Why do beers with high abv have no head

Discussion in 'Beer Talk' started by ThrewRedButter, Jun 1, 2014.

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  1. ThrewRedButter

    ThrewRedButter Crusader (797) Aug 29, 2012 Massachusetts

    Title says it all. May seem like a newbie question, but I don't have an answer. Would appreciate the input. Cheers!
    Roxie_B likes this.
  2. schnarr84

    schnarr84 Initiate (0) Nov 27, 2011 Canada (AB)

    When conditioning a high-alcohol beer, the yeast may have trouble fermenting the sugars since high levels of alcohol inhibit yeast. Hence, most big beers exhibit a low level of carbonation. Kegged beers can, of course, be carbonated to any level desired. Most big beers, however, are lightly carbonated, containing less than 1.8 volumes of carbon dioxide (CO2) and thus a lack of head.
    Roguer, ThrewRedButter and Roxie_B like this.
  3. utopiajane

    utopiajane Initiate (0) Jun 11, 2013 New York

    If the beer has alcohol legs you can expect a faint head. Lovely difference.
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  4. BourbonBarrelBeerBelly

    BourbonBarrelBeerBelly Initiate (0) Feb 13, 2013 Washington

    Not always true. Uncle Jacobs Stout produces a pretty substantial head considering. And it's 15%.
  5. JMS1512

    JMS1512 Crusader (790) Feb 18, 2013 New Jersey

    Doesn't it also matter with how vigorous a pour you give your beer? I've stopped pouring down the side of the glass, and instead (nearly) pour vertical into the center of the glass, allowing the beer to form a head, wait until it subsides a bit, and finish pouring. My head usually lasts a while... regardless of abv or fg. Giggity.
  6. utfiero

    utfiero Initiate (0) Dec 20, 2013 Texas

    Temperature also plays a part in developing a good head on a beer. I've noticed some beers have slight heads when very cold but bubble more as the temperature increases.
  7. JMS1512

    JMS1512 Crusader (790) Feb 18, 2013 New Jersey

    Don't legs have more to do with the humidity of the air around it and temperature of a liquid, not sugar content?
  8. jageraholic

    jageraholic Disciple (350) Sep 16, 2009 Massachusetts

    I' ve read alcohol negatively impacts the amount of head so more alcohol gives less head.
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  9. Roguer

    Roguer Poo-Bah (7,093) Mar 25, 2013 Connecticut
    Moderator Society Trader

    It absolutely does matter which beer; some high ABV beers have fantastic heads. However, it is a trend, especially noticeable with barrel-aged beers.

    I don't think I can approach it any better than @schnarr84 did, above, so I won't try. :slight_smile:
  10. readyski

    readyski Defender (601) Jun 4, 2005 California
    Society Trader

    You're the man - that's how i'd do it
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  11. Cozuma

    Cozuma Initiate (0) Feb 19, 2014 Indiana

    try that with flat 12 upside down blonde and you'll have a glass of foam and will have gone just below the neck.

    use of something like carapils or something with long strand sugar chains yeast can't eat will actually contribute to a stronger head, not a bigger head but a stronger one ie less like soda. A balance with those long chains and short chain sugars that can be fermented to create the CO2 has to be made as well. Extra yeast is usually pitched for HG beers in order to get the proper carb level since they sit for quite some time usually and the yeast becomes dormant and less viable.
    LehighAce06 likes this.
  12. superspak

    superspak Poo-Bah (25,404) May 5, 2010 North Carolina
    Society Trader

    Yep it is definitely low carbonation, not ABV. Dogfish Head force carbs 120 min, and this was the result of the last bottle I drank:


    was a 2011 as well.
    MichPaul and Roguer like this.
  13. mxracercam

    mxracercam Disciple (325) Jan 14, 2014 Pennsylvania

    that's usually the only way i get it. :grinning:
  14. bryreeves

    bryreeves Initiate (0) Oct 25, 2012 Massachusetts

    Belgian doubles, tipples and quads all have higher carbonation from bottles conditioning. Fresh yeast is added to the bottle before corking along with the priming sugar. The fresh, healthy and voracious yeast does the job. Head RETENTION however can more difficult especially with the high adjunct content. Use caramel malt, wheat or unmalted barley to boost head and retention...
  15. Casey3236

    Casey3236 Defender (655) Sep 14, 2012 Pennsylvania

    I know alcohol is an emulsifier, a substance which reduces surface tension and makes it more difficult for a liquid to form bubbles. I don't know if that's a big contributor to the lack of head.
  16. guinness77

    guinness77 Poo-Bah (2,101) Jan 6, 2014 New York

    Hell yeah. Pour, baby, pour
  17. drtth

    drtth Initiate (0) Nov 25, 2007 Pennsylvania

    Well, it depends....

    There isn't a single factor at work and over all effects are different for different styles.

    Some things that make a difference.

    Hops: when they are used and how many
    Temperature: ( as already mentioned) with colder producing less
    Strength of the pour: (as already mentioned )
    Degree of force carbonation: (as already mentioned)
    ABV: (as already mentioned) with higher ABV reducing the amount of bubbling and retention
    Amount of wheat in the grain bill: (some brewers will use, say, 5% to ensure adequate foaming)
    Etc., etc.
    #17 drtth, Jun 2, 2014
    Last edited: Jun 2, 2014
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