Tips When Increasing the Alcohol Level in Your Homebrew
Before we even get into increasing the alcohol level in your homebrew, we want to quickly visit a previous statement in our Homebrewing Tips to Become an Expert blog: "Chase flavor, not ABV!" When it comes time to consider raising the alcohol content in your homebrew, remember that adding sugar to your beer, therefore increasing ABV, can introduce new flavors as well as change your beer's color, flavor and body. With this being said, we usually recommend going after a specific flavor as opposed to a specific alcohol content. However, if you are ready to up that alcohol content in your next homebrew, we are here to help! Here are a few adjuncts that can be added to your homebrew to increase ABV:
  •          Hopped Malt Extract (HME)
  •          Liquid Malt Extract (LME)
  •          Dry Malt Extract (DME)
  •          Table sugar
  •          Corn sugar
  •          Honey
All of the above, if added to your homebrew, has the potential to increase your beer's final ABV. It is important that you understand how these different adjuncts work, and that you do some math before you go throwing in every sugary item you have in your kitchen. Here are a few tips to keep in mind when when you are increasing your homebrews ABV:
  • No more than 1/3 of your beers ABV level should be a result of non-malt adjuncts, or fermentable sugars: Malt sugars are the sugars in the Hopped Malt Extracts, LME (Liquid Malt Extract), and DME (Dry Malt Extract). Brewing a beer using only theses sugars is the purest form of beer you can make. So, if you've got a recipe that will make a 6% ABV level, no more than 2% of that ABV should be a result of non-malt sugars like Booster, honey, brown sugar, etc. If you are ever in doubt, there are a ton of brewing calculators online that can help you find your ABV using your original gravity and final gravity. Additionally, visiting a forum, such as the Mr. Beer forum, is a great place to find guidance from more advanced brewers.
  • When increasing alcohol, it is likely you will need to increase other ingredients: Going back to Tip #1, if you are going to increase the ABV coming from non-malt adjuncts, you may need to increase the other ingredients (HME, Hops, Grains, yeast etc.) in order to maintain that 6% to 2% ratio.
  • Different sugars and adjuncts impart different flavors: You must keep in mind that different sugars and adjuncts impart different flavors on your homebrew. Usually, HME, DME, and LME add more flavor and mouthfeel to your homebrew while corn sugar will lighten to color of your beer and can even dry your beer out.
Bottom line: If you use additional adjuncts that aren't malt or grains, they need to be the backup singers. Do your math ahead of time. Keep chasing that flavor. Mr. Beer's recipe offer a great option for brewers of all levels sine they let you know in the product description the original gravity (OG), the final gravity (FG), as well as the approximate ABV. Here are a few recipes that boast a big ABV and don't skimp on flavor:
  • Novacaine (10.7% ABV): One of our highest ABV recipes that contains 3 different brewing malts, novacaine isn't for the faint of heart. At first taste, its dark malt complexity is overwhelmed by the numbing sensation that temporarily deadens your mouth. But once your palate is revived, the flavor explodes and warms you through to your toes!
  • American Burleywine (10% ABV): Looking for a beer to share with Granny? This is not that beer. Bold, brash and big, it is the biggest of all beers: Barleywine. Here's a beer that could spot you on the weight bag, and still come back swinging.
  • Apple Brown Beery (9% ABV):  Amber beer and cider with a hint of cinnamon and brown sugar to round out the mix. Be wary of the alcohol Betty brings to the table though, or you may not be able to get up after a couple. Just what you want to curl up with on a cool autumn night.