Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Ask the Beer Guy: ABV, Holiday Ales, and Proper Glasses

The Iron Monkey’s resident beer guy, Brant Schweinsberg – that’s him on the left – knows a thing or two about craft beer. And now, he’s answering your questions.

I know that drinking a beer with a higher ABV can make my night a little more interesting, but does the percentage of alcohol by volume in a beer affect the taste at all? - Mike R.

Yes. It absolutely does, and the answer lies in the brewing process. In order to get a higher percentage of alcohol in beer, a brewer must increase the amount of fermentable sugar in the beer. This is accomplished by increasing the amount of malted barley in the mash. More barley means more sugar. Since yeast converts sugar to alcohol and carbon dioxide, more sugar means more alcohol. Overall, you end up with a sweeter, maltier beer. Also, if the alcohol is pronounced, you will be able to taste the alcohol. This is often referred to as a warming effect.

I love winter and holiday ales. Do you have any favorite seasonal brews I should try this year? - Katie

I love winter and holiday beers. One of my favorites is Troegs Mad Elf. It’s a Belgian-style ale that’s brewed with honey and sweet and sour cherries.  I'm also a fan of Fegley's Rude Elf. It’s a Belgian-style dark ale brewed with dark Belgian Candi Sugar and hints of cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and clove. But there are tons of great holiday beers on the market. I recommend trying as many as you can.

Does it make a difference what kind of glass I use to serve beer? – Andrew W.

Yes, yes, and yes! Much like different varietals of wine are served in specific glasses, different styles of beer should also be served in the proper glassware. A proper glass is designed to exemplify the color, aroma, and flavor of the beer. Long and thin glasses display a beers effervescence and clarity while bowl shaped glasses highlight the beer's aroma and head. I could probably talk for hours about glassware, but I won't. If you have a specific beer glassware question, please feel free to ask.    

If you have a question you’d like Brant to answer, email us at, or post on our Facebook wall at We can’t wait to hear from you, and we’ll get answers up on a future blog post. Cheers!

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