There are so many acronyms and terms on a beer label that some of them can be daunting and down right confusing. While the actual descriptors vary from label to label I wanted to try and break down the code and show you How to Read A Beer Label.

How To Read a Beer Label

Here I used Sixpoint’s The Crisp since they are great at labeling their beers.

There are three important descriptors on a label: IBU, SRM and ABV.

ABV stands for Alcohol By Volume. The higher the number the higher the percentage of alcohol in the beer.  Typical American light lagers (Coors Light, Miller Light, Bud Light, etc) range from 4 – 4.5% ABV. The average range for a craft IPA is around 7% and the higher end imperial and Belgian beers can get over the 10% mark.

IBU stands for the International Bitterness Units. The higher the number the more bitter the beer. A typical American light lager is around 8-12 IBUs (very little bitterness) while some IPAs can top out around 100.

SRM stands for Standard Reference Measure. The closer the number is to 0 the light color the beer with the darkest beer being a 40.  A typical American light lager is around 2-3 (almost clear) while American IPAs are more in the 6-15 range (yellow to golden amber). Stouts can top out at a 40 SRM and those are pitch black in appearance.


There are other measurements that some breweries use on their labels but for the most part those are insignificant compared to these three. You’ll see Lagunitas use OG (original gravity) on their labels which refers to the amount of sugar present in the beer before fermentation, which most people don’t care about unless you are a homebrewer. Others put the hops and/or grain used which is great to know what flavors to expect but unless you’re a homebrewer that might be lost on you.