May 20, 2018

Beer Break

Beer Break Vol. 3, No. 16
Just add water? Not exactly

Jan. 30, 2003

We've certainly learned much about light beers and high gravity brewing since last week -- and we still haven't had to start any research. Instead, we only had to open our email box and read what Beer Break subscribers sent us.


In case you've forgotten, our discussion started because of a Florida newspaper article. The columnist wrote that a conversation with a former brewery worker confirmed the columnist's suspicion that light beer is made by taking regular beer and adding water.

First, Bill Anderson, a retired master brewer for Schlitz and Stroh's wrote us:

"With regard to Narragansett Brewing Co. Flynn (Bob Flynn, the brewery worker who the columnist quoted) does not know what he is talking about. If I recall Flynn worked in the warehouse. He never saw a beer tank. If what he said the alcohol would go from 3.6% (alcohol) to 2.6%.

"Just a case of someone who is bitter because the brewery had to close because of union demands. True light beers are brewed to hold the calorie content in specs to meet federal regulation.

"I was Master Brewer at Narragansett for several years until I left in 1975," Anderson concluded, adding, "High gravity brewing uses filtered, carbonated water after fermentation and at the filtration stage."

Bob Hewitt wrotes us: "Charles Bamforth described a likely scenario (other than watering down): 1. Mash at a lower temperature for a longer time to get maximum fermentables, thus lowering carbs (and calories and some taste). This appears to be how Michelob 'Ultra' is brewed. 2. The resulting beer is higher in alcohol, so some is removed. 3. Package and sell."

Bamforth is author of the recently published "Standards of Brewing," an essential addition to any professional brewer's library.

Two for Chicago

If you are looking for an excuse to visit Chicago, now that is seems to be emerging from the deep freeze, then consider a trip at the end of February or to kick off April.

The seventh annual Real Ale Festival is Feb. 27-March 1, with a Real Ale Feast Feb. 26. The festival offers the largest collection of cask beers outside of Britain, with 200 expected. It includes award winning beers from both Great Britain and America. For more information, visit

On April 1, the Illinois Guild of Craft Brewers will hold the first annual Festival of Barrel Aged Beer at the Rock Bottom Brewery in downtown Chicago. The festival will feature barrel and wood aged beer from the Midwest and beyond. Beer will be judged and awards will be given. For more information, contact

Tasting notes

Brewed by City Brewer in LaCrosse, Wis.
Michael Jackson writes:
Attractive, warm bronze color. Good, earthy hop aroma. Hoppy palate, gradually rounding into a firm, smooth maltiness. Drying out again in finish. Appetizing. Some dustiness and slightly tart fruitiness. A sociable, appetite-arousing pale ale, heading in the direction of Calutta. Two or three pints of this and it's time for an Indian meal.

Brewed by der Kirschbräu in Germany
Roger Protz writes:
Brilliant presentation in a swing-top bottle. It's 7.2% volume, the classic Doppel-bock strength. Chestnut-colored with barley-white foam, a rich chocolate, bready/yeasty aroma, followed by a stunning palate of rich, dark malts, a deep and vinous/fried grape fruitiness, and delicate hops. The finish is long, linger, delectable, with sweet malt, floral hops and dark chocolate vying for attention.

Find whatever in the beer world you are looking for. Enter a search word or phrase, then click GO.