Having been a professional brewer for 17 years now, I’ve seen the beer world change a bit over time. I’m finding that beer drinkers are becoming much better educated about beer in general, from styles to breweries to ingredients. But since not everyone who visits this site might understand every term we use here, let alone all the abbreviations, I thought it wise to include a bit of beer knowledge to empower people on their quest for the perfect pint.
Common abbreviations that will appear throughout many beer discussions include, but are not limited to, the following list:
ABV: alcohol by volume. The most common means of expressing alchol content.
ABW: alcohol by weight. You won’t find this one used much here, but a quick explanation is in order. The federal and many state governments employ this method to determine alcohol strength. It really doesn’t make much sense, since beer is a liquid and is therefore more commonly measure by volume, not weight, but that’s neither here nor there as far as the Feds are concerned. If you live in a state that sells 3.2% beer, then you’re seeing an example of ABW. To convert ABW to ABV, simply multiply by 1.25. Therefore 3.2% beer is actually 4% by volume, so it makes for an easily sessionable beer! Don’t rule it out just because you can buy it in a grocery store in Colorado or Utah.
O.G.: No, it doesn’t stand for “Original Gangster.” O.G. = original gravity, or the starting point for a beer before fermentation. Generally speaking, the specific gravity of a beer is the measure of all dissolved solids in a sample. Many breweries use the more accurate balling scale, which measures the percent unfermented sugar present in the beer, to determine gravity.
F.G.: final gravity. The point at which fermentation is complete.
IBU: International Bitterness Units, which as the name implies, is a scale that determines the level of hop bitterness in beer. The higher the number, the more bitter the beer. Most session beers will have relatively low IBU, since lower alcohol beers would be overwhelmed by tons of hops.
SRM: Standard Reference Method, a determination of beer color. This method is used by the American Society of Brewing Chemists, or ASBC, for short. The higher the number, the darker the beer. Stout would come in around 40 SRM, for example, while a pilsner falls in the range of 2-5 SRM.
EBC: European Brewery Convention, another method for assessing beer color. EBC and SRM are measured in a lab using the same technique, but a different scaling method. EBC is approximately twice SRM.
Lovibond: Also referred to as “degrees Lovibond.” Another measure of color. The higher the number, the darker the beer. Still in use, but not as commonly as in the past.
I will add more terms as time goes, but that’s probably enough to absorb for now. Cheers and thanks for reading!