The alcohol content in most beers is in the range of 5-7% – measured as ABV – Alcohol by Volume. That makes beer only mildly alcoholic when you compare with wine – 12-14% and distilled drinks that typically have over 35%.
Alcohol by Volume is the standard way of representing the alcohol content as it is required by law in the European countries. Alcohol by weight is often seen on the US labels.
It is easier to understand ABV since we buy them in ounce, millilitre, pint, gallon, etc. all measures of volume.
And for homebrewers, measuring ABV – Alcohol by Volume is the easiest way to keep track of your brew’s fermentation process. Through this, you’ll also know when the fermentation is complete and when you are ready to move to the next step of kegging or bottling the beer.
How to measure ABV?
As a homebrewer, you might wonder how to know the ABV of your brew. So let’s talk about that!
We know that the alcohol in the beer comes from the yeast eating up the sugars. The yeast digests the sugar in the brew and releases ethyl alcohol or ethanol and carbon dioxide as by-products.
So to measure the alcohol content, we measure the sugar content of the solution and through the inverse correlation arrive at the alcohol content.
Does that sound more tedious than the brewing process? It’s actually a pretty simple calculation since we have the formula ready.
Before you start the fermentation, take a small sample on the measuring cylinder and dip the hydrometer. Note the reading as the Original Gravity or O.G.
Now pitch in the yeast to kickstart the alcohol making! Once the fermentation is complete, (the beer recipe tells you how long it would take), pour another small sample, and note the reading. This is the Final Gravity or F.G.
FG will be lower than OG because sugar has a higher density than alcohol. And as the sugars get consumed by the yeast, the density of the overall liquid reduces.
Plug in the figures in the formula below to arrive at the ABV – Alcohol by Volume of your brew!
(O.G. – F. G.) X 131.25 = % ABV
Yeast doesn’t survive in a high alcohol environment. Its threshold depends on the particular yeast strain you are using. So if the ABV is in the range for the type of beer you are brewing, your fermentation is complete and you are now just one step away from enjoying freshly chilled beer from this brew batch.
Take a peek at the ABV content of a few well known Indian beer brands and their beer styles for a better idea.
Every brand usually has at least 2 variants – light and strong and sometimes, a few intermediaries as well. Light has lower ABV while strong has higher ABV.
With 36% market share, the Kingfisher is the most popular beer brand of the country. Its 4 beer styles are: Kingfisher Strong (8% ABV), Kingfisher Premium (4.8% ABV), Kingfisher Blue (8% ABV) and the latest entrant – Kingfisher Ultra (5% ABV)
One of India’s oldest beer brands – Godfather offers Godfathers Light (5% ABV), Godfathers Strong (7% ABV), Godfathers Lager (5% ABV)
Haywards’ well known beer is the Haywards 5000, a strong beer with 7% ABV. Haywards also produces 2000, a mild version with 5.5 % ABV, and a super strong Haywards 10000.
Craft beers are catching up in India and here is the proof:
Bira 91 has taken craft brews closer to everyone with its Bira Blonde (5% ABV), Bira White Ale (5% ABV), Bira Light (4% ABV), Bira Pale Ale (7% ABV), Bira Strong Ale (new addition with a spicy taste (7% ABV) )
White Rhino’s three domestic varieties include Wit (4.9% ABV), Lager (4.8% ABV), Indian Pale Ale (6.3% ABV)
If you have a favourite among these, then it’s easy to find a beer recipe that’ll get you close to this beer style you love!