Residual Sugars in beer?

Discussion in 'Beer Talk' started by TEKNISHE, Jan 12, 2018.


    TEKNISHE Disciple (333) Jan 12, 2011 Pennsylvania

    Hi. I'm wondering if certain beers have a lot of sugar in them that remains unconsumed by the yeast? I realize of course alcohol is a sugar. As someone who avoids sugar, alcohol is my one exception. So I don't really want more sugar in my alcohol you see.
    But I suspect new england style IPAs have some leftover sugar and probably anything imperial. And the so-called milkshake IPAs seem to have a ton of sugar too. Do any brewers out there have any data on this? Like at what ABV threshold you start to see a bunch of residual sugar.
    JFresh21 likes this.
  2. TongoRad

    TongoRad Poo-Bah (2,282) Jun 3, 2004 New Jersey
    Premium Member Beer Trader

    In general beer yeasts will consume between 70-80% of the sugars in the wort. There are some styles, like lambics and some sours, where they consume almost everything, but I'd venture that the majority of the beer you drink has a decent amount of residual sugar already.

    Has this been an issue for you health-wise? If so, then you might want to lean towards the drier styles.
  3. Mothergoose03

    Mothergoose03 Poo-Bah (2,121) May 30, 2005 Michigan
    Premium Member

    There are complex sugars in many (most?) beers that the yeast won't eat, thus the beers that have a lot of this type of sugar will taste sweet. Brewers also have other tricks that they can use to retain a sweet taste to a beer. Two beers that come quickly to mind are Southern Tier's Creme Brulee and their Choklat. But I don't know if NEIPAs are brewed to be sweet or if the hops are giving the sweet impression with the juiciness of the citrus and other fruit flavors.
    utopiajane likes this.
  4. beergoot

    beergoot Poo-Bah (3,486) Oct 11, 2010 Colorado
    Premium Member Beer Trader

    Alcohol is not a sugar. Fermentation converts sugar to CO2 and ethyl alcohol. Fermentation usually doesn't convert all the sugars to CO2 and alcohol not matter what type of beer is brewed (i.e., attenuation).

    But your generally right that larger beers can have a lot of residual sugars, especially darker ales.
  5. bbtkd

    bbtkd Poo-Bah (1,842) Sep 20, 2015 South Dakota
    Premium Member

    If you don't want extra sugar in your beer, never drink Avery Rumpkin. Almost like they poured a little beer in a bottle of sugar.
    nc41 likes this.
  6. mikeinportc

    mikeinportc Zealot (588) Nov 4, 2015 New York

    How does beer compare to wine? RS% is a normal spec of wine. Correlation between ABV & RS?
  7. edward_boumil

    edward_boumil Zealot (574) Jun 28, 2015 New York
    Beer Trader

    Well, if you want to avoid sugar probably the best metric I can think of is your taste buds. Anything that tastes sweet likely has a lot of residual sugar.

    But I mean to be completely fair here if you want to make an exception for alcohol but avoid sugar spirits are probably your best bet. I mean beer is essentially a bucket load of various starches and plant carbohydrates all mixed up with microbes. So if avoiding sugar is your goal here beer is going to be a minefield to navigate for you.
  8. Jaycase

    Jaycase Meyvn (1,139) Jan 13, 2007 Illinois
    Beer Trader

    If only we could get this information on the beer we drink (website, label, etc) like almost every other product we consume...
  9. EvenMoreJesus

    EvenMoreJesus Crusader (772) Jun 8, 2017 Pennsylvania
    Premium Member

    All beers have some residual extract, but some certainly have more than others, like imperial stouts and barleywines.

    Your chemistry needs more chemistry, dude.

    Indeed it does.
    TongoRad likes this.
  10. EvenMoreJesus

    EvenMoreJesus Crusader (772) Jun 8, 2017 Pennsylvania
    Premium Member

    Although this is true, the body does use alcohol as an energy source by converting it into acetyl CoA via alcohol and aldehyde dehydrogenase (plus a bunch of other enzymes) and at 7 calories per gram it is almost twice as energy dense as carbohydrates (4 calories per gram).
  11. EvenMoreJesus

    EvenMoreJesus Crusader (772) Jun 8, 2017 Pennsylvania
    Premium Member

    There is no direct answer to this as different beers and different wines have different ABVs and amounts of residual sugars, though wines tend to be in the same ABV range, beers can differ rather widely.

