Beer Geekery

Check out the promo or label on your favorite specialty beer, and you might see more than you bargained for. Take Bangelijk Blonde ("Bashful Blond"), custom-brewed by Belgium's DeProef Brouwerij for Wallingford's Bottleworks. "It has an original gravity of 1064," the promo says, "7.5% alcohol by volume, 33 IBU's, and a pale golden color at 10 on the EBC scale." This may look like so much beer geekery, but if you care about roast in your coffee, Brix in your peaches, and whole grains in your bread, this tells you what your beer is all about, so you care about this too, right? Say "yeah." Take this one swallow at a time, starting with "original gravity." Before fermentation, this beer started out as a sweet, slightly syrupy liquid, or wort, with a specific gravity of 1.064. Water is 1.0, and the extra .064 has a lot of fermentable sugars. This wort could have become a beer with about 6.4 percent alcohol by volume, but the brewer pushed his yeast to work a bit more magic, so it finished at 7.5 percent. You'll have a well-attenuated beer that will be dry on the palate. Those 33 IBUs refer to bitterness, imparted by hops, balancing out sweet flavors. Industrial megalagers will have 9 to 11 IBUs, in line with mass-market preferences for watery and bland; crazily hopped American IPAs are 40 to 60 IBUs and beyond. This beer's hop-forward by Belgian standards, but not overwhelmingly so. The EBC number is less about flavor than about appearance: it's a color scale used by European brewers. Pale light beers run about 2 EBC; draught Guinness is 130 EBC. At 10 EBC, the beer is a pale golden color, but not the weak, watery yellow of mass-market lagers. Pay attention to these numbers on the label or ad promo of the next microbrew you pick up, and you'll learn what to expect. Hey, you might even pass for beer geek yourself (at least to your PBR-guzzlin' pals). Bottleworks, 1710 N. 45th St., 206-633-2437. WALLINGFORD

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