It's a beer world after all!
Alcoholic fermentation is the conversion of sugars (like glucose, fructose, and sucrose) into ethanol (alcohol)
and carbon dioxide. Or, put simply, without sugar we wouldn’t have booze. The ability to calculate sugar levels in
a liquid, such as grape must or a wort, allows wine makers and brewers to calculate what its alcohol content will be
after fermentation. This calculation is an important part of wine making and brewing, and can affect decisions
made in the vineyard, winery, and brewery.

There are a number of ways to measure sugar levels, one of which is by measuring its Brix value. A Brix value,
expressed as degrees Brix (°Bx), is the number of grams of sucrose present per 100 grams of liquid. The value is
measured on a scale of one to 100 and is used to calculate an approximate potential alcohol content by
multiplying by 0.59. So, if a pre-fermented liquid measures 23 °Bx, its potential alcohol content will be
approximately 13.6 percent ABV.

Brix can be measured using two different instruments: A refractometer or a hydrometer. A refractometer
determines degrees Brix by measuring the refraction of light passing through a liquid sample. Liquids containing
sugar are denser than water and cause greater refraction as light passes through. The instrument compares this
to the refraction of light through water and provides a Brix value. Refractometers are the preferred tool of wine
makers in the vineyard as they offer results from a very small sample size (i.e., the juice from just one crushed
grape). Hydrometers are used before and after fermentation in both wine making and brewing. They calculate a
liquid’s sugar level by measuring its relative density. The instrument utilizes a weighted, floating glass tube that is
placed inside a calibrated test tube containing the liquid sample.The test tube is calibrated to measure the amount
of liquid displaced, and from that, determine how much sugar is present. Brewers prefer the hydrometer.  

Brewers take sample readings before, during, and after fermentation as this allows them to monitor many things,
including mash efficiency, whether the brew is hitting recipe targets, the progress of fermentation, and when
fermentation has finished.  In practice, brewers prefer to take Plato or specific gravity measurements, rather than
Brix, both of which are often also commonly offered by refractometers and hydrometers. But in essence, all three
are used to calculate the same thing, potential alcohol content. Should a brewer take a Brix measurement, it can
easily be converted to Plato or specific gravity using simple calculations.


As part of a health diet, in a adult that is active, beer offers a lot of Heath benefits and like all things moderation is
the critical factor. Some of the health benefits are: A significantly reduced risk of developing kidney stones by
keeping the kidneys healthy.  Digestion is improved as stouts, porters and other dark beers contain a reasonable
amount of fibre, and we all now fibre is good for our gut and reduces cholesterol. Ales are full of vitamins and
minerals such as vitamins B1, B2, B6 and B12.  Studies have found higher levels of these essential vitamins in
beer drinkers compared to non-beer drinkers.  So no need for Vitamin B supplements just have a beer instead.
While the minerals such as silicon contribute to better bone density, while Lactoflavin and Nicotonic Acid  promote
sleep reducing insomnia. Perhaps one of the biggest benefits are a significant reduction in the risk of having a
heart attack. Non-drinkers are taking a significantly higher risk of heart attack than a moderate drinker.

Beer prevents blood clots and reduces the risk of Alzheimers disease and Dementia. Beer of course, with all those
minerals and vitamins, is good for your skin making it smoother and suppler. Not to mention the a glass of beers
ability to reduce stress and anxiety when consumed in convivial company. Is this all too good to be true?
No!  You can read all about it in C Bamforth’s excellent book “Beer Health and Nutrition” and Gene Fords book
“The Science of Health Drinking” so go ahead and enjoy beer responsibily.


Hope you found this month's column of interest.  If you have any questions about beer or brewing
or just want to submit a word for me to discuss here just
e-mail it to me.

Thanks and Cheers!
Measuring Alcohol  // Beer Benefits
A new column by
Jack O'Reilly
Jack O'Reilly attended the
famous Siebel Institute/ World
Brewing Academy in Chicago.
I'm very excited to be part of the BeerNexus team.  I think my many years in the
beer business both as a brewer and manger will enable me to explain and
investigate many topics of interest for those who really love craft beer.
Hope you join me every month.  
More by Jack: #1, #2, #3, #4, #5, #6, #7, #8, #9, #10, #11,
#!2, #13, #14, #15