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Talking in code: A glossary of abbreviations brewers use everyday

Talking in code: A glossary of abbreviations brewers use everyday

March 29, 2017

As brewers and fans of craft beer, we tend to throw around abbreviations to make it easier to communicate among each other. However, this tendency might make it difficult for some people to understand exactly what we’re talking about.

Do you know the ABV, IBU and SRM of your favorite IPA and the AA of the hops that went into that beer? Do you know the TA of those sour beers you drink? Do you know what those abbreviations mean?

If not, we have you covered.

Here is a brief glossary of beer and brewing abbreviations, what they stand for, and what they mean.

AA — Alpha Acids

Alpha acids are a compound in hops that add bitterness to a beer. Typically expressed as a percentage, this measurement will tell you how much bitterness will be attributed to the beer by a particular hop strain. Alpha acids can vary based on hop strain, supplier, and crop year.

ABV — Alcohol By Volume

ABV is simply a measurement of the amount of alcohol in your beer based on the volume of the beer. For instance, if a beer is 5 percent ABV then 5 percent of it’s total volume is alcohol. This is the most common measurement of alcohol content in the United States for beer.

DMS — Dimethyl sulfide

If your beer has a vegetal flavor that is reminiscent of cooked corn, it may contain DMS. This is considered an off flavor in most beer styles but can be acceptable in some beers. The precursor for DMS exists in malted barley, one of the main beer ingredients, but is highly volatile so it typically evaporates when the wort is boiled. However, if the boil isn’t vigorous or long enough some of the precursor could be left behind, creating an unpleasant vegetal flavor in the beer.

IBU — International Bittering Units

IBU is a theoretical measure of the bitterness level in a beer. For reference, American Lagers are typically in the eight to 15 IBU range while IPAs are between 40 and 70.

IPA — India Pale Ale

Speaking of IPAs, the acronym for this hoppy bitter beer stands for India Pale Ale. The name for this beer evolved from it’s ability to last the long trips from England to India when the beers were exported.

OG/FG — Original Gravity / Final Gravity

Gravity is a measure of the sugar content in liquid. With beer, gravity is measured prior to fermentation, during fermentation, and once fermentation is complete.

When yeast is added to wort it eats sugar and creates CO2 and alcohol. If you know the sugar content before fermentation begins and then the sugar content when fermentation has stopped, which will be lower, you can use a formula to determine the alcohol content of the final product.

For instance, if the sugar content starts at 13 degrees Plato and ends at 2.5 degrees Plato your finished beer has an alcohol content of 5.6 percent ABV.

SRM — Standard Reference Method

SRM is a measure of the color of a beer. The higher the SRM the darker the beer. German Pilsners have an SRM between two and five while Imperial Stouts are between 30 and 40. Most other beers fall somewhere in that range.

TA — Titratable Acidity

In beer, titratable acidity is a way to approximate the total amount of acidity in a solution. Though this is a relatively new method of measuring acidity in beer, it has long been used in the wine industry because it is a more acidity in a finished product.

While you won’t see this measurement described on most beers you will see it with some breweries that are making sour beers. This is because it is a way to indicate to the consumer how sour that finished beer will be.

Are there any other abbreviations that should be added to this list? Let us know in the comments.

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