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Home Brew Forums > Home Brewing Beer > Fermentation & Yeast > Perceived vs. calculated alcohol level
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Old 08-16-2012, 11:14 PM   #1
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Default Perceived vs. calculated alcohol level

My last two beers, a Berliner Weisse and Saison, have a calculated ABV of 3.7% and 5.5% respectively. I intended to create two low-alcohol beers, and yet both of these brews leave me feeling trashed. Paradoxically, the 3.7% Berliner seems to have the higher alcohol level of the two.

What's going on here? Are there different forms of alcohol created in fermentation, with varying degrees of potency? Or is my body just adjusting to the lower-alcohol beers I've been brewing lately?

Background: I am careful about OG and FG readings. I adjust my readings for the temperature of the sample. I've calibrated my hydrometer with distilled water, and also adjust my readings to reflect that calibration. Neither the Berliner nor the Saison appear to be undergoing significant refermentation in the bottle. Both finished at 1.003, so there wasn't much more sugar to eat. Both batches had small grain bills.

I'd appreciate knowing if I'm the only one to experience this.

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Old 08-16-2012, 11:16 PM   #2
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Maybe you are gulping them down faster?

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Old 08-17-2012, 12:00 AM   #3
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I have experienced the same thing. The last brown ale I made calculated out at 5.1% ABV and the guys in the neighborhood named it a$$ kicker brown ale. They warn others "Don't have more than 2 or you'll be sorry." I don't understand because I am super careful with all of my readings and calculations. Some expert chime in please. TIA.

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Old 08-17-2012, 12:05 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dantheman13
Maybe you are gulping them down faster?
Quote:
Originally Posted by TheHunk
I have experienced the same thing. The last brown ale I made calculated out at 5.1% ABV and the guys in the neighborhood named it a$$ kicker brown ale. They warn others "Don't have more than 2 or you'll be sorry." I don't understand because I am super careful with all of my readings and calculations. Some expert chime in please. TIA.
Dan might be on to something... my Berliner and Saison are light bodied, and it's hot out, so I drink them a little more quickly than say, a chewy red ale in March.

Hunk, what's the body like on your brown ale?
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Old 08-17-2012, 12:39 AM   #5
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Its close to a porter, a little chewy mouth feel but not like a stout.

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Old 08-17-2012, 03:31 PM   #6
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Brewing warm can give fusel alcohols that will give you a headache and/or a hangover. If you aren't experiencing this and are just getting trashed off of a few then I can only think of pounding them too fast.

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Old 08-18-2012, 12:29 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dantheman13 View Post
Maybe you are gulping them down faster?
I have this problem. I get far more inebriated from my low abv brews than a giant belgian or RIS or IIIx10 PA. It's easy to forget how quickly session brews go down. Wouldn't call it a problem, though
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Old 08-18-2012, 06:54 AM   #8
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Higher carbonation levels can help push the alcohol through the stomach lining. Making the effects noticable quicker.
(Think of champagne vs normal wine)

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Old 08-18-2012, 03:15 PM   #9
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Thanks, everyone, for your input. It makes sense that I'm drinking these beers too fast. Also, the fact that the Berliner is very highly carbonated.

Up next I'm making a southern English brown ale, which, in addition to having a low OG and relatively high FG, will be only modestly carbonated. We'll see how that one goes down. It may be the session beer I'm looking for.

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