How to raise the alcohol content in homebrew beer

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How to raise the alcohol content in homebrew beer
The advantages of do-it-yourself beer. (Jupiterimages/Comstock/Getty Images)

Next to water and tea, beer is the most popular, and widely drunk, liquid on the planet. Most people buy their beer in pubs, clubs, supermarkets and off-licenses. Over-the-counter beers usually have alcohol contents of between 3 and 10 percent. Home-brewing is a popular alternative to purchasing beer that is ready-made. It's much cheaper, too. There is another significant advantage to home-brewing: it allows the brewer to determine the strength of his or her beer.

Skill level:
Moderately Easy

Things you need

  • Water
  • Malted grain
  • Brewer's yeast
  • Hops
  • Honey
  • Corn sugar
  • Whiskey

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    Making beer that gives a kick

  1. 1

    The chief ingredients of beer are water, starch in the form of a malted grain (very often barley), brewer's yeast, and hops. A malted grain is one which is first soaked in water, then dried. The enzymes in the dried grain trigger a process called saccharification, which turns the starch into sugar. The brewer's yeast allows for fermentation, which is the process of converting the sugar into alcohol. The hops provide much of the distinct flavouring.

    How to raise the alcohol content in homebrew beer
    The essential ingredients of beer. (Digital Vision/Digital Vision/Getty Images)
  2. 2

    The simplest way to raise the alcohol level of home-brewed beer is to elevate the sugar content. Saccharification is the natural process of converting starch into sugar. It doesn't hurt to lend a helping hand, however, when there is a desire to increase the strength of home-brew. There are several ways this can be successfully achieved. One is by adding honey to the mix. Malt extract, which has a treacle-like consistency and a very sweet taste, is also an ideal choice for many home-brewers. Corn sugar can significantly raise alcohol levels in home-brewed beer, too.

    How to raise the alcohol content in homebrew beer
    More sugar means more alcohol. (David De Lossy/Photodisc/Getty Images)
  3. 3

    One of the easiest ways to increase the alcohol content of home-brew beer is to add whiskey. A distilled drink, whiskey is made from grain that has been fermented. The grains used in the production of whiskey include rye and barley. Whiskey should only be added to home-brew beer when the fermentation process is complete and the beer is ready to be bottled. Determining the amount of whiskey to use is very much down to personal choice. Many brewers suggest adding a figure of 14g (0.5 oz) of whiskey to each 568ml (1 imperial pint) bottle of beer. This amounts to roughly one-third of a single shot-glass serving per bottle.

    How to raise the alcohol content in homebrew beer
    When whiskey can help. (Paul Katz/Photodisc/Getty Images)

Tips and warnings

  • When embarking on making your own beer, it's always a good idea to begin with a home-brewing kit. Starter-kits - of 4.5 litres (1 imperial gallon) - are relatively inexpensive and, in terms of creating a strong beer, will provide the ideal opportunity for experimentation.
  • Don't exceed the 14g (0.5oz) amount of whiskey contained in each bottle of home-brew. Too much whiskey, at bottling stage, can kill the yeast and significantly affect the carbonation of the beer.

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