© 2004
Harris Filters

Home Beermaking
Beer Strength

Most newcomers to home brewing confuse strength with quality.
It is easy to understand when the stronger commercial beers are found to be more expensive, since it is expected that you pay for quality. Unfortunately, for alcoholic beverages the tax is related to alcohol content. The higher cost you pay is for strength rather than the quality.

Beer strength is determined by the original gravity of the wort prior to fermenting, and this is therefore dependent upon the amount of malt extract and sugar put into the brew. There is only one way to measure the gravity and that is by the use of a hydrometer, which is an absolute must for the home beermaker.

Typical starting gravity’s are as follows:

Draught Bitter

1.031 – 1.045

Draught Mild

1.031 – 1.037

Light Ale (Bottle)

1.031 – 1.040

Best Pale Ale

1.040 – 1.050

Brown Ale

1.030 – 1.041

Stout, Guinness

1.040 – 1.046


1.044 – 1.048

Strong Ales

1.066 – 1.078

Lager Beers

1.030 – 1.036

Although these ranges are quite wide, the beers at the lower end of the scale are low in alcohol. To obtain a reasonable strength, without being too strong, the first 7 listed above ought to be made towards the upper end of the range.

Beginners often make the mistake of adding too much sugar and too little malt extract, resulting in a beer that is strong but has very little body.  A 5 gallon brew needs 1.8Kg (4lb) of malt extract. On its own, this would give a gravity of 1.030. By adding various amounts of other malt grains, the gravity can be bought up to 1.037 without adding any sugar at all. Since it is desired to aim for a gravity of 1.045, it is best to add 1 Kg (2.2lb) sugar.

For very strong brews, you need to increase the malt extract and malt grain quantities, and then adjust the final gravity with sugar.

It is best to achieve an equal quantity of malt extract and sugar in a strong brew.

Ideally with strong ales and barley wines, they need a long maturing period.