    I'm sure you could find it somewhere, but since beer and wine manufacturers aren't required to list specific gravity readings on their labels, it might be decently difficult.
    Fox82791 likes this.
  12. Invinciblejets

    Invinciblejets Devotee (490) Sep 29, 2014 South Carolina
    Beer Trader

    I have diabetes so have to watch my sugar very carefully. Tho I don’t.... I drink a ton of big adjunct stouts and neipas they usually make me feel like crap.
    Not sure where I’m going with this. But yeah. Beer probably has a lot of sugar. Don’t be like me if you have diabetes.
    JFresh21, SFACRKnight and LuskusDelph like this.
  13. EvenMoreJesus

    EvenMoreJesus Crusader (772) Jun 8, 2017 Pennsylvania
    Premium Member

    How does other beer affect you? Wine? Other booze?
  14. Invinciblejets

    Invinciblejets Devotee (490) Sep 29, 2014 South Carolina
    Beer Trader

    Don’t drink enough other alcohol to tell.
    Sometime I drink beer and I’m fine other times it will hit me like a brick wall I’ll start getting dizzy, sweaty,...blurry vision I assume it makes my blood sugar spike.
    Seems to happen mostly with pastry stouts and neipas.
  15. Ranbot

    Ranbot Devotee (485) Nov 27, 2006 Pennsylvania

    Residuals sugars has been covered above... I have nothing to add.

    The "milk"shake IPAs often have added lactose, which is mostly unfermentable sugar added to beer for sweetness and body. Lactose is the defining ingredient in the traditional milk stout style, and you will often find it in the trendy modern so-called "pastry" stouts.
  16. TriggerFingers

    TriggerFingers Disciple (381) Apr 29, 2012 California
    Beer Trader

    “A bunch of residual sugar” is subjective. If it fits into the stylistic guidelines, then it’s “acceptable.”

    As a home brewer, I can tell you that all beer has residual sugars. Most of the final sugar content is in relation to the yeast attenuation and original gravity. Most yeast can only consume a certain percentage (range) of sugar. 65-80% is the usual attenuation.

    For the sake of brevity, the bigger the beer, the more sugar there will be in the original gravity/final gravity. There are exceptions to this of course. Some sours with exotic sacc/brett/lactic pitches come to mind. Highly attenuative Belgian strains are another that ive been able to get between 85-95% attenuation.

    Beers that are low in alcohol or those with a high level of attenuation will have less residual sugar and sound like your best bet.
  17. YadiBEER_Molina

    YadiBEER_Molina Initiate (114) Apr 14, 2017 Oregon

    Anybody have any guesses in terms of grams how much sugar is in an imperial stout?
  18. EvenMoreJesus

    EvenMoreJesus Crusader (772) Jun 8, 2017 Pennsylvania
    Premium Member

    You talking a normal imperial stout or something from The Bruery?
  19. HouseofWortship

    HouseofWortship Disciple (356) May 3, 2016 Illinois
    Beer Trader

    1.5 grams per oz....

    or to put it in perspective, less than a soda ~ 3.25 grams/per oz
  20. YadiBEER_Molina

    YadiBEER_Molina Initiate (114) Apr 14, 2017 Oregon

    A normal imp stout in the 10-12% abv.
  21. Dan_K

    Dan_K Devotee (430) Nov 8, 2013 Colorado
    Beer Trader

    I'm not sure taste buds will give you the whole story though. The amount and flavor of hops can sometimes mask residual sugars, as well as high alcohol content. A lot of IPAs have a higher FG than a Scottish ale, which will probably taste more malty.

    Left Hand's Milk Stout is probably drier than most imperial / double stouts.
    TriggerFingers and SFACRKnight like this.
  22. Oktoberfiesta

    Oktoberfiesta Aspirant (296) Nov 16, 2013 New Mexico
    Beer Trader

    Some breweries post up their OG and FG numbers

    I was under the impression that the closer to 1.000 the beer is, it's shows it has the least amount of sugar left in your beer.

    Ie. Some pilsners and Sours and saisons finish close to 1.004 range. I've seen ipas at 1.010 and as high as 1.022 with the same amount of ABV. Super big stouts can finish as high as 1.030.

