Beer Terms 101

Know Your Beer and Drink It Too: Common Beer Terms and Measurements

ABV, IBU, SRM, OG, FG! No, this isn’t a late night text message from your less than sober friend, these letters actually describe the characteristics of your beer. Certain measurements including alcohol content, color, and bitterness determine what style your beer is and they are often included on beer labels to help you distinguish differences within the same style. Here are some common beer terms and measurements you should know before you crack open your next cold one.

ABV (Alcohol by Volume)

Alcohol By Volume or ABV is the amount of alcohol content in beer. ABV is calculated using measurements taken before and after beer fermentation called OG (Original Gravity) and FG (Final Gravity). ABV is equal to OG – FG x 131 and generally ranges from 4% to 10% for your standard beer styles. A low ABV is reserved for Pale Ales, Lagers, and Pilsners while higher ABV levels are found in IPAs, imperial styles, and barley wines. In comparison, alcohol in liquor is measured using a “proof” system in which the proof is double the ABV. For example, an 80 proof bottle of liquor has a 40% ABV.

Beer ABV by Style

4% to 6% – Lager, Pilsner, ESB
5% to 6.5% – Pale Ale, Porter, Stout
6.5% to 7.5% – IPA, Black IPA
7.5%+ – Imperial/Double IPA, Imperial Stout, BBA

ABW (Alcohol by Weight)

Alcohol in beer can also be measured by weight or ABW. Although the measurement is less commonly used in the US compared to ABV, you may see some ABW measurements on beer labels from time to time especially if they are imports. In order to calculate the ABV from ABW, multiply the ABW by 1.25. Conversely, if you needed to calculate the ABW from the ABV, multiply the ABV by 0.8.

OG (Original Gravity)

OG or Original Gravity is a density measurement based on the amount of sugar in pre-fermented beer, also known as wort. Measured with a tool called a hydrometer, Original Gravity is the beginning to ultimately determine the final ABV of a beer. OG can range from 1.030 to 1.140. Low gravity beer is reserved for crisp styles like American Lagers while a high gravity beer is for malty styles like an Imperial Stout.

FG (Final Gravity)

FG or Final Gravity is a density measurement taken after beer has been fermented. Fermentation happens when yeast is added to wort. During days, weeks, or months, yeast eats the sugar and produces CO2 and alcohol, which turns the wort into beer. The OG and FG measured during this fermentation process are both used to determine the final ABV of beer. FG can range from 1.000 to 1.060.

IBU (International Bitterness Units)

International Bitterness Units or IBU is the world-standard measurement for beer bitterness. IBUs are generally based on the amount of hops in the beer and can range from 5 for American Lagers up to 100+ for styles like an Imperial IPA.

Beer IBU by Style

0 – 20 IBU – American Lager
20 – 45 IBU – Pilsner, Porter, ESB, Pale Ale
45 – 70 – Stout, IPA
50 + – Imperial IPA, Imperial Stout, Barleywine

SRM (Standard Reference Method)

The color of your beer is determined by the SRM or Standard Reference Method of measurement. The SRM is calculated by a formula from the American Society of Brewing Chemists, but all you need to know is that the numbers range from 2 for a light yellow beer such as an American Lager to 40+ for a midnight black beer like an Imperial Stout.

Beer SRM by Style

2-14 – American Lager, Pilsner, ESB, Pale Ale, IPA
15- 24 – Amber Ale, Brown Ale
24+ – Porter, Stout, Imperial Stout