s-r-m – /’ess-ar-em’/ – noun
There’s a lot of info on a beer label if you take the time to look. We’ve discussed the IBU’s, we’ve discussed the gravity and I’m going to do us both a favor and just assume you’re all aware of what ABV is. One of the final things you may see on that label is the “SRM.” Long story short, it tells you what color the beer is. For the short story long, keep reading.
SRM stands for “Standard Reference Method” and is a scale, ranging from 1-40 that correlates to the color of your beer (the lower the number, the lighter the beer). I could go down the road of origins of the scale and use big words but let’s be honest, you’re reading this on your smartphone and want the details before “Burrito Dave” comes and occupies the stall next to you. So, for your sake I’ll keep it brief and use pictures.
Most, if not all of a beer’s color comes from the malt used during the brewing process. These malts impart specific flavors and aromas based on the way they were processed. While it’s true that yeast and hops (and even water) have an impact on a beer’s flavor, the malts are always perceptible in smell and taste, and visually they’re kinda hard to miss. Below is a visual that shows different colors of beer along with the flavors and aromas typically associated with those colors:
The full descriptions for the color scale is best done by a living legend, Randy Mosher, in the book Tasting Beer. These descriptors aren’t universal but they are widely used and it’s the scale that I used when studying for my Certified Cicerone® exam, so take that for what it’s worth:
So, you know that SRM refers to colors on a specific scale, you know some good descriptions for the colors on that scale, AND you know what you can probably expect to smell and taste when you drink a beer based on those two things. Man, just 4 Vocabrewlary Lessons in and you can fool some folks into thinking you know what the hell you’re talking about. Go you!
Do you have a beer term that you’d like to know more about? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or comment below with something you’d like to see explained in a future Vocabrewlary Lesson.