As you probably already know, ABV or alcohol by volume, refers to the amount of alcohol is in your beer by percentage. The more alcohol that is in your beer, obviously (maybe), the stronger the beer is; and the more “buzz” you’ll feel from it.
Typically domestic beers range from 4.0 – 5.0% ABV. You’d be surprised to learn, though, that beers can get some ridiculously high alcohol percentages. A little over a year ago, a brewery in Scotland made a beer, called Snake Venom, that comes in at 67.5% ABV!
This isn’t realistic for your home brewing needs, though, but you can make high abv beer at home that can get up to around 14% if you know how.
First and foremost, if you want to brew a high ABV beer, you should look into a pre-made pack of ingredients that will make a “big beer”. This is the number one way you should go about making high ABV beer because you know you’ll have all of the right ingredients; and you’ll have instructions on what to with those ingredients.
If you’d prefer to not buy a pre-made pack of ingredients, I’d suggest taking a look at a recipe for a high ABV beer and following that. You’ll have to get the ingredients on your own, but you’ll still have the instructions on what to do, and when, to make your bigger beer. (you can check out one of my reviews for a recipe book Here).
If you feel that you don’t need a recipe either, but you want to increase the ABV of your own personal brew; or if you’re following another recipe, and you’d like to increase the ABV of that, then check out the tips below.
Be warned though, increasing the alcohol percentage of your beer will also change the flavor of it. That’s why I recommend following a recipe.
The first thing that you can try, to bring your alcohol percentage up, is to add some “fermentables” to your wort. Fermentables are essentially things that the yeast will “eat” to give off more alcohol during the fermenting process. A few examples of these things are table sugar, brown sugar, and honey. These things will thin your beer down, and change the flavor of it; but if a higher alcohol percentage is all you’re after, then go for it!
Another way to increase your ABV is to strategically aerate your wort. As we know, we don’t want to let too much oxygen get into the wort while it’s boiling. You’ll produce a much more stale beer than you’d like. We also don’t want to get too much oxygen in the mixture during or after the fermentation process; which, again, will create a stale beer. But after the wort cools down and before we begin fermenting, some oxygen can be a good thing. (be sure to aerate your mixture before you add the yeast).
If you are using big yeast to make your big beer, you will probably want to aerate your beer again a short time into fermentation, about 12-24 hours in.
There are three ways to aerate your mixture: Splashing, Agitation, and Injection. All three options are better than not aerating your beer at all, and they are in order from least to most oxygen that will be added during the process. Only one of these processes needs to be done per batch, there’s no reason to do all three.
Splashing is pretty much exactly what it sounds like. You splash your mixture around as you pour it into the container you’re fermenting it in. The easiest way to do this would probably be to transfer the mixture using a tube and splash it around as it comes out of the tube.
Agitation is similar to splashing, but happens after you’ve already transferred the beer to the fermenting container. If you’re using a bucket to ferment, or something where you have access to your mixture, agitation is the process you’ll want to use. All you have to do is stir the beer vigorously with a spoon or whisk (both sterilized of course), or you can pick up the container itself and give it a shake.
Injection is what happens when you use an actual device (often an aquarium pump) to aerate your beer. This route does produce the most oxygen in your wort, but does entail you to shell out some money for one. If you do decide to go this route, be sure to get one that will filter the air, because you don’t want contaminants to be injected into your beer with the oxygen.
Remember, as you’re making a higher ABV beer, you’re going to want to be sure you have healthy and plentiful yeast. You may want to add a little extra than the recipe calls for.
There you have it, a couple of tips to making your beer have a higher alcohol content. Let us know in the comments what you thought about this article, or if you just want to talk about beer! As always, I wish you all luck in your brewing!