    That's generally my gauge. One place may have a IPA at 1.008, and my own perception is that it's drier than another finishing at 1.016
    SFACRKnight and Mothergoose03 like this.
  23. Mothergoose03

    Mothergoose03 Poo-Bah (2,121) May 30, 2005 Michigan
    Premium Member

    I think that's generally true, but other ingredients in a beer can cause the FG to be higher, thus giving the impression there is more sugar than is actually there.
    SFACRKnight and hopfenunmaltz like this.
  24. threeviews

    threeviews Zealot (571) Apr 18, 2011 Florida

    Most of the topics have been covered...especially the increasing usage of lactose sugar in IPA/DIPA and the famous "milkshake" beers (a la Tired Hands).

    A density meter will measure just that...the sugar density of the wort (regardless of whether or not the sugar is fermentable by brewer's yeast). Therefore, if the OG is only listed on the packaging, it is inconclusive. You need to have both OG and FG metrics in order to determine how much unfermentable sugar is left in the beer.

    That said, with SOOOOO many breweries opening up and releasing is the Wild West out there. The TTB does not have the resources to screen every brewery. I would like to think that breweries are doing their best to "hit their numbers," but it is possible that a few a getting away with selling product that is not to published spec.
    TEKNISHE and raynmoon like this.
  25. Dan_K

    Dan_K Devotee (430) Nov 8, 2013 Colorado
    Beer Trader

    Some dry beers have gotten below 1.000 - I know Jester King has produced one. I think some super-malty beers like Black Tuesday and who knows what else have finished at 1.040 or HIGHER. Any super high ABV beer (like Avery Uncle Jacobs, Tweak, etc) is likely going to have a higher FG. If I ever get a sample of ST Crème Brule I'll throw it at the hydrometer and see what happens.
    SFACRKnight likes this.
  26. hopfenunmaltz

    hopfenunmaltz Meyvn (1,337) Jun 8, 2005 Michigan

    Brewers yeast will ferment out the simple sugars first. Then Maltose, which is about half of the wort. Then some go after maltotrios (some don’t ferment this), dextrins are not fermented.

    Alcohol is less dense than water, so a highly attenuated beverage can be less tha 1.000 (cider often finishes less than 1.000 as it is mainly simple sugars to start with).

    Some beers with crystal malts and roast malts will have higher sugar that don’t ferment out, and the extract from roast malts is for the most part not fermentable, which is why those bid stouts have high final gravitates.

    One other thing, those really big beers may have some sugar that normally would get fermented, but the yeast may hit its alcohol tolerance and give up, somewhere over 10%.
  27. edward_boumil

    edward_boumil Zealot (574) Jun 28, 2015 New York
    Beer Trader

    Yea I mean I'd definitely agree with that, but in lieu of being able to measure carbohydrate content by mass spectrometry I'll stand by my assertation that taste is probably the best metric available. Definitely not an end all be all thing but most beers, as far as I'm aware, don't provide nutrition labels either.
  28. Dan_K

    Dan_K Devotee (430) Nov 8, 2013 Colorado
    Beer Trader

    If you can take a gravity reading of room temp, decarbed beer (you'll need about 1 ounce) you can use a cheap hydrometer to get the FG reading. From there, using the published ABV you can use online calculators to determine very closely the OG; you can also get the calories within about 10% margin of error.

    No Mass Spectrometer needed.
    SFACRKnight likes this.
  29. edward_boumil

    edward_boumil Zealot (574) Jun 28, 2015 New York
    Beer Trader

    Oh, so simple!

    I have a feeling the average beer drinker can't or won't do all that to figure out the carb content of their beer. Do you really think the OP is going to take measurements of their beer and hop online and do calculations to figure out how much carbs are in his beer, every time he cracks a new one?

    Once again just to reiterate I'm not at all saying that taste is a super absolute method. I'm a biochemist, I get your point. I'm just trying to be realistic here within a tangible framework.
    Jaycase likes this.
  30. Oktoberfiesta

    Oktoberfiesta Aspirant (296) Nov 16, 2013 New Mexico
    Beer Trader

    Won't name names but I know a few places who push out some of their beer in as early as 10 days. At a certain point, those last few .01-.05 drops aren't worth losing money over. So in some sense, the beer is unfinished. To them, their house yeast is a beast, and its' getting the job done for the most part. I've had far too many incomplete, overly sweet yeasty sort of beers not named NE IPA. That's why that style gets a bad rep. People were mistakenly making those before it was cool. But thats for another thread.

