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Home Brew Forums > Home Brewing Beer > General Beer Discussion > Does barleywine alcohol increase as it ages?
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Old 01-07-2011, 05:43 PM   #1
pezcraig
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Default Does barleywine alcohol increase as it ages?

I understand that high volume of alcohol requires more extensive aging to make the beer taste smooth, mellow and balanced? Does barleywine alcohol increase as it ages?

And before anyone asks, No I don't have any problems with mine,
as a matter of fact its on the high side pushing 15% ABV.

Thanks for the answers.

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Old 01-07-2011, 05:45 PM   #2
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Nope, alcohol can only increase with fermentation and that process is long over when you're ageing the beer.

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Old 01-07-2011, 05:45 PM   #3
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No. Alcohol is created when yeast eat sugars. Once that process has stopped, you have the alcohol that you got. No more will be created.

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Old 01-07-2011, 05:51 PM   #4
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Thanks. I thought so, but I wanted to be sure.

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Old 01-07-2011, 11:12 PM   #5
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well, if you aged it in oak that could breathe, some liquid would evaporate, increasing the ABV a bit

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Old 01-08-2011, 07:06 AM   #6
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well, if you aged it in oak that could breathe, some liquid would evaporate, increasing the ABV a bit
I would think the exact opposite would happen because alcohol is more volatile then water so the ABV would drop as the alcohol is lost through the oak barrel.

But I have suspicion since they are in solution both water and alcohol would be lost at the same rate so no change would actually occur.

To OP: only way ABV ever increases is from fermentation or distillation. So you get an ever slight increase in alcohol when you bottle condition, probably not even enough for you to be able to measure it with a regular hydrometer.
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Old 01-09-2011, 04:50 PM   #7
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I'm gonna go against the grain here and say that yes, it does but only a small amount. I think that if the beer has yeast in it, it can continue to eat away at the sugars very very slowly.

As an example, I brewed a Barley Wine in late 2009. I racked it to secondary after 67 days in primary and took a gravity reading at that time, which was 1.018. By 67 days, the beer was obviously very done. No visible activity at all, pretty clear.

I then left that beer in secondary for 372 days. I just wasn't that happy with the beer so left it there (it's a lot better now and I'll bottle it sometime in the spring). I recently needed to rack it again to make room in that particular demijohn (it was about 14 liters in a 20 liter demijohn, so racked it into a 15 liter one to make room in the 20 liter one for another strong beer's secondary). The gravity had dropped a further 2 points to 1.016 in that time in secondary. Not a lot, but it did happen.

Furthermore, when I was at a tasting at the Great British Beer Festival in August, we were tasting Fuller's Vintage Ale with their rep, a guy who's worked there for 30 years and knows his beer. He said that that beer does slowly increase in strength over years as it ages as the yeast eats away at the sugars.

Anyway, them's my 2 cents. I don't think it amounts to much of an increase but I think it does happen.

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Old 01-09-2011, 06:59 PM   #8
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If the beer has a disproportionately high concentration of esters, yeast will over time convert them into fusels, until the concentrations are balanced. The effect would be minor though, and at 15% ABV it's doubtful there is much yeast metabolism occurring anyway.

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Old 01-13-2011, 01:24 PM   #9
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...I'm gonna go against the grain here and say that yes, it does but only a small amount. I think that if the beer has yeast in it, it can continue to eat away at the sugars very very slowly....
This was along the lines of what I was thinking. Very minimal, but its yeast and they are living creatures. Yeast goes dormant. I have an example to back this up.
I had Sam Adams Summer Ale from a camping trip that got put into an extra fridge by my wife (before I was brewing) and about a year later I discovered it. I was pleased because it was out of season and I could see first hand what all the hype was on the commercials about pulling old beer. Anyways, I had a 'fresh' one and the old one. The flavors of the old one continued to develop in the cold, and the alcohol increased. I had a tasting panel of 4 people and we all agreed, and felt that it wasn't necessarily better because the increase.
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