Beer Glossary and Terminology: Understanding Beer Labels

Beer Glossary and Terminology: Understanding Beer Labels

When it comes to the world of beer, there is a vast array of styles and flavors to explore. Whether you’re an experienced beer connoisseur or just starting to dip your toes into the craft beer scene, understanding the terminology on beer labels can make all the difference in finding your perfect pint. In this article, we will delve into the beer glossary and terminology to help you unravel the mysteries behind those neat little labels.


ABV stands for “Alcohol by Volume,” which is the percentage of alcohol in a beer. This measurement is crucial if you want to gauge the strength and potency of a particular brew. Beers with a higher ABV tend to have a stronger alcohol flavor and can provide a more intense drinking experience.


IBU refers to “International Bitterness Units,” and it measures the bitterness of a beer. Bitterness comes from hops, which are added during the brewing process. The higher the IBU, the more bitter the beer will taste. If you enjoy a bitter and hop-forward experience, look for beers with higher IBUs. For those who prefer a milder flavor, lower IBUs may be more up your alley.


SRM stands for “Standard Reference Method” and indicates the beer’s color. This scale ranges from pale yellows to deep browns and blacks. Lighter beers often have lower SRM values, while darker beers have higher ones. The SRM value provides an easy way to assess the visual appearance of a beer before taking that first sip.

OG and FG

OG stands for “Original Gravity,” which measures the density of the wort (unfermented beer) before fermentation begins. FG stands for “Final Gravity,” which measures the density of the beer after fermentation is complete. These values help determine the alcohol content and body of the final product. A higher OG indicates a stronger beer, while a lower FG can result in a drier finish.


Malts are grains (usually barley) that have gone through a process called malting. Malts provide sugar for the yeast to ferment and add flavor, aroma, and color to the beer. Different malt varieties, such as pale malt, caramel malt, and roasted malt, contribute unique characteristics to the final brew.


Hops are flowers that add bitterness, flavor, and aroma to beer. They balance the sweetness of the malt and act as a natural preservative. Hops come in various forms, such as whole leaf, pelletized, or extract, and each contributes distinct flavors, including floral, citrus, pine, or spicy notes.


Yeast is responsible for fermenting the sugars in the wort and converting them into alcohol and carbon dioxide. Different yeast strains produce various flavors and aromas, influencing the overall profile of the beer. The two primary types of yeast used in brewing are ale yeast and lager yeast, each offering unique characteristics.


Beer styles encompass a wide range of variations, each with its unique characteristics and brewing traditions. From pale ales to stouts, lagers to sours, there are styles to suit every taste. Understanding the different styles can help you find beers that align with your preferences and explore new flavors.

Bottling/Canning Dates

Many craft breweries include bottling or canning dates on their products. This information is valuable for ensuring freshness and peak flavor. Beers, especially hop-forward ones, are best consumed within a certain timeframe. Checking the bottling or canning date helps determine if the beer is still within its prime drinking window.

Serving Temperature

Serving temperature is crucial in bringing out the best in each beer style. While personal preference plays a role, general guidelines exist. Lighter, crisper beers are often enjoyed colder, around 38-45°F (3-7°C), to enhance their refreshing qualities. In contrast, darker and more complex beers benefit from a slightly warmer serving temperature, around 45-55°F (7-13°C), allowing their flavors to bloom.

Understanding these beer glossary terms and labels will enable you to make informed choices when perusing the vast selection of brews available. Next time you find yourself scanning through the aisles of your local bottle shop or tapping into a craft beer menu, feel confident in your ability to decipher the various terminologies and explore an array of brews with confidence. Cheers to expanding your beer knowledge and discovering new favorites!