As we touched on in an earlier article, discerning flavor profiles is a complex and multisensory task. When it comes to beer, there are so many factors that contribute to your perception of that first sip: the types of hops used, how the beer was carbonated, malt to hop ratio, the temperature of the beer upon consumption, etc. The alcohol content of the brew, or Alcohol by Volume (ABV), is also inherent to a beer’s flavor profile. A low ABV is characteristic of modern “light” beers; with values generally within the 2-5% range. The higher the ABV, the “bigger” or more intense the flavor. Fun fact, according to manofmany.com, the title for highest ABV beer in the world belongs to Snake Venom from Scotland’s Brewmeister with a whopping 67.5%! (The bottle even comes with a warning label that if you drink it in its entirety, it could kill you). 

Back to the topic at hand, calculating ABV is actually just a simple math problem: (Original Gravity – Final Gravity) x 131.25. Gravity is a measurement of a liquid’s density, the total amount of dissolved solids in the beer. These solids are of course sugars that can be converted into alcohol and carbon dioxide. This measurement can be taken with a number of tools including a refractometer, saccharometer, or hydrometer. 

The Original Gravity (O.G.) reading is taken of the liquid before the addition of yeast. This measurement can give the brewer some valuable insight, such as the potential alcohol content. The more sugar solids present for the yeast to feast on = higher alcohol content. This Original Gravity reading also establishes a baseline to which the brewer can compare future measurements throughout the fermentation process for quality assurance purposes. 
The Final Gravity (F.G.) measurement is taken obviously when the fermentation process is complete and the brew is ready for consumption. A low Final Gravity means a dry, crisp flavor while a higher Final Gravity means a sweeter, malty brew. Now that you have your O.G. and F.G. values, just do the math! Your ABV is the end result. 

Did you learn something new? If so, here’s your homework. Next time you visit Stockholm’s, order a Voyage – five 4 ounce samples of our craft beer. Choose brews with varying ABVs, like Loki’s Pils 3.2%, Third Street Ale 5.5%, and G.P.A. 6.8%. Do you pick up on the nuances of flavors from one to another? How does a higher or lower alcohol content contribute to your tasting experience? We’d love to hear from you!


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