“High-gravity” refers to brewing a beer with high original gravity (OG).Typically, above 1.075 OG is considered high. OG is a measure of the fermentable and un-fermentable sugars in the wort before fermentation. A gravity reading taken just prior to yeast being added, is referred to as the original gravity (OG). The OG will provide the brewer with a good idea of the alcohol percentage for that particular beer. More malt = more fermentable sugar = higher ABV. We’re highlighting styles that are 7% ABV or higher in this month as such!
The first styles you might think of when you think high ABV/high gravity might be Barrel-Aged beers, and for good reason! There is a very popular book about what is arguably the first barrel-aged stout, Barrel-Aged Stout & Selling Out by Josh Noel, highlighting the story of Goose Island Bourbon County Brand Stout. There is even been a beer fest created to highlight these boozy barrel- aged beasts, the Festival of Wood & Barrel-Aged Beers (FOBAB), held every November in Chicago. By now, we’ve moved on from just Bourbon barrels, into wine, rum, tequila, sherry, port, you name it— and anytime you add alcoholic liquid to a previous use liquor barrel it gets a bit of an ABV boost! Check out Founder’s Dankwood (Imperial Red IPA aged in Bourbon Barrels), Boulevard Bourbon Barrel-Aged Quad, or Innis & Gunn Rum Barrel-Aged.
If you’re a lager fan, there are high gravity lagers, too! Strong European Lagers include Doppelbock, Eisbock, and Baltic Porter. Try the classic, Ayinger Celebrator Doppelbock, or the excellent US made Troegenator by Troegs, (as well as its Bourbon barrel-aged counterpart). If you’d rather a Baltic Porter, Try Zywiec from Poland, a great example.
Barleywine is a style you’re likely to see the this time of year. The origins of the term “barleywine” likely come from the strength of the beer coming close to that of wine. In 1736, The London and Country Brewer makes mention of a very strong ale brewed “as to be of a Vinous Nature to answer the like purpose of wine” at the table. Try out the classic Old Foghorn from Anchor Brewing, or if you’d rather go more local grab, Weyerbacher Blithering Idiot.
Any of these beers that fall somewhere North of 10% ABV are prime candidates for aging! We recommend that you store your beer in a cool area, away from direct light and sources of heat. Keep the conditions surrounding your beer consistent, including temperature! Note the date you put the beer in the cellar on a tag, and let it rest for 6 months, a year, or even more.
We find the fun lies within buying two bottles, one to drink fresh, and one to pull out a year later. Compare those tasting notes! With age expect some of these flavors: malt tends to shift to sweeter, more honey toffee characteristics, bitterness and harshness tend to decrease, and earthy, vinous (wine-like), and umami/savory flavors tend to increase.
Virginia is the Products, Programming, and Educational Director for Craft Beer Cellar. In addition to being a Certified Cicerone, she is an Introductory Sommelier with the Court of Master Sommeliers. Her home base is Chicago, but she’s often found in the Boston area, or wherever her passion for good food & drink takes her.
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