    Also, your senses and palate aren't wrong. I sense extra sugars all the time. It usually correlates to higher ABV. But there are cases, like for me with Sam Adams beers. 90% of their beers taste overly sweet (even their 5.4% beers). In that case, it feels like some drier 7% ipas are less sugary than some 5.4% ales, and they are probably are
    TEKNISHE and threeviews like this.
  31. readyski

    readyski Aspirant (241) Jun 4, 2005 California
    Beer Trader

    Offhand I would think the lower the ABV the lower the residual sugar. Maybe it's time you learned to love session beers or a really nice pilsner :wink:
  32. SFACRKnight

    SFACRKnight Meyvn (1,126) Jan 20, 2012 Colorado
    Beer Trader

    Steer clear of Dark Lord, its FG is around 1.060, higher than most 6% abv beers.
  33. Dan_K

    Dan_K Devotee (430) Nov 8, 2013 Colorado
    Beer Trader

    Good lord. One of my homebrew mistakes finished at 1.060 and it tasted like hersheys syrup.
    Mothergoose03 and SFACRKnight like this.
  34. SFACRKnight

    SFACRKnight Meyvn (1,126) Jan 20, 2012 Colorado
    Beer Trader

    Finally got my hands on one, I'll report back.
  35. jesskidden

    jesskidden Meyvn (1,231) Aug 10, 2005 New Jersey

    Well, you can always just hold out until Piel's is (finally?) resurrected, since everyone* knows that Piels has less NFS...

    * Perhaps "everyone" is an exaggeration?
    pinyin, cavedave, Jaycase and 2 others like this.
  36. marquis

    marquis Crusader (752) Nov 20, 2005 United Kingdom (England)

    I wonder if the types of sugars not consumed by the yeast are those which cause problems to diabetics.I know a few diabetics who are quite heavy beer drinkers.
    pinyin and cavedave like this.
  37. EvenMoreJesus

    EvenMoreJesus Crusader (772) Jun 8, 2017 Pennsylvania
    Premium Member

    I find this situation to be pretty neat. Most S. cerevisiae strains will preferentially ferment glucose until the glucose is gone from solution and only then will they use other carbon sources. Some microbes, like Pediococcus sp., have the capacity to repress this genetic imperative in other microbes like yeast so that they will ferment all sugars at the same time, leaving more glucose for other microbes in solution. The phenomenon, in case you wondered, is termed Glucose Repression.

    Would agree on the crystal malt bit, but not about the roasted malt. The extract in roasted malts are reduced commensurately with how highly kilned they are causing less fermentable sugar to be able to be derived from them. Many "normal gravity" stouts attenuate just as well as their pale counterparts, even though they have roasted malts in them. Most of the time, big stouts have high terminal gravities because of the amount of unfermentable sugar in solution plus the yeast strain chosen to ferment them, not from the roasted malts in their grainbill.
  38. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (3,377) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania
    Premium Member

    JK, do you have any details on what 'type' of beer the resurrected Piels will be? Will it be an AAL beer like the 1960's Piels beer? Will be be a Bavarian type lager beer of circa 1890?

  39. jesskidden

    jesskidden Meyvn (1,231) Aug 10, 2005 New Jersey

    AAL, I imagine. (He's even using the Stroh era label from the 1980s). The guy who owns the brand is a descendant of Thomas P. Hawkes, who didn't become president of Piel Bros. until after the company was taken over and became a division of Drewrys in 1962 (which evolved into the Associated Brewing Co., after another merger, also known for other brands like Schmidt (of MN), Pfeiffer, Sterling and Mickey's Malt Liquor).

    So it's not as if he has a connection to the history of the brewery with the that stretched back to the pre-Pro era when it was still Piel family run and known as one of the most authentic "German" breweries in NYC.
    cavedave and JackHorzempa like this.
  40. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (3,377) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania
    Premium Member

    I suppose we will learn more when/if this beer becomes available for sale.

    Have you any idea of this beer's intended distribution area?