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I just brewed a chai tea brown ale (recipe here) -- which has a target OG of 1.048 -- and ended up with an OG of 1.064. My efficiency for this batch hit 78%, which I presume is higher than the recipe expects (I think most recipes assume 70%).

This means the final ABV will be in the 6-7% range instead of the 4-5% range. I like higher gravity beers, but I wonder if the higher than expected alcohol will put the intended balance of the beer out of whack. In other words, I assume the recipe was formulated such that the final alcohol flavors are milder, allowing, for example, more malt or hop flavors to come through.

To summarize: Will having an alcohol content higher than the recipe calls for unbalance the beer flavors? Should one always strive to hit a recipe's target gravities?

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Yes, it will to some extent. Not only will the higher alcohol affect it, but your beer will also be less hoppy and bitter than you intended it to be. Yes, you should always strive to hit your OG, but this is homebrewing....sometimes you'll be low or high. Being high isn't too big a deal because you can always add water to get back to what you intended, at least ABV wise. Being low is a bit more problematic. You either have to live with it, or add more wort (maybe boil up a bit of DME) to compensate.

  • Thanks Denny. Why in particular would the perceived hoppiness and bitterness be less? Is it because the higher alcohol crowds that out, or is it related to extra malt sugars relative to the same amount of hops? – Ryan Oct 31 '16 at 21:59
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    The latter. You can think of a beer's "balance" in terms of the BU:GU ratio. That's bittering units:gravity units. An IPA, for example, is often 1:1. If the second number, the bittering units is off, it makes the ratio m,ore or less and throws off the balance you had intended. – Denny Conn Nov 1 '16 at 16:19

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