Characterising Your Beer: Know How To Describe It
INTERNATIONAL BITTERNESS UNITS
IBU indicates the hop bitterness in beer, on a scale of 0-100, though some beers may exceed this number. Although the industry standard applies across the board, the use of malt in a beer affects the bitterness tasted. Thus, a beer with a lower IBU score may taste more bitter than one with a higher score, but more malt.
The Standard Reference Method is used by brewers to specify beer colour, ranging from two for pilsners to over 40 for imperial stout. Beer colour can suggest the type of beer you’re drinking, as most lagers have straw or honey colours while ales are generally darker. The colour comes from the roasting of the malt, not colourants.
Gravity refers to the density of beer versus water. It’s dependent on the amount of sugar in the wort, and indicates alcohol content. The original gravity refers to the value before fermentation, while the final gravity is its value after. The difference between the two is known as attenuation, and beer gravities tend to increase postfermenting.
Malt aromas, depending on its source and the preparation process, can range from burnt, charred coffee to honey and fruit. It’s made from barley or wheat, and generally used to counter the hop bitterness in beer. The roasting process used in stouts such as Guinness gives the beer a caramelised bittersweet taste.