s Mack in Black – I had never tried it before and was really impressed. Also saw two local(ish) breweries that I had never heard of before (Boone Brewing Company from Boone, NC and RJ Rockers from Spartanburg, SC – “Beer is Art” is a nice tagline), and was surprised to NOT see most of the North Carolina breweries, especially those who were just an hour-or-so drive away.

It was the first time I’d gone to this festival, with luck, it won’t be the last.

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 14 Aug 2009 @ 11:33 AM 

I don’t believe I’m doing this.

Over the past year or so this topic has popped up from time to time – the topic of beer blogging and why it’s killing craft beer.

Okay, that’s hyperbole.

But in all seriousness, it rears its head occasionally – usually from an established writer who appears to be maybe a little bitter about blogs cutting into their area of expertise. I heard it at the Craft Brewers Conference from established writers. I’ve seen it pop up on wine blogs and in little articles here and there. The latest is from George Lenker at MassLive.com. I kind of wish he could have written his entire article in one go, but you don’t want blog posts to be too long (I should follow my own advice).
Wow.. this is meta.
This is not a response to George – who is an excellent writer, I might add – or anybody in specific, but a response to the topic in general.

The basic gist of most of these seem to be something along the lines of this: “Far be it from me to tell people that they shouldn’t write, but they really shouldn’t write.” and “They’re hurting the industry by not being professional.”

I understand. I do. You’ve got somebody who has been busting their ass their entire life to write. Writing is their bread and butter and they take pride in every word produced. They work night and day to get published and seen and known. It’s hard work. And then? Any jackass with access to the internet and WordPress can just pop up and decide to just blather on about the same topic. Grammar is not considered, audience is not considered, quality, even, is not considered, they’re just writing for – god knows whatever reason – because they love the topic? Pah! Half the time all they do is bitch and moan!

So, partly I see these articles and mutterings and the whole general opinion as part self-preservation, a sort of justification of why what they’re doing is important, and part turf protection.

I’m probably going to get myself listed in the column of “unbalanced and even incendiary writing” by going on from this point, but I think that that point of view is unbalanced and possibly even incendiary.

Here we go.

Blogging is (for the most part) not journalism. Journalism is well-researched, well-constructed, well-edited, informative and generally more lengthy than your average blog post.

Beer bloggers, sorry. It’s true. Blogging (including me!) is almost always op-ed. That is NOT to say that it’s not well-researched, well-constructed, well-edited, and informative.

Journalists, take note: What bloggers do and what you do is vastly different, and if you can’t see that line then I’m afraid you are going to continue to fruitlessly struggle against new media.

The way I see it, there are three types of bloggers:

1) Bloggers who are using their blog for an online diary and to keep in touch with their friends.
2) Bloggers who blog because they love a topic.
3) Bloggers who blog because they are trying to become professionally involved with a topic.

We can pretty much safely dispense with #1 for this conversation. These people are essentially blogging in the place of social media and they pose no threat to any sort of industry whatsoever.

#2 are where I’m assuming most of the incendiary and unbalanced writing is supposedly happening. #3 is probably the real threat. There is a problem where #2 and #3 are not easily differentiated from one another. Sometimes, it’s difficult to tell intention. To be fair, sometimes, #2’s don’t even know that they’re actually #3’s.

Journalists shouldn’t have to worry about #2, either. These are not your competitors, they are enthusiasts. They are fans. They want beer to succeed. Don’t pooh-pooh them. Support them. Write more, they’ll read it. They want it! What’s more – read their stuff – they’re the voice of the enthusiastic consumer. They are the forerunners of market trends. It’s good stuff. There may be misspellings, grammar errors, or whatever, but it’s good information and it’s excellent enthusiasm. As with anything that people are passionate about, you are occasionally going to get somebody who is wound up (hi – that’s me today) who just cranks out some angry stuff. So who cares? It’ll even itself out and go away in time. If anything, it’s making journalism look better, because journalists have the benefit of having an editor.

Since I consider myself part of #3, I’m going to speak from that perspective and give you a little rundown of my motives and feelings and hope that that speaks for all of the other #3’s out there.

