If you’ve read a beer label you may have noticed three letters after that ever-so-important alcohol percentage: ABV. But do you know what they mean and how that number comes to be? And more importantly, what that means for our Oktoberfestbier and the people who drink it?
We have your answers.
Simply put, ABV stands for Alcohol By Volume and it’s what portion of the total volume of liquid is alcohol. (So basically, it’s the best part.)
To estimate the abv of a beer, a brewer uses a hydrometer. This is used to measure the gravity of the beer. The hydrometer will be calibrated to read 1.000 in water (at 68°F). The denser the liquid, like if you add sugar, the higher the hydrometer reading.
So how does the good stuff get in there exactly?
During the brewing process yeast transforms sugar into alcohol. But before that can happen the liquid starts as wort (pronounced wert) and is packed with sugars previously extracted from the grain. The brewer gets out his handy-dandy hydrometer to measure the wort (again, at 68°F) and establish the original gravity (OG).
The yeast is added to the wort, and fermentation begins. As the yeast cells chow down on the sugar in the wort, they create carbonation (CO2), alcohol. Two things we all know very well!
Fast forward to days, weeks, and even months later to when the brewer has decided the wort has reached its ultimate fermentation. He’ll do another hydrometer reading for the final gravity (FG).
You may have noticed that all measurements were taken at 68°F. That’s because hydrometers are calibrated to give specific readings at this temp so changing it changes the reading. That would mean doing math, and no one wants that…especially after a few of our brews.
Speaking of our brew, in order for it to be true Oktoberfestbier, our brew absolutely MUST have a Stammwürze (original extract) between 13.5% and 13.9%. We have an average of 13.8%. Add this to our high-quality malts and the fermentation-intensive yeast creates the relatively high abv of approximately 6.3%.
Calculating the ABV
This leads us to that 6.3%. How do we come up with that magical number? For Oktoberfestbier and all others, the formula is quite simple. Really.
ABV= OG-FG x 131 (not scientific)
We’re not going to give away all of our secrets, so we’ll let you figure out how to plug those numbers in to come up with our 6.3% abv.
What happens when there’s too much of a good thing?
Not possible, you say. Tell that to the Bierleichen.
Ever seen Walking Dead? A Bierleiche is like that, except the walking part. In German Bierleichen translates to beer corpses. We’re not talking about the ones who overzealously wield their steins or dance in the aisles; that’s all 100% acceptable and encouraged. We’re talking about the ones who have passed the point of no return and need to start trading in beer for water, and maybe a pretzel or two to help soak up all the fun they had. You know the ones.
This Oktoberfest (and every day) we truly hope you enjoy imbibing in our brews. We are proud of their strength and traditions behind them, but we always encourage drinking responsibly.
Stay safe and party on!