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Brewing with All Kinds of Sugar

When it comes to adding sugar to your beer there are pitfalls to avoid, and lots of wonderful, complex flavors to gain.

Josh Weikert Feb 22, 2018 - 16 min read

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There are any number of reasons to believe that we live in a golden age of beer and brewing, but one of the most visible and exciting is the fact that brewers at all levels have access to an astonishing array of ingredients with which to create their beer. This is as true for sugars as it is for hops, and while this broad mix of ingredients is thoroughly intriguing it also calls for an equally broad and sophisticated approach to brewing with them. There are brewing pitfalls out there in the periphery of the possible, and as OG and intensity ramp up with added sugar use you increase the probability that you find them!

This piece will explore the use and impact of a range of brewing sugars. Unless you’re a die-hard Reinheitsgebot devotee, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t be taking advantage of these additions, especially as your box fills up with more “conventional” recipes and you start sniffing around for wilder pastures.

Gravity vs. Fermentability

One of the first questions you should be answering is whether the sugar you’re adding is going to add to your beer’s body, flavor, alcohol content, or all three. This is principally a question of the sugar’s fermentability by brewing yeast, and it is a useful starting point in our discussion. Not all sugars are created equally, and while yeast are amazing creatures even they sometimes get stymied by the occasional chemical bond. Sugars generally fall into one of four categories: 100% fermentable, mostly fermentable, partially fermentable, and unfermentable.

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