Can someone help describe the 'size' of a beer?

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Well-Known Member
Mar 19, 2010
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Potsdam, NY
I've seen many references to beers being 'big', or 'small'.

I have no idea what this means. I searched the wiki and the threads and found that small beers had low amounts of alcohol.

So I guess 'big' beers just have a higher alcohol %? Or is it more due to density ?
Big beers = full flavoured, complex, high gravity. High IBU isn't required, Wee Heavy's are big beers and very low hops.
Try a Dogfish Head World Wide Stout and a Guinness next to each other.
My rule of thumb, ABV < 4%, then it's small. ABV > 8%, then it's big.

Me too, though I'd say >6.5% is pretty big. It's a continuum, though--a really big Belgian strong dark or DIPA can make a 7% IPA look small.

Richness of flavor isn't the demarcation--there are plenty of milds, bitters, table saisons, and the like that have a lot of flavor but are still small beers, and there are some tripels that can taste very light-bodied and are still big beers.
I agree that 6.5% starts to get into a gray area if "is it big or not?" I went with 8% because I was thinking more on the brewing end than drinking end.

The difference between fermentation time and conditioning time for a 4% beer and a 6.5% beer isn't too great. But when you hit 8%, the length of time starts getting significantly longer.