One of the many things a brewer has control over when brewing beer is how much alcohol the finished brew has.
There are official style guidelines that will give a range of what a certain beer style should fall into and brewers will adjust their recipes so that the style they are brewing will be in that range. Some of these strong beer styles have been around for quite some time and others are fairly new.
The factors that will determine the alcohol content of the beer are the amount of sugar the brewer produces from the grain when brewing their beer and, to some extent, the yeast strain they choose to produce the alcohol. Normally, the more grain the higher the alcohol but it also depends on the concentration of the sugars produced. The brewer can also add additional sugars such as honey, maple syrup or brown sugar just to name a few. Fermenting a beer with fruit can also contribute sugar, which could increase the alcohol content.
Some of the beer styles that have a long history are “Barleywine” ( a very malty and sometimes hoppy ale that originated in England), Belgian-style ales such as “Tripel” and “Quadrupel,” German Dopplebock, and Russian Imperial Stout. These beers are very high alcohol and are great cold weather beers for sharing and sipping around the fireplace.
There are some newer styles of strong beers that have come around in recent years such as “Double and Triple India Pale Ales, Imperial Pilsners (brewers will put “Imperial” in front of any style of beer that they brew that has a higher alcohol content than the guidelines), and many more. Today’s brewers will create endless new high alcohol beers using their creativity and are only limited by their imagination! These higher alcohol beers are great to share so find some friends and give one a try.Cheers!
Rob McFerren is the owner of Wolf Creek Restaurant & Brewing Co.