I use about a pound of corn sugar (that’s the stuff you bottle with) for most IPAs. It’s a cheap way to boost the alcohol and dry out the beer, which highlights the hops. It’s a great substitute for extract, and it allows you to have a smaller mash tun. So, the real question is: why not? Purists, without really explaining why, say: just use more malt, man; don’t use sugar. They don’t get it. Sugar is cheap, easy, adds alcohol, and drys the beer out. And it works very well with a smaller system. And it definitely works well with IPAs – even professional IPA brewers will tell you that.
How Much Sugar?
Most people say no more than 10% of your grains. So, for 10 pounds of grain, you could use one pound of sugar. I use one pound of sugar in a 12 pound batch, so I usually stay under the 10% mark. I have never tested beyond this, but I’m not really interested – I still want to taste the malt, obviously.
In the past, I had used cane sugar on only one batch. Cane sugar, which you can get at the grocery store, is cheaper than corn sugar (not available at the grocery store). But that batch didn’t turn out very good, so I switched over to corn sugar, which I haven’t had a problem with. That could be a meaningless coincidence; perhaps it was a bad fermentation or something else? – I was a new brewer at that time. It might have something to do with how the sugar is processed. I have read that table sugar is harsh and will produce off flavors, but I’ve also read that true Belgian beers use common table sugar. I’ve also read that beat sugar works well, but I think it’s expensive. If you have experimented with other sugars, please comment below. I obviously don’t know what I’m talking about – I simply know that corn sugar works well.
Corn sugar passes all my tests: cost, simplicity, and quality. It’s fairly cheap. It’s easy to use: just throw it in the boil, towards the end. As for quality, I think it actually adds to the quality. It drys the beer out (for lack of a better term), which I like.
Other than IPAs, I use sugar for what I call “Cheap Beers.” For example, a Cheap Beer would be 9 pounds 2-Row (or Maris Otter), 1 pound Vienna (or Munich), 2 ounces hops (e.g. liberty), and Safale 05 yeast (reused). Nice, easy, drinkable, around 7%. Something to have around that’s better than Bud Light (and cheaper).