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Why the difference in ABV for the same beer if BB aged?

Discussion in 'Beer Talk' started by Mattyb79, Mar 8, 2013.

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  1. Mattyb79

    Mattyb79 Devotee (474) Dec 11, 2012 Virginia
    Beer Trader

    I have noticed this a lot, and just have gotten around to asking the question. Why is there a higher ABV for beers when they are barrel aged vs. the base beer. Is it because the brewer's add extra yeast to cause further fermentation in the barrels....(wait, me thinks exploding barrels, so no.) Is it live yeast still in the beer? Doubt it... (maybe a small amount, but again exploding barrels). I highly doubt it picks up residual alcohol from the barrel (if that's even possible). So why the difference in ABV??? I truly hope it's not due to a different base beer, because that would make every BA vs. Base beer tasting null and void if the ABV was different. Help me out here, o knowledgeable BA's.
  2. 5thOhio

    5thOhio Zealot (501) May 13, 2007 South Carolina

    Although I'm no expert, my guess is that water slowly leaches out, leaving a slightly higher concentration of alcohol.
  3. BeerNFoodDood

    BeerNFoodDood Initiate (0) Jul 7, 2012 Colorado
    Beer Trader

    The beer will definitely gain abv from aging in the barrel. There is residual alcohol pickup from the spirit soaked into the wood and a gain of up to 2% can be seen. There can be over a gallon of spirits soaked into the oak. Evaporation of water from the beer can also occur. Some base beers for BA beers are different as they are brewed specifically for BA.
  4. jlordi12

    jlordi12 Devotee (412) Jun 8, 2011 Massachusetts
    Beer Trader

    They don't actually use barrels at all, they just pour some bourbon right in with the base beer and get it directly to market.
  5. Mattyb79

    Mattyb79 Devotee (474) Dec 11, 2012 Virginia
    Beer Trader

    Well, you just opened my eyes to a multitude of reasons for the difference in ABV. Never knew that much alcohol could soak into the wood. I'm curious if it would catch more alcohol from something like scotch barrels since they are used more than once than bourbon.
  6. drtth

    drtth Poo-Bah (3,219) Nov 25, 2007 Pennsylvania

    No, the wood can only absorb so much liquid before it gets saturated.
  7. nategibbon

    nategibbon Initiate (117) Sep 6, 2008 Illinois

    There can be as much as a pint of liquor left over in the barrel when the brewery receives it, no hidden yeast or magic wood.
  8. JamesShoemaker

    JamesShoemaker Initiate (0) Sep 21, 2012 Michigan
    Beer Trader

    Good question, OP. I've often wondered this myself.
  9. rauchfest

    rauchfest Initiate (0) Sep 5, 2008 Pennsylvania

    The alcohol would evaporate first.
    juankzas likes this.
  10. ShanePB

    ShanePB Poo-Bah (1,657) Sep 6, 2010 Pennsylvania
    Beer Trader

    I've seen some barrel aged beers with the same ABV as their base beer though, too.
  11. MostlyNorwegian

    MostlyNorwegian Zealot (506) Feb 5, 2013 Illinois

    Pretty much what everyone says. BA beers served where they are sourced are quite another thing altogether to in the flavor cos its notes and their order in prominence will change over time and can do so in as short as a few hours. I was amazed at how some BA's would change from tasting them in the morning to tasting them again later in the day. Sometimes it was a different beer altogether.
    Either double fist your order and set it aside as the second beer, or cup it like a fiend and breathe deeply and hork up those smells and warm it like you would your hands on a cold day while it comes up to the right temperature. BA beers really are shy at pour temperature and I think they are basically a waste of money if they get consumed at anything below 55f. Your patience will be rewarded with them.
    They can pick up anywhere from a mild 1 - onwards of 3 and 4% and possibly more in the abv depending on the barrel and more importantly how fresh it is coming from the distillery.
  12. scud

    scud Aspirant (200) Sep 22, 2010 Indiana
    Beer Trader

    I always wondered why Foothills ba people's Porter is so low. This site actually lists the ba version with a lower abv than non ba.
  13. ne0m00re

    ne0m00re Crusader (720) Feb 19, 2008 Ohio

    At room temperature and normal pressure for an alcohol-water solution, the vapor phase concentration of alcohol willl always be greater than the liquid phase concentration of alcohol (until about 95% alcohol). This means that you cannot increase alcohol concentration in the liquid beverage through evaporation (i.e. "Evaporation of water from the beer..." to increase alcohol content is physically impossible). The result would always be the opposite.
    juankzas likes this.
  14. Mattyb79

    Mattyb79 Devotee (474) Dec 11, 2012 Virginia
    Beer Trader

    I guess the Bourbon County beers are the most puzzling to me, since they are all supposed to be BCBS with some flavoring or aged longer, but the ABV of all are lower than just regular BCBS. Rare spent 23 months in barrels but is only 13.0%?? I know there is variance in the barrels, but if it is the same beer in the same barrels with nothing more than coffee added, why does it come out at 14.0% vice 15.0%?
  15. Swervine44

    Swervine44 Aspirant (246) Mar 24, 2011 California

    That's easy - every barrel is a living organism and what it chooses to do with the beer is completely up to it's own damn preference.
  16. atomic

    atomic Disciple (328) Sep 22, 2009 Illinois
    Beer Trader

    Probably not exactly the same brew as the regular BCBS.
  17. VladTepes

    VladTepes Initiate (156) Oct 18, 2012 Finland

    Hmm.. This base on what? As far as I know, "Evaporation" of alcohol from the beer occur more easily? Or am I wrong?
  18. kzoobrew

    kzoobrew Initiate (0) May 8, 2006 Michigan

    Humidity makes a huge differnce. When you are talking bourbon, high humidity will decrease the alcohol and low humidity will increase the alcohol. I would imagine the same would be true for beer.
  19. kzoobrew

    kzoobrew Initiate (0) May 8, 2006 Michigan

    Many things in this world prefer to exist in a state of equilibrium, wood is no exception. When you are barrel aging in spent spirit barrels there is a constant exchange of liquid. The wood will release the spirits and take in beer. As you replace the less alcoholic beer for more alcoholic liquor you will undoubtedly see an increase in abv in the beer.
  20. Herky21

    Herky21 Crusader (717) Aug 7, 2011 Iowa
    Beer Trader

    Fun fact: the evaporated beer is called the Angel's Share.
  21. franklinn

    franklinn Initiate (0) May 29, 2012 Vermont

    Disappearing beer is not fun :slight_frown:
  22. Herky21

    Herky21 Crusader (717) Aug 7, 2011 Iowa
    Beer Trader

    and some practical considerations: higher ABV beers are less likely to get infections. They have bolder flavors that can stand up to the wood or whiskey from the barrel. They are also easier to market at higher prices. The economics of storing beer in a barrel and having it take up your real estate for a year is what one would consider a highly value-added product. Brewers need to see some money returned for all their hard work and I think that's easier to market as a higher ABV beer.
  23. kzoobrew

    kzoobrew Initiate (0) May 8, 2006 Michigan

    The term generally refers to the loss of wine or distilled spirits from oak barrels. The concept may also apply to beer but it is certainly a borrowed term.
  24. ThePorterSorter

    ThePorterSorter Meyvn (1,436) Aug 10, 2010 Oregon
    Beer Trader

    I was just thinking about "the angel's share" from when I did the Jameson tour a few years back
  25. evilc

    evilc Initiate (0) Jan 27, 2012 California

    Checkout Speedway and ALL variations. 12% baby ! They're all 12%! Miracle!!! ( or they don't test them, ever. )
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