Continuing my recent exploration of beer styles as defined by the BJCP, here is another Home Brew Manual chart.
This one displays SRM beer colours according to style, and will be a useful reference guide when you plan your next beer.
You probably already have a good idea of the wide range of beer colours, spanning from light yellow Pilsners to jet black stouts. In-between are reds, browns, golds and more, all subtly different and all contributing to the impression of your beers on the drinker.
Although not always at the forefront of considerations when planning a beer, having a target colour in mind will enable you to devise malt schedules with a sense of purpose.
Even though you may not mind about the appearance of your beer, it’s the first thing most people will notice (along with whether it’s clear or not) when considering whether to sample your brew.
Beer colour is controlled by the malt that is used to brew it. Most recipes combine a light base malt, such as pale ale or pilsner, with a selection of darker, roasted malts to provide much of the colour.
Malts are available in a full range of colours in fairly tight increments. Although some malts have the same colour they do not taste the same and this is something you should explore yourself.
With experience you’ll start to recognise the flavour benefits of each.
The base malts produce yellow, golden beers and additions of dark malt such as caramel or black patent will send the beer towards the darker end of the scale.
Measuring Beer Colour
Beer colour is typically described in units of SRM, which stands for Standard Reference Method.
Colour can be accurately measured in a laboratory by firing specific wavelengths of light through beer samples. In home brew terms it is generally estimated by comparison with a printed chart.
I recently created large swatches of the SRM beer colour scale, which give you an approximate rendition of each SRM colour.
Predicting Beer Colour
All malts have colour values that are a result of the degree to which they’ve been roasted.
These can be used in a manual calculations to predict final beer colour, or you can use brewing calculators such as Hopville to do this for you.
[Update: Hopville has now been replaced by Brewtoad. I have not used it but it looks to be at least as useful]
Then it’s a matter of tweaking the malt additions to get the result you require.
Although very dark beers can be made by adding a ton of black patent malt, combinations of lighter coloured malts is something worth experimenting with. You’ll find that the beer has a more complex flavour.
Think of it like an artist’s paint pallete. Although black paint exists, much richer, subtler shades are achieved by mixing the three primary colours instead.
Beer Colour Chart
The BJCP has created a guide to beer styles used in judging home brew competitions. Within it are target SRM colour values for every beer style, which I’ve converted into this useful beer colour chart:
A pdf of the chart can be found here: SRM colour chart according to the BJCP Style Guide.
While to some degree the style guide is a document that’s mainly useful for categorising beers for competition, it also provides helpful targets for home brewers coming up with their own recipes.
Given a desired beer colour, you can adjust the malt schedule until you end up with something you’re satisfied with.
There are multiple ways of achieving a given colour. Just look at the infinite and wonderful variety of flavours in similar looking beers from across the world.
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