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Beer 105: What is ABV?

Goldilocks sat up at a bar filled with unattended beers. Not having learned from her younger years, she is overcome with curiosity. She tried the beer to her left, “This beer seems too weak,” she thought to herself. Next, she tried the beer to her right, “This beer is way too strong,” she thought, as just a sip of the beer left her dizzy. The bartender smiled, seeing her try all these drinks. He followed his smile up with a pour and a new glass. She took a big gulp of her new-found drink. “This beer is just right,” she exclaimed!

Goldilocks was stuck between a beer with very little alcohol and one with too much for her. One thing you’ll notice as you try different beers is that sometimes the beer is bubbly, enjoyable, and very easy to drink. Other brews have a strong alcohol flavor that is overwhelming to those who don’t expect it. All beer has an “Alcohol by Volume” value that is typically called ABV. ABV measures how much of the total beverage is alcohol compared to the other ingredients. For example, if a beer has a value of 10% ABV then 1/10 of the beer is alcohol. To offer more context, the average wine ABV is 12%-15% and liquors can range from 20%-40% depending on the type of liquor.

ABV is an important factor when drinking becomes a hobby. It is harder for beer to ruin your evening (and morning) than wine and liquor because of the volume of beer that has to be consumed to match something like whiskey. So where does this alcohol come from?

To put it simply, sugar is responsible for the alcohol content in beer. As mentioned before, as the malted grain cooks, it produces a sugar that the yeast will eat during the fermentation process. The by-product of the yeast consuming the sugar is alcohol. If a brewer adds more sugar to a brew it will increase the ABV. Additionally, as you might imagine, the type of sugar added during the brewing process will change the flavor.

When it comes to beer, we are all Goldilocks. We are always trying different beers knowing that some of us enjoy the alcohol flavor while others are more interested in an easier experience. At the Meeple, a great example of a local beer is Maumee Bay’s Breakfast Stout; it has a strong 9.1% ABV which is sure to give a pleasant flavor and a relaxing tone. On the other side of the spectrum, Bumbleberry by Fat Heads Brewery, which is a Meeple favorite, has a humble 5.1% ABV.

If you aren’t sure which part of the spectrum you enjoy, we are always happy to help you find it. Next time you are at the Meeple, ask your server or bartender what drink they recommend and give something new a try!

Meeple Dana Miller

Dana Miller has embraced the nerd culture his whole life. Starting from a passion for collectible X-Men cards to feverishly saving the princess from Bowser on his NES. He has managed game rooms, blockbusters and restaurants. He loves cooperative and team based activities, learning new board games, comic book films, League of Legends, and trying different craft beers.

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