Beer Break

Beer Break Vol. 3, No. 1
Calculating alcohol content

Sept. 5, 2002

You'll find plenty about alcohol content in the Beer Break archives, but we continue to write about it because one of the questions we most often receive is "What is the alcohol content of [fill in the blank]?" That's not always an easy one to answer because many breweries don't provide that information.


Sometimes you can figure it out on your own, most often at a brewpub where starting and finishing gravity may be posted -- or at least you can ask about them. Here is a basic formula:

Alcohol percentage by weight equals 76.08 times Original Gravity minus Final Gravity divided by 1.775 minus Original Gravity. It is easier to scribble this down: ABW = 76.08(OG-FG)/(1.775-OG).

You should remember that ABW is used mostly in the United States, while the rest of the beer world (as well as the wine and spirits world) measures Alcohol by Volume (ABV). That conversion is easy: ABV = ABW (FG/.794).

You can't do this unless the Original (Starting) Gravity is provided. You may calculate Final Gravity on your own if you have a hydrometer (available in any homebrew store). Just warm the beer to about 60F and pour it back and forth several times to cut down the carbonation. Then use the hydrometer to get a FG reading.

Not only will you be able to figure out the alcohol content, but this is a great conversation starter in brewpubs.

Will you find beer at the health food store?

A new round of stories showing that drinking beer may be good for your health lead Lenore Skenazy to suggest some possible beer spinoffs in the World Jewish Review. Her predictions include, "Beer here, beer there, beer muffins, beer bagels, low-fat vanilla beergurt - the works." Some of her more specific suggestions:

Beer Bellies: Tiny jelly beans that come in every flavor, from Amstel Lite to Dinkel Acker Dark.

Sunsweet Cold Filtered Prunes: They're not just for grandma anymore.

Newman's Own Roasted Garlic 'n' Parmesan Ale: Fancy, overpriced, liberal, do-good salad dressing/aperitif that knocks the socks off Wishbone Yeasty Italian.

Siebel offers sensory training at GABF

This will be of limited interest -- since you'd have to be in Denver on Oct. 3 and want to spend $100 on your beer education -- but it certainly is pertinent to what we focus on in this newsletter. The Siebel Institute of Technology will conduct a 4-hour Sensory Analysis Seminar that is designed to introduce brewers and beer lovers to the process of sensory evaluation of beer. Students will learn to employ techniques used in professional breweries worldwide to assess the quality of their ales and lagers. The origin and control of the various flavors will be discussed and students will have the opportunity to taste beers that have been spiked with the different flavor compounds. The seminar will conclude with a "test" of unknown compounds to assess the students' sensory skills. The seminar will be held at the Colorado Convention Center (where the Great American Beer Festival opens that Thursday evening). It runs from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. For more information call 773-279-0966.

Tasting notes

Brewed by Middle Ages Brewing Co. in New York
Michael Jackson writes:
This appetizing ale poured with a dense, well retained head. It has a peachy color. The aroma is hoppy and dry, as is the first sip of the beer. With each swallow, it seems to become drier. Very more-ish. Just enough firm maltiness to support the hop oils anointing its surface. A very straight-ahead beer. I could have done with more start and finish, but the middle was excellent.

Brewed by the Zywiec Brewery in Poland
Roger Protz writes: Poland grows excellent, under-rated hops, which give a crisp, bitter edge to its beer. Zywiec is straw colored with a tight beading of foam, and a fine floral hop aroma balance by juicy malt. Tart hop resins fill the mouth, balanced by rich, juicy, and slightly toasted malt. The finish is long, lingering, packed with rich malt, spicy and peppery hops and a hint of citrus. Delicious.