Beer spans an endless array of colours from pale lagers to the blackness of stouts. For the big breweries, beer colour is a quality measurement as they make the same beer recipe week in week out and so colour variation is expected to be minuscule. But for the small craft brewer, reproducibility is not such an important factor as they have less control over the dozens of factors influencing the colour.

The formality of beer colour

SRM Beer Colour Guide
SRM Beer Colour Chart

In America, you have the Standard Reference Model (SRM) whilst Europe’s version is called the European Brewing Convention (EBC). The SRM colour chart (above) shows 40 levels, the higher the SRM, the darker the beer. Values do go higher than 40 but to the eye, they are all black.

The tables below give some common descriptive points and map some common beer styles onto SRM scale. Note this is not a perfect world and some styles map over a range of colours.

Beer Colors and SRM Value
Color SwatchSRMColor
 
2Pale Straw
 
3Straw
 
4Pale Gold
 
6Deep Gold
 
9Pale Amber
 
12Medium Amber
 
15Deep Amber
 
18Amber-Brown
 
21Brown
 
24Ruby Brown
 
30Deep Brown
 
40+Black
Beer Style SRM Color Scale
StyleSRM Range
Pilsner2 – 6
Bavarian Weizen3 – 6
English Golden Ale4 – 6
Belgian Blonde Ale4 – 7
Saison4 – 14
American Pale Ale5 – 10
Imperial Pale Ale5 – 11
Maibock6 – 11
Bière de Garde6 – 19
Pale Ale, Bitter, ESB8 – 14
Märzen8 – 17
Amber Ale10 – 17
English Brown Ale12 – 22
Dark Mild Ale12 – 25
Bock15 – 22
Porter20 – 35
Oatmeal Stout22 – 40
Foreign Stout30 – 40
Imperial Stout35 – 80
Source: Tasting Beer by Randy Mosher

So what does this mean to us the beer lover?

Of course, it’s far less necessary for a beer drinker, to know the SRM of his or her favourite brew. The rules aren’t hard and fast, especially as craft beer keeps diversifying styles, so keep an open mind. 

beer style colours
We have a variety of beer colours

We drink with our eyes and our first impression of a beer is its visual appearance. A beer’s colour can give you an idea about how it’ll taste, thus when drinking a beer take some time to look, then taste.

How does the beer look? Is it pale, black, cloudy or does it have a large foam top? Is it flat or does it have bubbles? The answers to these questions point towards the beer’s style.

It may be the case that you like some beers of a particular style but not all. This could be because the colour range of a style spans a wider colour range and remember that ‘something’ makes the colour and that ‘something’ will equally impact the taste. Try thinking about this as if you naturally like certain colour beers then this gives you some idea of trying other types of beer in similar colour ranges.

Although when talking about food pairings and beer you are told to think about the alcohol content, hoppiness vs. bitterness and so on which is easy to do in your own home but when out and about it is more difficult when trying new beers. A very simple rule of thumb is to balance the colour of the beer against the colour of the food, creamy pasta with a pilsner or golden ale, chicken burger with an amber ale, beef burger an IPA, beef stew with a bitter or stout.

Next time you are out drinking have a think about the appearance, but remember whatever the colour, enjoy!


If you like to understand more about tasting beer have a look at tasting Beer by Randy Mosher:

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