I love writing and I love craft beer. I want in on this industry. It was the entire reason that I, with the urging of my very supportive friends, started a blog. Because exposure is important and, come hell or high water, I’m going to carve myself a niche. I do not get paid to write this stuff. In fact, I pay to do this. I have to pay for web space and hosting. If something goes wrong with the site I have to fix it. I don’t have an editor. I have a lovely wife who (thank god) is getting her Ph.D. in English and every time I post I say “Sweetie, please sweetie, I love you, can you fix my post if I sound like an idiot?” I don’t even have extra time put aside for this. I work 40+ hours/week doing something completely unrelated to beer OR writing. I’m busy until 9:30 – 10:00 on most nights, and I’m still doing my best to crank out 2-3 articles/week.

We #3’s are doing this because we want to be like you journalists and this is our way of cutting our teeth. We probably have other jobs and financial obligations that are stopping us from freelancing full-time. Would I love to write full time for a magazine? Hell’s yes. Good GOD, yes. But that’s going to require a lot of time – and a lot more published articles than I currently have on my CV – and in the meantime, in order to keep myself writing and in order to keep myself sharp, I’m blogging. It’s an outlet for ideas and for words.

When you, you established journalist, tell me that blogging is bad for writing, or bad for the industry, or bad for me, it makes me defensive. Because it’s wrong. It tells me that you’re not reading a lot of blogs, you’re just indignant about it in a “Those crazy kids are all over The Google these days! I can’t understand a word of it!” You’ve probably read a few, and maybe you don’t like them, and you’re responding. (Yes, I know. Pot, this is kettle. Hi. Black, are we?)

But you know what? There’s a lot of quality stuff out there, dammit, and I write some of it. Is some of it trash and throwaway? Sure. I bet you write some of those, too. The difference is that you get paid for your throwaway articles. I’m just doing it because sometimes I need a Monday spot and I was really busy on the weekend. And – hey – read the AP feed for an afternoon and tell me that every article that you see is quality writing.

Finally – I read a lot of beer blogs. More than 75% of the time, beer blogs focus on beer reviews. They are usually informative and well-thought-out and (this is important) op-ed. For the most part, they attempt to be fair about the beer involved. 95% of the time, you get fanboy/fangirl praise from bloggers to breweries. I don’t think people really want to be critical, but I do think that the internet is filled with snark. Even when they point out flaws, they generally also point out good things. If there’s incendiary blogging going on out there, I haven’t seen it. I can only assume that it’s me, because all of these other bloggers appear to be nice people.

So opens the comments section. I’m ready. I think. Out with it! Flame on!

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Posted By: erik
Last Edit: 14 Aug 2009 @ 11 35 AM

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This past week, I took a trip to the beach. The Jersey Shore, to be exact. While I was there, I did what I did everywhere: I hunted down beer. My first goal was to find a package store somewhere on the island I was on that actually had a decent beer selection. Rough, but doable. I managed to find some Dogfish Head, some Sierra Nevada, and some Sam Adams and, amazingly, an Affligem Dubbel (which was phenomenal when paired with Stilton, I might add). I could not, however, find any beer from Flying Fish Brewery which is just an hour away, regardless of what they say in their “Down The Shore” section.

The other thing I did, with the magical help of BeerMapping, was track down the only brewpub within an hour drive of me. Luckily, my sister-in-law needed a ride to the bus station nearby, so my wife and I took the opportunity to visit.

We sat down at the dark bar knowing full well that we were soon on our way back to the beach house for prepared dinner on the grill, so we opted for an appetizer – a spinach and cheese dip with pita wedges. It was lovely and very cheesy. My wife ordered the dunkelweiss, I ordered a sampler of all the beers. There was a light lager, an IPA, the aforementioned dunkel, an Irish red, some sort of unspecificed English-style ale, and a bock. As is my custom, I started with the lightest and worked my way to the darkest. What follows is real dialogue:

Me (sipping the light lager): Wow.

Wife: Good?

Me: Well… umm. How’s yours?

Wife: It’s decent.

Me: (sipping the dunkel) Yeah. Okay.

Wife: What do you think?

Me: It’s decent. (taking another sip of the light lager) Holy crap.

Wife: Is that really good?

Me: You’ve got to try it. It’s the best example of an infected tap line I have ever had!

Wife: Uhh.. do I have to?

And that was my positive experience. A perfect example of a tapline with a Pediococcus infection: overpoweringly sour, hazy. Two other beers also exhibited this problem, though not as obviously. I theorize that I probably had the first pull of the day of the light lager (at 5:00 PM). It was amazing. If I had ordered a full pint — and had the bartender seemed less surly — it would have gone back after a sip. As it was, I was almost too thrilled to find the example of something wrong. It’s so rare to get these things in the wild!

