Beer on steriods: How to fortify beer

by | Brewing beer




If you are looking to increase the alcohol content of your beer to produce something like a barley wine, there are a few easy methods.   Making a very strong beer without fortification (like Samuel Adams Utopias ) will be covered in another article.

Fortify your beer

The first method to fortify your beer is to just add whiskey to your beer.  Whiskey is a distilled hopless beer (sort of), and is the best choice for flavor.  The idea for using whiskey is to add “like with like”.  This probably is not the best method, but if you age your beer for a while with oak chips, this could result in a nice winter warmer.  We would recommend stouts as the best choice for this method, but we’re sure someone out there will prove us wrong with an awesome fortified pale ale.

You can other alcohols like Everclear.  When you choose your fortifying spirit, it’s better to use less of a higher proof alcohol than more of a lower proof alcohol.  Everclear could be a good choice, because you have to add less.  Adding less to your beer means you will dilute your beer less.  Everclear is often used to make port wine by homebrewers for this reason.  Everclear may be too neutral.  It depends on what you are looking to accomplish.

The spirit should be added after fermentation.  If you add it too early, not all of the sugars will ferment.  If you are aiming for a “port-like” beer that is slightly sweet, adding a high proof spirit late in the fermentation is your best bet.

The best way to calculate the correct amount of alcohol to add is to use a Pearson’s Square .

fortified beer

Fortifying your beer will makes the alcohol content much higher

Freeze your beer

Another method to fortify beer is to freeze the beer, and then remove the ice.  Technically this falls under “fortification” according to the laws in the United States, and thus is illegal.  Other countries might have different laws regarding this (let us know in the comments if you know the laws for your country).  We have not heard this rule enforced for a home brewer in the United States; however consider this your warning and our disclaimer.  Freeze fortification works because water and alcohol have different freezing points (32 F 0 C and -178 F -117 C respectively).  Your freezer is not cold enough to freeze alcohol.

The method of freeze fortification is very simple.  Take your fermented wort and place it in a clean, sanitized bucket.  Seal the bucket and place in a freezer overnight.  Make sure there is room in the bucket for the ice to expand.  Do not use glass, as this could have disastrous results if you do not leave enough space.  The next morning, remove the block of ice.  The remaining liquid is fortified ice beer.

The results of these methods may produce jet fuel initially, and may require extended aging.  Just place them away after bottling, and try a bottle until the harsh notes of the alcohol mellow out.  If you make a great one let us know, or better yet send us a bottle!


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DJ Spiess

DJ Spiess

Beer buddy

I live in Denver, Colorado. This blog is everything about beer, wine, cider, mead and other spirits.
I am a avid homebrewer and winemaker. I’ve been making my own beer and wine for many years. I started making beer when I was in college (mostly because the drinking age in the United States is 21). My first few beers were horrible. The beers are much better now, and I often supply my neighborhood with free beer! It is a great hobby!