Occasionally, I recognize a serious gap in my learning. For instance, what effect does eisbocking have on the gravity of a beer when I know that I’m not getting 100% water from skimming? What about the bourbon addition? What do the changes do to the overall hydrometer measurement of the beer? I suppose recognizing my gaps is good because it’s a chance to look into the process a bit more.
This eisbock portion was, by far, the most tedious point in the process of making this beer (you can find my earlier posts on this topic listed at the end of this article). Freezing a high viscosity beer, which is full of alcohol, in a conventional freezer is a serious pain. I was able to achieve—maybe—negative 7° Fahrenheit. By any stretch of the imagination, this is a very cold temp but perhaps not high enough. I’ve repeated again and again that my real issue was viscosity; I was able to freeze the beer, but due to the viscosity, I lost some entrenched beer in the process.
The eisbocking stage of my beer really helped me to understand why some of these big beers cost so much. Of course, my process was less efficient than a brewery’s might be, but I went from slightly more than eight twelve-ounce beers down to two twelve-ounce portions. I started with about 100 ounces of liquid and ended up with ounces. It really shows how the reduction of volume is massive in such a process.
As I mentioned in the last post, the gravity reading I got after the bourbon addition was 1.075, and I figured on 2.7319% actual alcohol increase (…etc.) for every 1% on the hydrometer. The effect of the ethanol remains proportional to the relative buoyancy of the solution (I may be off base on this because I’m admittedly more ignorant than I’d like to be about the topic. But the relative effect of density and water removal seemed to imply that my buoyancy effect would be consistent in this manner. I’m learning as I go). The way I approached this, hoping for absolute accuracy, was to use the difference in gravity of the initial beer to the finished eisbock solution to get my ABV change. Once I had done that, I need my multiplication of 2.7319 (noted above) times the hydrometer change, giving me my relative change. I wish that I could have bought a $50,000 piece of equipment that would simply give me my ABV. Or that I could have sent it to a lab. However, with 2 bottles and no cash, I did what I could.
Now for the million dollar question: what was the difference in the gravity?
The brew went from 1.075 to 1.095, which would mean 2.67107 on hydrometer*2.7319148 adjustment = 7.2971452+27.868857 = 35.166002% ABV. My ABV yield is still up in the air. Here’s the situation. I’ve reduced my volume by 3/4 (roughly), which (theoretically) means that I’ve reduced the water by 3/4 in the beer. This means that the ABV should be 3/4 of the original amount + original amount. So, 27.868*.75 = 20.901+27.8686 = 48.769% ABV.
Is this right? Who knows. The problem with the hydrometer becomes apparent at this point. Based on that calculation, the beer is roughly 35.166002%ABV. Which is it? I don’t know. Maybe at some point someone will read this article who really knows what they are talking about and can explain what’s going on. I’ve looked other places to try to find some answers, and it’s all over the map.
For instance, one person suggests reciprocation of the numbers. So, what they apparently mean is that if I reduced the volume to 1/4 of the original amount, then I can just multiply the original number by 4. So, according to that logic, my beer is now over 108% ABV…I seriously doubt that it’s purer than pure ethanol, but it does show how comical some of this stuff is. Truthfully, I think maybe the honest estimation is somewhere between the 35% & 48.7% results, and I may have even sunk the Bismark.
I’ve finally decided on a name for the beer: The Convoluted Truth. I think that has a nice ring to it.
There are some things I can know for certain. I accomplished what I set out to do originally: I beat the world’s strongest beer. I can’t help that the rules of the game changed in the meantime. I did beat Tactical Nuclear Penguin. So, I’m proud of that aspect of the process. I maybe even beat Sink the Bismark and the upcoming German beer that’s ostensibly 45% ABV. I’m afraid to make the latter claims. However, I’m not afraid to say that I had a lot of fun and learned a lot about brewing and myself. I’ve seen some gaps, improved my understanding, and found new avenues for exploration. I really wish I had a bottle to send everyone who reads this. If you meet me a Dark Lord Day, I’ll share a sip or two with you.
For some people, this whole thing is moot and pointless since I used this yeast, that yeast, or added bourbon. So be it, you don’t have to drink it. What I do know is that I used barley, yeast, hops, water and a bit of bourbon to make one of the biggest non-distilled (besides a bourbon addition) barley products that has ever existed. That’s enough for me, and I hope you enjoyed the posts (here they are in the original order: 1,2,3,4,5). I’m very proud of this accomplishment. Please tweet, re-tweet it, or re-re-tweet it or tell the L.A. Times to interview me about the site or something.