Beer Color Laboratories
There is a lot more to the Color of Beer than you Think!
Welcome to a Website Dedicated to "Beer Color"



This website will always be a work in progress!

 

Obviously this website is incomplete. It is a continual work-in-progress. When the house is quiet, when the family is gone or asleep and I can find time, I will grab a good beer and  will work to add to this sites content. It is not a personal blog but it does come from my interest in the color of beer and my interest in homebrewing. I welcome and suggestions, comments, corrections or recommendation and suggestions for content. Please email me with your comments - mark@beercolor.com

 History

Before along time ago, in my early teenage years, I worked for my father doing colorimetric chemical assays for his electroplating business. we were sub-contracted to Grumman Aerospace which gave me the early opportunity to work on the F14A and the Apollo LM. Since then colors have always intrigued me. After undergraduate college, I work and studied in a research laboratory  that used spectroscopy for microbiological and chemical analysis. I spent many hours using the spectrophotometer - and yes we did sample beer - analysis and consumption!. Now, many years later, I work in a hospital operating room. Until recently, I visited the hospital laboratory regularly. This gave me an access to a very nice spectrophotometer and a microbiology lab. I had the opportunity to measure many collected samples of beer for, alcohol content, hop acid concentration and color analysis. This was a good opportunity until management frowned upon my little cubby of Lactobacillus, Brettanomyces, and Acetobacter stashes. After that I rarely visited the hospitals laboratory! Since then the laboratory has been out sourced and the nice Hitachi spec moved off site.

Even before my homebrewing days I had an interest in the color of beer and worts. This interest in beer color became an even bigger interest when I started homebrewing as the colors of beer and wort became important for my brewing technique and recipe development. Beer color now is somewhat of a hobby by itself with my brewing.  I am the person within our homebrew club that has the major interest in beer, wort, grain, etc. color.  

I have since built a small laboratory that was used for local brewers/home brewers to demonstrate some laboratory techniques for beer analysis. There is little testing being done these days and I use the lab for studying the color of beer, wort and malt for use in recipe data. Hence the “Beer Color Laboratory”. Several years ago it became difficult to send beer and homebrew through the mail. We found that using a formal return address with the word "Laboratory" helped. So "Beer Color Laboratories" was created.

The "Guide"

 In 2000 as a gift to members of the Central Indiana Beer Appreciation Society, CIBAS, a local beer club, I gave out color guides during a meeting about beer evaluation. These were simple guides mostly meant for discussion. When there were beer classes and meetings many people had different guides and many were downloaded and printed and many were inaccurate – more fun than diagnostic. At the demand of members, I made several more calibrated types of guides for the meetings after this.

 

1994 David Davison Homebrew Guide

 

Some of the guides had color patches and resembled the David Davison guides that weren’t readily available here.  Some were a gradient color strip resembled a guide from the web done by Ron Wrucke. A round radial gradient guide and a pie wedge guide were also tried that combined the properties of these guides also.

 

Ron Wrucke’s Guide from www.wrucksterpage.htm

 

After years of discussion and experience with different beer clubs, homebrewing clubs and beer judging classes it was decided that the envelope sized gradient strip was the easiest  to use and more accurate.

 In 2004 as a gift to brewers and beer judges at the Indiana State Fair brewers these guides were distributed. These “gifts” were hurriedly made at the last minute on a non-calibrated printer and contained errors.  However and even though they were less accurate, the interest in these guides became great.  It was then decided to produce an easy-to-use and accurate beer color guide. After testing we found that the guide should be transparent to produce fewer errors in color evaluation. Using spectroscopy we determined the SRM of many beers and calibrated a standard reference strip. After color comparisons the colors of the beers most commonly found were added to this strip in the ranges of lightness and darkness that these beers corresponded to.  

I have since produced several guides for my general beer club and other homebrew clubs.  I do now produce two beer color references that are in demand.  One is a credit-card sized guide with color/SRM/EBC swatches mainly for discussion during drinking, and the other is a larger one with the gradient strip for use in judging.  

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BCL & ME

 Testing and lab analysis is something I like to do and over time I have managed to build a small, but very nice "Beer Lab" in my home, complete with a centrifuge, chemicals and reagents, and a spectrophotometer.  I can test for the percent alcohol, IBUs, SRM, etc.  It truly started out as a hobby and an interesting service I could provide to my beer club and other local homebrewers.  However the use of the spectrophotometer to reveal the colors in beer became quite a fascination. Once I started to run samples for full spectrum, I realized that there was a lot going on with beer color and that the methods to determine its true color were not always accurate.  In my opinion, the Lovibond iodine and potassium dichromate dilutions really didn't do justice for determining beer color, and the Standard Reference Method (SRM) is also somewhat lacking with it's single ultra-blue wavelength (and especially in the amber and darker hues).  I have also become fascinated by the metamerism of color / hue in beer where different color combinations can appear as the same color in certain situations.  Anyway, all of this led to the challenge of creating an accurate tool that brewers could use to determine the color of their beer.

 

BCR Beer Color Reference

 As relatively simple as the final Color Guide appears to be, it took a good amount of work and a lot of trial and error to develop, and it continues to be an ongoing challenge to reproduce them and maintain its color accuracy. The Guides are reproduced on a transparent material, and then an extremely clear lamination process is used to make them durable and to protect the printed area.  The size of this Guide is larger than some I have seen produced in the past, but this is an important aspect, because the larger range of color graphic allows the user to much more accurately make their determination and this also extends the range for darker beers.

 The Guide is designed to be used with a standard sample glass with approx 1/2 inch of beer in it.  The transparency of the guide allows light to pass through it, just as it passes through the beer. Placing the guide and the sample cup of beer on a white background, and then sliding the cup up the color scale until the colors match will yield a very accurate SRM calculation. When evaluating larger samples you can use the white card in back of the guide and allow light to past through the elevated sample.

The BCR Guides come with instructions and a white background card. The BCR guide  layout can also be personalized and customized to add a logo for a homebrew club, or a homebrew shop, etc.

 -While water testing has been done here for demonstration, BCL does not test professionally - We suggest - Ward Laboratories @ www.wardlab.com

 

 We can = members from several clubs I belong to. FBI, CIA, BHJ, THC, CIBAS. (these are local beer clubs)