Types of beer. Legal classification

Find out how the different types of beer are legally classified: despite common thought, the differentiating factor is not the colour or type of fermentation, but the Plato scale.

The Italian law classifies beers into the following categories, depending on their Plato degrees (grams of sugar per 100 grams of solution):



Plato degrees (°P)

Alcohol degrees (% vol)

Non-alcoholic beer


< 1.2

Light beer




> 10.5

> 3.5

Special beer

> 12.5

> 3.5

Double malt beer

> 14.5

> 3.5


Note that the legal classification does not take into account neither the colour nor the type of fermentation. It was created by legislators to provide the parameters to define the tax on alcoholic beverages. The alcohol degrees of the different beers are calculated by determining the sugar concentration in the mash (the so-called “Plato degrees”, after the name of its creator) and the conditions of fermentation. To make a correlation between Plato degrees and alcohol degrees is quite complicated; it can be achieved through the Balling’s formula.

Non-alcoholic beer – A beer is defined non-alcoholic when its alcohol content is lower than 1.2%.