Wetten Importers

How Does Beer Get its Color?

Not all beer is created equal. Individual brews can differ significantly in not only taste but appearance as well. They might contain a haze as a result of chilling or from particles of yeast that are suspended in the liquid. Head varies as well and can be described as creamy foam, large and small bubbles, chunky meringue or a thin veil. Colors can range from gold and amber to chestnut and black, with many variables in between.

The reason that beer is not clear like water is because of two chemical reactions, one which couples amino acids to sugars and another that spurs sugars to decompose. Not only do these reactions add color to the beer, they can also significantly impact the taste of the brew.

Many factors influence the color of beer including:

  • Malt
  • Extract type
  • Hops used
  • Water chemistry
  • Aging
  • Boil times
  • Oxidation
  • Fining

Malt is the single most important factor that influences the color of beer. When making beer, darker malts can be obtained by kilning malted barley. Caramelization can be added to the process, to give roasted malts their caramel or toasty flavors. This is what gives stouts their characteristic dark color. Longer boil times will also spur this reaction.  

To understand this process better, think of the malt as coffee beans. They start out green and can be roasted to either a caramel brown color or a deep dark chocolate color. Similarly, the malt might be roasted to a pale color, a caramel color or a deep dark chocolate color as well. So depending on the specific roast level of the malt used, the resulting beer will be either lighter colored, amber colored or darker.

Even though many people believe otherwise, the only thing that the color of the beer can tell you is the roast level of the malts that were used in the making of the beer. The color cannot tell you how much alcohol by volume the beer contains, how bitter the beer will be, how sweet the beer will be or how many calories the beer contains. The alcohol by volume is determined by the amount of malt used regardless of the color, the bitterness of the beer depends upon the type of hops used, the sweetness is determined by the absence of hops and residual sugar, and the calories have to do with the alcohol and residual sugars in the beer.

Wetten Importers is one of the largest importers of European ultra-premium beers in the United States. They partner with some of the oldest and more traditional breweries in Belgium and Austria to provide American consumers with only the highest quality products. For more information please contact Wetten Importers today.