It’s actually inexcusable in a brewpub where, presumably, the brewmaster is in frequent contact with the beer and the staff. They even had one of those fancy Brewers Association “Support Your Local Brewery” stickers on the door on the way in! So they’re almost definitely current members of the BA and have knowledge of the Draught Beer Quality Manual. How does this happen?

It’s not just “oh that beer geek will be upset.” That’s hardly the problem. What I drank was unrecognizable as a light lager. It had more in common with a Flanders Red. Sour – unforgivably sour, and nowhere to hide. It’s a light lager, for crissakes. It’s not like there’s roasted grain or hops to hide behind.

In my imagination, this story happens all the time in New Jersey, where it’s hard enough finding something to drink that isn’t BMC:

A guy meets up with his buddies for a drink after work. They want to go to this brewpub place.

“Whatever. You guys are pussies, but if that’s where you want to go, let’s go.”

So he gets to this place, all his buddies order IPAs or Irish Reds or whatnot, and he asks the bartender, “What do you have that’s most like Bud?”

“Oh, we have this light lager. It’s called ‘Light Lager.'”

(Really.)

She brings him a pint. It looks all right. It’s not as light or as clear as Bud, but he is in some namby-pamby brewpub, so they probably can’t get that shit right. He takes a sip. It’s awful. It’s sour and a little vinegary and tastes nothing – and I mean nothing – like any beer he has ever had. How can anybody think this tastes like Bud? He looks up at his buddies and they’re all enjoying their fancy-pants beers. He’s on their turf, and he’s given them shit about the choice of beer, so he doesn’t say a thing. He pounds it and orders a Jack and Coke saying, “I just can’t get behind this brewpub crap, man. It’s just not the same.” and never ever orders a craft beer again.

Hyperbole? Yeah. I mean.. read the rest of blog. I truck in hyperbole. But you get my point:

Every time a bar that’s serving (what should be) decent beer doesn’t keep its tap lines clean it’s giving a bad name to every craft beer and beer bar out there. People who are moving outside their comfort zone won’t go back outside of it if they get burned the first time.

Help spread the word for good beer: keep your tap lines clean.

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Categories: brewery, brewpub, distribution, travel
Posted By: erik
Last Edit: 12 Aug 2009 @ 09 56 AM

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 10 Aug 2009 @ 8:28 AM 

For anybody close to the industry, it seems like craft beer is doing great. It is! The craft beer industry has seen amazing, even phenomenal, amounts of growth over the past decade. It is, however, still struggling to reach 10% of the U.S. market. It’s easy to throw percentages around, though. So, instead, let’s use some numbers that are impossible to imagine. There are (using really rough math through all of this) 200 million adults of drinking age in the U.S.. If ALL of them drank beer (which they don’t), 20 million would drink craft beer. 180 million would not. Of course, not all 200 million adults of drinking age drink beer. Let’s say that half do. So we’re down to 10 million (ish) craft beer drinkers. And 190 million (ish) non-craft beer drinkers. Yikes! There’s still a ways to go.

Personally, I think this is great news. It’s gonna be a whole lot of fun getting all those people to drink craft beer.

Unfortunately, young as it is, the craft beer industry can tend to act a lot like a well-established industry. We like to fool ourselves. It has a lot to do with the fact that craft beer’s largest competitors are well-established, and even centuries-old, industries. There’s also the fact that craft beer people tend to spend a lot of time with other craft beer people. We like good beer, so we spend time seeking it out. Spend some time traveling around the country, though. There are pockets where excellent beer selection is readily available, but that 10%/90% divide becomes all too apparent when your travels take you outside of those pockets.

In the meantime, the craft beer industry seems to spends a lot of time making itself more and more inaccessible to the other 90%. High-gravity, extreme beers are great, but they’re not the kind of beer that a novice craft beer drinker will fall all over him/herself to seek out. More often than not, those can be very intimidating. When you’ve been spending $6 on a 30-pack of Busch Light, how likely are you to turn around and spend $15 on one bottle of Oak-Aged Chocolate Bourbon Stout with Cherries and Jalapenos? Those are great for the craft beer elite (send some to me, please), but the other 190 million people out there will be seeking something else before they make those steps.

Cool – this isn’t about a column about not making crazy beers. Make them. I want you to. Hell, I want to make crazy beers, myself.

