Don’t Judge A Beer By Its Color

Ok some of you (perhaps those who have perused our book..) already know this. But sadly, we still find that the misconceptions about the color of a beer dominates the minds of many a new craft brew drinker. Misconceptions like ‘Dark beers are too strong!’ or ‘I don’t drink stouts, they’re like a meal!” are overheard in bars and make us shiver….

So let’s put this to bed.

The color of beer comes from the malt, typically roasted Barley. Now, think of this barley like coffee beans. Coffee beans start out green and can be roasted to a caramel brown color and finally to a deep dark chocolate color, as in a French roast. Similarly, barley can be a pale malt, caramel color, or deep dark chocolate color as well. Depending on the roast level of the malt you use, you will get a lighter colored, caramel/amber colored, or dark colored beer.

What this does not tell you is:
1) How strong the beer is, as in alcohol by volume
2) How many calories are in the beer
3) How bitter the beer is
4) How sweet the beer is

The only thing the color can tell you is the roast level of the malts used in the making of the beer. The abv mostly depends upon the amount of malt used (whatever the color), the bitterness mostly depends upon the type and amount of hops used, the calories have to do with alcohol and residual sugars, and the sweetness has to do with absence of hops and residual sugar.

There are dark beers like a Schwarzbier that are black in color but very low in alcohol, bitterness and have a much lighter body than a ‘light colored’ beer like a Belgian tripel. The tripel is actually much stronger and higher in calories even with its straw, caramel color. Even the stout, feared by many a newbie beer drinker, can be far lower in alcohol than many other beers. Guinness has a very low abv at 5%, lower than most IPA’s, some Pale Ales, and that Belgian Triple.

You must taste before you can determine anything. Never order by asking for a ‘light’ or ‘dark’ beer. Order by taste and strength if you like, ‘I want a fruity beer that’s not too strong and low in bitterness’, or ‘I’d like a beer with chocolate notes that’s light-bodied and low in alcohol’. This way you’ll get the beer you actually want. And isn’t that the goal in one’s beer-life?

Ok, all together now:

There, we feel much better, don’t you?