Alcohol By Volume (ABV%)
So, we can’t really have a beer guide without talking about the alcohol that your beer contains. The alcohol content in beer is important for a number of reasons. For one, before you reach for that second bottle of beer, you might want to know how much alcohol it is packing. But alcohol content isn’t only important from a beer buzz point of view; it can also affect the flavor, mouthfeel and overall body of your brew.
Alcohol is created during the fermentation process and is a byproduct of yeast reacting and turning fermentable sugars into CO2 and alcohol. The alcohol in your beer will depend on the type of yeast used, the fermentation method and the amount of sugar that is digested.
Most beers generally fall between 3.0 – 13.0 percent ABV. However, some can be weaker and even stronger. The ABV indication on a beer bottle will tell you how many ounces of alcohol are in the beverage. So, if a 12-ounce bottle of beer says that it contains 5.0 percent alcohol, that means that 0.6 ounces of the liquid is pure alcohol.
International Bittering Units (IBU)
You’ll often see the term IBU thrown around as a trendy stat on beer descriptions and beer bottles – hey, we’ve also included them in our guide to beer styles below – but what does it mean and why should you care?
Well, first things first, IBU does not make a beer better or worse. The term stands for International Bitterness (or Bittering) Unit and was invented to make it easier to measure the bitterness level of a beer. More specifically, the IBU scale was first introduced in the early 20th century as a way to quantify or put a number to, how bitter beer was when it was ready to drink.
Want some science? We have you covered!
IBUs are a chemical measurement of the specifically oxidized and isomerized alpha acids, bittering compounds, polyphenols and a number of other bittering chemicals that all work together to give your beer its bitter taste. Almost every beer you have ever had will have an IBU measurement of 5 – 120. Most beer styles sit between a lower range of 15 – 80.
Warm Beer? Cold Beer? Getting the Serving Temperature Just Right
If country songs, bar signs, and Super Bowl ads are to be believed, beer should always be served ice cold. While that may be true for many beers, there are many more that just won’t give their best being served in a frosty mug.
Temperature, you see, can have a very profound impact on your tastebuds. Deep within a beer are chemical compounds that are responsible for releasing a myriad of flavors and aromas. These compounds are reactive to temperature, and will either be activated or suppressed depending on the temperature the beer is served at.
There is a reason that red wine is served at room temperature, white wine is best served ice cold and your coffee is steaming hot. Quite simply, they all taste and feel better this way. The same is true for beer. Different beer styles taste better at different temperatures. Here is a rough guide to how certain styles should be served. You’ll also see recommended serving temperatures for each individual beer in our beer styles guide.
- Mass-market light lagers: 35–40°F (2–4°C)
- Czech and German Pilseners, wheat beers, Kolsh and Munich Helles: 40–45°F (4–7°C)
- American pale ales, IPAs, stouts, and porters: 45–50°F (7–10°C)
- Belgian ales, Bocks, sour ales, English milds and bitters, Scottish ales: 50–55°F (10–13°C)
- Barleywines, Belgian strong ales, Doppelbocks, and imperial stouts: 55–60°F (13–16°C)
These days, good beer establishments have almost as many glasses as they have beer styles. But what’s in a glass and does it really matter which glass you drink your beer from?
The short answer is a resounding yes! In the right glass, the color, aroma, and head are at their very best and as the brewer intended them to be. That means before you even take the first sip of your chosen beer, your senses and anticipation will be heightened. In the right glass, your beer will show off its characteristics, stay carbonated for longer and ultimately deliver the best experience possible.
The Perfect Delivery System
The shape of a beer glass is proven to impact a number of elements including retention and head development. The development of the head is important as it is used as a delivery system for aroma compounds that evaporate on contact with the air.
Beer glasses come in a number of shapes and styles, many of which you may be familiar with and many of which are similar to each other. So which is the right glass to choose for which beer? Our beer style guide below includes the recommended glass type for each style of beer. However, it’s important not to get overwhelmed with the choice or to throw your hands up in disgust if you are served your beer in the wrong glass. The most important thing is that your glass is clean and your beer good.