In fact, the craft beer industry spends a lot of time making those not-crazy beers, but because they’re not crazy, they tend to get glossed over. We don’t know as much about what’s in the beer. Aside from specific hops and grain, “Oak-Aged Chocolate Bourbon Stout with Cherries and Jalapenos” gives me a rather evocative idea about what’s going to be going on inside the bottle. However, the same brewery might make “Spring ESB.” Because I am an enormous beer geek, I know – in a basic sense – what’s in that bottle. But a lot of people don’t and even I’m going to be making a guess based on style guidelines and what I know about the brewery.

This column is about telling me what’s in those beers. Let’s imagine a scenario for 190 million people and what happens when they pick up a craft beer for the first few times:

They take a sip, probably from the bottle. The flavor hits, maybe they get a whiff of aromas. It’s a mouth-filling, wonderful experience. They say the magic phrase, “I didn’t think beer could taste like that!”* They look in wonder at the bottle, remember the name of the beer, and probably the name of the brewery. They might have a few more. Maybe they’re still having a hard time getting over the bitterness, or the alcoholic strength, or the roasty flavors. It’s all so different than the fizzy yellow stuff they had before.

Later on, they try another one. Probably the same brewery, different beer. I mean you have to try something else. This one tastes awful. So bitter and astringent! Or maybe it’s WAY too sweet! Ugh! I thought I liked this stuff! Was it just that one?

Maybe they try another of the same type of beer by a different brewery and – yeesh – this one is incredibly different, too! How can these two beers be the same style?! Where’s the consistency?

To be fair – this is conjecture and hyperbole, but here’s my point:

One of the great things about beer is that two beers of the same style can be so radically different. The craft beer elite – we know this. Most of the people who have come to craft beer so far are huge freakin’ nerds. I know. I am one. They are quirky and odd and smart and crave knowledge in a way that a lot of beer drinkers in the country do not. We want to seek out as much information as we can about our product and we want variety. They want to know that the product has consistency and value.

There’s a reason that McDonald’s is so popular. Consistency and value. Think about it. Those are the people you have to reach to find a significant foothold in the market.

Over and over again at the CBC this year, I heard: Education. It’s the path to customer retention, someone said. It’s how to get women to drink beer, someone else said. It’s how you convert people to drinking craft beer, another person said. Education is key. Hear, freakin’ hear.

I think that craft beer needs a way to help people become beer geeks. I believe the first step is a voluntary labeling standard to tell people what is inside their beer. A lot of breweries already try to do it by putting wordy descriptions on their bottles. “This dark ale has notes of chocolate, coffee, caramel, and strong hints of toast.”** Great start. This kind of stuff is necessary. Wine does it, so we need to as well. But I think we need more. We need to revel in the fact that there is such a wide range of ingredients available to us and help people figure out what they taste like.

A rough first draft:

What makes my Irish Red great.

Some breweries – Rogue comes to mind – already indulge in some aspect of this level of labeling, and it’s fantastic. Once you know what’s in the beer that you like, you can start finding other beers with similar ingredients and trying them – or avoiding them.

It took me years to figure out that I don’t like Anchor Steam because I don’t like Northern Brewer hops. With consistent ingredient labeling I might have found this out earlier, and while Anchor would have lost a couple of purchases off of me for that, I might have realized earlier that it was Anchor Steam that I didn’t like, not Anchor Brewery, and gotten a couple of more while I tried different products.

When a brewery does something like this, they’re showing their customers that they have nothing to hide. No crazy adjuncts – or exactly what those crazy adjuncts are. No secrets. The things on this list are what makes your beer great. I’m not saying to put the full proportions of your grain bill or your hop schedule on there. You’ll note that I very specifically left yeast off the list. Don’t give it all away, but for the love of god, give as much as you can. Help people to enjoy your beer. On any given day I would rather drink a beer that listed, ‘black malt, roasted barley, Carafa, and Biscuit Malt” than “Made with four types of dark grain.”

Why not say what’s inside? Afraid people won’t understand it? They won’t if you don’t let them.

This is not a magic bullet that will make people love and understand beer. There isn’t one. But this is at least a small step in the right direction. Start here. Let people be the beer geeks that they want to be, and grow from there.

* – The very fact that the craft beer industry still goes ga-ga over this phrase is proof that the industry is still very young, small, and has a long way to go.

** – Toast is my favorite descriptor for beer. I think I have a really good palate. I can taste all kinds of things in beer that I can pull out and describe to others in a wide vocabulary, but I have never had anything in a beer that has remotely reminded me of toast. Maybe I eat the wrong kind of toast.

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Posted By: erik
Last Edit: 10 Aug 2009 @ 08 31 AM

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