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Hopefully this doesn't fall under "opinion" but I believe this will help alleviate some questions on mashing/fermentation techniques. I guess you could break this question into parts. Also the term "drinkable" is assuming the beer is without off-flavors:

Are the terms "dry" and "drinkable" synonymous? My initial answer would be no, since I've had Imperial Stouts that I'd consider more drinkable (not to be mistaken with sessionable) than a dry-stout, say Guinness. Then I've had stouts with lots of residual sweetness that were good, just more of a sipping beer. Although, a "bone dry" beer may not be considered drinkable either. So without answering my own question, I guess it's safe to say drinkable is more related to residual sweetness/alcohol perception?

Are the terms "dry" and "low FG" synonymous? Again, a dry beer tends to be low FG but not necessarily the other way around? Can you have a dry beer that was mashed at the higher temp range.. if so what type of body would you expect? I'll use Duvel and Jolly Pumpkin as an example. Both produce great beers that favor the dry side, but certainly do not lack in body. I know Duvel finishes low, Jolly Pumpkin it depends on the beer.. but a good amount finish low.

I see these terms being tossed around a lot, it would be good to back them up with some facts.

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4 Answers 4

up vote 6 down vote accepted

Dry is the same as "not sweet". But high FG is not necessarily sweet. If the residual sugars are long-chain carbohydrates, they will contribute to body but not much to sweetness. So I'd say that low FG implies dry, but high FG does not necessarily imply sweet.

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Very good point. Long-chain does not equal sweet. Malto-dextrin for example, does not taste particularly sweet. –  Graham Dec 15 '11 at 19:13

In my own experience, "dry" and "low FG" are completely unrelated. This surprised me at first, but there are a lot of other factors besides FG that determine the 'dryness' of the beer.

Right off the bat, the amount of hop bitterness counterbalances the sweetness. Likewise, any astringent character from the mineral qualities of the water will start chipping away at the perceived sweetness.

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My understanding of "synonymous" is that it means "equivalent to". Therefore clearly no, "dry" is not equivalent to "low FG" which is not equivalent to "drinkable".

However, they may well be related since low FG correlates with light body which can aid in drinkability. Similarly, if you like dry beer then you'll find it drinkable.

And why exclude "sessionable" here? Session beers are highly drinkable.

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True. "Related" may of been a better term. As for session beers, I feel that describes a family of beers altogether. Low gravity, low alcohol, generally light color. Drinkable may refer to higher octane beers. –  xhermit Dec 14 '11 at 21:05
    
But not all drinkable beers are session beers... –  brewchez Dec 15 '11 at 1:55
    
... but all session beers are drinkable beers. –  Poshpaws Dec 15 '11 at 10:26
    
Not of they taste like crap they aren't all drinkable –  brewchez Dec 16 '11 at 2:17
    
You're not wrong brewchez :) –  Poshpaws Dec 16 '11 at 16:28

The words may get frequently overloaded, but they actually all mean different things. I'll attempt to explain below.

Dry(ness) -- Tends to refer to the amount of detectable sweetness in the final beverage. A beer that is hardly sweet would be considered dry. A dry beer could be correlated to Low FG, as little sugar would remain in the beer to taste.

Low FG -- Doesn't really mean anything by itself, per se, as it's the measure of sugars still remaining in the liquid. The important calculation here is the difference between OG (Original Gravity) and FG (Final Gravity). If the beer had a high OG then the beer will have a high alcohol content, assuming fermentation didn't stall. Low FG would merely indicate the yeast did a good job of converting the sugars.

Drinkable -- Shorthand for refreshing beers, which you can drink a great quantity of without getting sloshed or noticing that you are sloshed. Not necessarily low in alcohol, but there will be no alcoholic harshness. Similar to the Belgian idea of "digestable".

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Disagree with your "Drinkable" definition. Drinkable doesn't necessarily mean low alcohol or "session beer". I have experience several 8% DIPAs that I could have certainly drank 3-4 of because of great drinkability. –  brewchez Dec 15 '11 at 1:53
    
I agree with brewchez. Edited the drinkable definition. –  Atom Kawlness Dec 15 '11 at 14:38
    
That's probably a good point, it's just my experience most "drinkable" beers tend to have a lower ABV. –  Derek Springer Dec 15 '11 at 18:05
    
I have had a number of "dangerously drinkable" beers. –  baka Dec 16 '11 at 13:43

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