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What makes a beer "drinkable"?

A Drinkable Beer
A Drinkable Beer

You may have seen Budweiser's new ad campaign about "drinkability". What is drinkability any way? All brewers want their beer to be drinkable, don't they? Well, here are a few definitions of the term.

Quaffable is another term which means basically the thing.  A Quaffable beer is one that is easy to drink, especially in quantity. This is a term used a lot by craft beer enthusiasts when describing a beer with lots of drinkability.

Many in the beer industry simply define the term like this: A drinkable beer is one that makes you want another. Drinkability is very important to the bean counters because if you don't want another then you won't be buying as much of their product.

Don't confuse the term "sessionable" with "drinkable". From the, "sessionable-The characteristic of an alcoholic drink (usually a pint of beer) which is suitable for a lengthy drinking session. Usually refering to beer with an ABV between 3.5 and 4 %. Used when a non-pajoritive word is required for a weak beer. example: I say, that Hydes Black is highly sessionable." Just because a beer is sessionable doesn't necessarily make it drinkable.

My definition of a "drinkable" beer is one that makes you want another right away. The body is not too thick, the hopping is just right for your taste, the balance is just right for the style, there is enough complexity to keep you interested, the alcohol is not hot or solventy, and the finish is dry and crisp. To borrow a marketing phrase from Miller Lite, "it tastes great" AND "it's less filling".

There is no doubt that light lagers such as Coors Light, Miller LIte, and Bud Light have lots of drinkability as evidenced by any college party you may have attended. But what about some other beers? Guinness Extra Stout for example. This is a beer with great balance, complextiy, body, and it has loads of "drinkability". How do brewers do it, make a beer that is drinkable?

In the case of American light lagers, brewers use a lot of adjuncts like corn and rice to thin out the beer without adding any flavor that would take away from the beer's drinkability. Another way is to add sugar to the recipe. Adding sugar to a beer provides fermentables without adding flavor or body. In fact it accomplishes the same thing as using adjuncts. But when American light lagers were being invented, rice and corn were more abundant and much less expensive than refined sugar.

But, the primary way a brewer makes his beer drinkable is by crafting a well balanced beer with all the attributes mentenioned above. This is done long before the beer hits the shelves. The beer is first brewed on a pilot brewing system in small volumes and either sold at the tasting room, or tasted by panels of "professional" drinkers. The recipe is then tweaked and re-brewed until the brewer is confident he has a drinkable product, one where his customers will say, "that was a great beer, I think I"ll have another".

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