Anything I’m Fermenting

November 7, 2008

Making the ‘Champage of Beers’ Part 2

Filed under: Beer,Brewing — iwouldntlivethere @ 7:18 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

In the last post I explained why I am planning to brew a ‘Champagne of Beers’, essentially a beer that is an attempt to clone champagne. Here are the characteristics I am aiming for. I already discussed how to achieve a very light colour and fizz without head.

1. Very light colour

2. Fizzy, but without much head

3. Alcohol content of around 8% abv

4. Noticable acidity

5. Light body

6. Clear – minimal cloudiness

7. Low bitterness and no hop flavour or aroma

8. Fruitiness

9. Dry (i.e. not sweet)

The next aspects of brewing a champagne clone are:

3. Alcohol content of around 8% abv. I think part of the appeal of champagne is that it is the closest wine comes to being beer (ignoring wine-beer blends). It has the carbonation and lightness of some beers, but has the alcohol content of wine. So people drink it much more easily and quickly than wine generally (lest the carbonation dissipate), so they get tipsy quicker and more so than usual – leading to good times! I also understand that a lot of its appeal is marketing and its association with significant events.

So the Champagne of Beers needs to be significantly stronger than typical beer. At the low end, wines are around 8%, which happens to be at the higher end of beer. I could go higher, but it gets complicated, and harder to control flavours and body. This would interfere with other objectives like a light body, and dryness.

Achieving 8% alcohol is not that difficult – the grain bill is simply increased enough to ensure enough sugar is created, and so enough alcohol will be fermented. However, barley malt is a flavourful grain, and mashing can produce significant quantities of long-chain sugars that do not get fermented, contributing body, sweetness or maltiness, and flavour to beer. These are generally good things, making beer palatable.

However, I don’t think they’ll work well in this case – obtaining higher alcohol content strictly through barley malt would add proportionately more unfermentable sugar, making the beer thick and sweet/malty tasting – things I am trying to avoid. The solution to this problem is to use neutral grain adjuncts (non-barley) and refined sugar. Grain adjuncts commonly used include corn and rice – corn adds corn flavour, but rice is practically tasteless. The grain bill I am looking at would call for about 58% barley malt, 21% rice, and 21% sugar. The sugar is completely fermentable and does not contribute any flavour  or residual sugar. Yeast fermenting refined sugar can add some cidery flavours – not a bad thing in this case. As well, if so much sugar is added that the alcohol content kills off the yeast before all the sugar is fermented, sugar will be left in the finished beer adding sweetness. This is unlikely in my case as I am only aiming for an alcohol content of 8%, below the toxicity level of most yeasts.

Speaking of yeast, I will be using Wyeast’s 1388 Belgian Strong Ale yeast. It is well adapted for higher alcohol content (good), produces some fruity flavours (good – see Characteristic #9) as well as spice flavours (not so good), finishes dry and tart (good – see Characteristics #4 and #10 ), and has low flocculation (bad – see Characteristic #6). It’s recommended fermentation temperature range of 18 – 27 degrees is good for the fermentation conditions I have. JJ recommended it, and while not perfect, I think it probably is the best yeast for my beer, overall.


On a different note, last night I had a Budweiser – haven’t had one in years, and the only other choices at the Korean place we were at were Coors Light or Coors Canadian. In many respects, the Budweiser was like what I am aiming for with the Champagne of Beers – it was very light coloured, minimal hop aroma or flavour, not bitter, light body, very clear and had zero head (it may have been partly the plastic cup I was drinking from). I think if it had had more alcohol, acidity, and fruity flavours, it would have fit my characteristics! Not sure if that is a good or bad thing, but it confirms that you could brew a beer much like champagne.

One other thing I noticed is that it’s bubbles were big and formed everywhere, like a pop, rather than small and forming from individual spots like in a champagne. The good news is that I have noticed that my homebrews form bubbles much like champagne does – I think it may have to do with bottle conditioning.


  1. […] 3. Alcohol content of around 8% abv […]

    Pingback by Making the ‘Champage of Beers’ Part 4 « Anything I’m Fermenting — November 11, 2008 @ 6:53 pm | Reply

  2. […] 3. Alcohol content of around 8% abv […]

    Pingback by Making the ‘Champage of Beers’ Part 5 « Anything I’m Fermenting — November 13, 2008 @ 2:14 am | Reply

  3. […] 3. Alcohol content of around 8% abv […]

    Pingback by Making the ‘Champage of Beers’ Part 6 « Anything I’m Fermenting — November 21, 2008 @ 9:47 pm | Reply

  4. […] 3. Alcohol content of around 8% abv […]

    Pingback by Making the ‘Champage of Beers’ Part 3 « Anything I’m Fermenting — November 21, 2008 @ 9:53 pm | Reply

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