Welcome to Craft Brew U, our blog on the art of craft beer. Every week we’ll take a look at interesting beer styles, discuss key ingredients, answer common questions about beer and offer insights to help you fully enjoy the beer revolution.

There has never been a better time to be a beer lover. There are more styles and brands of beer available today than at any other time in our history. However, with nearly 6,000 breweries operating today, choosing what to drink can sometimes be a challenge. Craft Beer U is here to answer your questions, raise your beer IQ and help navigate the beer abundance.

One question we’re often asked is: Are dark beers stronger than pale beers?

The short answer is, no. That’s an oft-repeated myth. The flavor intensity of a dark beer might lead you to think that beer is strong, but there is no correlation between color and alcohol content. The color of a dark beer simply comes from the roasted grains used to make it.

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The common misconception is that light beer has less alcohol and calories, while darker beers are heavy. The truth is, you just can’t judge a beer by its color!

According to Ashley Routson, in her article “Debunking the Myths Surrounding Dark Beer,” “the color of beer is directly related to its malt content. The fermentable sugar in the majority of craft beer comes from malted barley that has been germinated and kilned. Additional color and malt flavor come from the roasting process.”

This process is explained in great detail in the article “How Beer Gets its Color” by Martha Harbison, in which she states:  “kilning malted barley kicks off the Maillard Reaction to produce darker malts such as Special B, chocolate malt and black patent malt. It and a process called caramelization are what gives roasted malts their characteristic caramel or toasty flavors, and beers such as stouts their characteristic dark color.”

Matt Maher - Beer Ambassador

Matt Maher - Beer Ambassador

Bottom line, color is dependent on the kilning process or kind of malt used (think food coloring) – it may darken the brew with no effect on alcohol or caloric content ABV (Alcohol by Volume) is the key.

Again, don’t judge a beer by its color. There are plenty of light colored beers with high ABV, and dark beers with lower ABV. At Red Arrow Tap Room we clearly post the ABV for every beer on tap. This makes it easy to see for yourself as you are trying new beers. As a rule, just remember that sugar and caloric content of beer directly correlates to its ABV.

Don’t fear the dark beer. There is a world of flavor awaiting you, especially if you like chocolate or coffee. So, if you see black lager (AKA: Schwarzbier), porter or stout beer, you may be in for a pleasant surprise! At Red Arrow Tap Room, ask one of our beer ambassadors for suggestions in helping find your new favorite (dark) beer.

Here is a great video from CraftBeer.com about dark beer.