When pouring beer into a glass, one of the first things you notice is its color. When you order a beer at a bar, you expect it to have a specific hue. For example, a pilsner should be a pale gold color, while ale is typically dark brown.
Although many people categorize beer as either light or dark, it can actually come in dozens of different colors, depending on the ingredients and brewing style. Therefore, the beer color chart is a broad term that encompasses various nuances, often described using numerical values.
Factors Affecting Beer Color
The proportion of grains used has a significant impact on the color of beer, and it also affects the flavor. As a general rule, light beers have a softer, crisper, and more refreshing taste compared to dark beers, which have a fuller, more bitter, and intense aroma.
If a brewer adds extracts of fruit, coffee, or caramel, these ingredients will alter the original color of the brew. Additionally, different stages of the brewing process also influence the final color of the beer.
After soaking the grains in water and allowing them to germinate, the resulting malt is roasted before fermentation. The degree to which the malt is roasted determines the darkness of the beer. It’s that simple. The duration and temperature of the roasting process determine the exact shade of the brew.
In the mashing process, malted barley is added to hot water. This creates fermentable sugars that yeast later converts into alcohol. The color of the mash depends on the pH level of the water. A higher pH level results in a darker beer.
Furthermore, some brewers maintain a consistently warm water temperature, while others fluctuate it. This can affect the clarity and color of the beer at the end of the brewing process.
In the next stage, the liquid is extracted from the mashed malt to obtain wort. It is then quickly cooled and any remaining malt particles are removed before fermentation begins. The temperature difference during the cooling phase significantly affects the color and clarity of the beer.
4. Fermentation and Filtering
Brewers use different types of yeast to convert sugars in the wort into alcohol through fermentation. The temperature of fermentation, the type of yeast used, and the level of filtering all have an impact on the final color of the beer. Unfiltered beers tend to have a hazier and duller appearance compared to filtered ones.
|Standard Beer Colors on the SRM Scale|
Beer Color by Styles
As mentioned earlier, different beer styles have their own specific color range. Blondie beers, citrus combinations, pilsners, and sour beers fall within the light SRM range of 2 to 11.
Next are Amber ales, IPAs, and certain lagers that typically have an SRM value of 20. Beyond this value, the beers become darker.
In general, porters and stouts have various shades of brown, red, and dark brown, falling within the SRM range of 20 to 40. However, Imperial stouts are among the darkest beers with an SRM value of 40+.
In many cases, the color of a beer can provide insight into its taste even before taking a sip. Darker beers tend to have a more complex flavor and often leave a strong aftertaste with notes of coffee, caramel, and malt.
In contrast, lighter beers are easier to drink, refreshing, and enjoyable even for non-beer enthusiasts. However, those who prefer dark beers may find the taste of lighter beers too mild and bland.
That’s why many breweries enhance their light beers with fruity, floral, or citrus aromas. Sometimes, a slice of lemon or lime accompanies a bottle of light beer, mainly because it complements the beer’s neutral flavor.
|Beer Styles Color|
|2 to 7|
Belgian Strong Ale
|4 to 7|
|7 to 14|
American Pale Ale
|6 to 14|
Imperial Pale Ale
|5 to 11|
|11 to 18|
English Brown Ale
|12 to 22|
|20 to 40|
|50 to 80|
There is a wide range of beer colors, from pale and almost colorless to dark black. Brewers often use the SRM or EBC scales to precisely identify the shade of the beer.
The color and taste of a particular beer can usually be predicted by its style. However, there can also be variations in color within a style, depending on the specific recipe and brand.