What would happen if you distilled pre-made beer in a still? Would it end up like whiskey?

Think about the process for making whiskey. If, instead of starting with a grain mash, you took completed beer (either commercial or homebrew, but finished and hopped), and distilled that, and then aged in barrels as applicable, would you end up with whiskey, or something substantially like whiskey? If so, would there be a noticible difference based on the type of beer you started with? (e.g. would whiskey distilled from Bud Light or PBR be distinguishible from whiskey distilled from Guinness?)

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Not sure, but I will ask my Wines and Beers professor later today.

It would somewhat depend on the distillation process you used. For example, vodka is essentially tasteless because it is distilled to a very high alcohol content, while a good brandy uses a specific distillation fraction that retains some of the characteristics of the wine it was made from.

Another option with beer it to do controlled freezing to concentrate the alcohol. That will retain more of the beer flavor. I just received a bottle of the worlds strongest beer today by Fedex; it is 41% alcohol and it is concentrated by freezing.

I think it would take some work to get a decent distillation from a macrobrew lager. The concentration of alcohol in those is already so low that your likely to have to use a large column or distill it twice. The end result will be a colorless and flavorless whiskey I think.

If you start with a high alcohol beer like a Belgian trippel. You may have better luck.

You’d get something pretty close to whiskey in terms of alcohol content and to a degree, taste. If it was an all-malt beer, it would be more Irish/Scotch in character, while if it used a significant proportion of corn, it might lean toward the Bourbon end of things. No idea about rice though.

The “character malts” probably do play a role in the flavor, but not much has been published that I can lay my hands on other than a suggestion in a distillation book that it might be an interesting thing to try.

Most whiskeys taste like unwashed ass until you age them in an oak barrel for a while.

The wildcard would be what the hops would do to the taste and aroma. Most whiskey is made from an unhopped wash, which is essentially beer minus the hops.

As a point of reference… a whiskey wash is pretty much exactly beer, minus the hops. Stranahan’s Colorado Whiskey contracts out it’s wash production to Flying Dog Brewery which happens to be next door. In other words, Flying Dog mashes and ferments the wash, and just ships (or pipes it?) to Stranahan’s for distillation. I’m sure the mash bill is a bit different, but it’s the same exact procedure.

There’s more than enough alcohol in your average beer to make whiskey from; two distillation runs isn’t uncommon at all for pot stills. Some distilleries even have 2 separate stills for that- a “wash still” to concentrate the wash, and a “spirit still” to distill the output of the wash still.

Don’t make me come over there. That would be immoral.

You could certainly get a stronger drink out of it, but aging probably wouldn’t help it.

I sampled some homemade 'shine from a friend of a friend that reminded me of Everclear.

Apparently it was distilled from several cases of cheap beer.

Whisk(e)y doesn’t generally have hops in it, so that’d be pretty different.

… and? How is it?

That’s basically how you make Applejack, essentially HARD hard cider.

This “beer” is 55%, but it’s unlikely you can buy one.

American macrobrews, like Budweiser/Coors/Miller, are 5%. Most microbrews are similar unless they are trying for higher alcohol content. Beers everyone pictures as heavy, like Guinness Draught, are 4.2%.

Distiller’s yeast can get the beer up to about 23-24% before it gives up the ghost. If you tried to distill regular macrobrews, it would take forever and what you would get would be a lousy vodka. Trippels would be your best bet, but would be a Mortal Sin.

(Off-topic, from a Stranahan’s fan) While this used to be true, Flying Dog moved to Maryland (and Stranahan’s, while staying in Denver, moved its location as well). It now gets its wash from Oskar Blues. Speaking of which, it’s time for a Stranahan’s.

Yep. And every resource I’ve read on this–I’ve never tried it myself–says the freezing process just concentrates all the fermentation by-products, and gives you a wicked hangover as opposed to something distilled properly in the traditional manner, especially with fruit-based ferments.

These guys here make a hopped whiskey after distilling down an imperial stout. I’ve never tried it, but I’d sure love to give it a shot. :wink:

Never had apple jack but I had Calvados at my brother’s wedding. My sister in law is orignally from Normandy and her family brought a bottle. We all had to do shots during a very long and racuous song (in French). After the Calvados I stopped drinking for several hours, figuring that I really did not want to be sick at my brothers wedding and I had already had red wine, and a few cocktails before that.

It was yummy but potent. When I had tons of apples on hand this fall I wondered about making some, but the process/legality/equipment seemed daunting.

The mash bill of a typical macrobrew like Miller is not that far off from that of a Bourbon, which is at least 51% corn by law, with the remainder being barley malt, wheat and/or rye. Miller’s probably in the 30-40% corn range, with the remainder being barley malt.

That 23-24% alcohol yeast is made primarily for neutral spirits/vodka production, not for producing flavor.

From what I can find, most of your whiskey distilleries make a wash that’s in the same neigborhood as beer- somewhere between 4 and about 7% alcohol.

That’s then distilled a first time in a wash still, which is a still that is run wide open, and is basically used to concentrate the wash into what’s called “low wines” which are about 20% alcohol.

These low wines are then distilled a second time in a spirit still, which is where the distiller makes his cuts (throws out early and late runnings to avoid harshness, poisons and off flavors) and concentrates it to more than 80% abv.

This is then diluted down to 60-70% abv for aging, and after that is usually diluted again to 40% (80 proof) for bottling.

OK, so I thought I knew what distilling meant, but from the above it seems I’ve got it wrong. M-w.com is no help whatsoever.

I thought “distilling” was just a way of making use of the different boiling temperatures of water and ethyl alcohol. Meaning that the whole point was heating the liquid to the point where the alcohol would vaporise, but the water would not. Then the vapor would move throught the twisty coils, cool down and return to liquid, dripping into the new container.

The point of this exercise was to free the alcohol from the other (now rotten or “skunked”)flavors. I thought you would then be left with a purified vodka, and various aging processes would impart the desired flavors. (Oak barrels being the favorite.)

I figured that sweet spot was difficult to maintain, and thus very few bottles wound up with just pure ethyl alcohol in them. But I would have thought it would be alcohol and water, with no other impurities.

If I do have this wrong, what does it really mean?

And if I have it right, then how would any flavor at all transfer from the original beer to the final result?

I think most of hops aroma would vaporize off at the temperature required to boil alcohol or water.

TruCelt, I think you have the basics right, but you’re suffering from an idealized version of distilling in a lab. Even if you wanted to, you can’ t get pure alcohol without adding something nasty, like benzene, to the liquid being distilled. Many brandies and suchlike are dependant on the “impurities” that are distilled along with the alcohol for flavors.