Best way to modify recipe for lower ABV

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hoppyscotty

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Got quite a few decent IPA recipes under my belt now covering a good range of the style. All big, bold and delicious. Problem is they're all quite strong so if you want to enjoy a few things can get a bit messier than you originally intended. I'd love to brew lower ABV versions but retaining as much of the body and character of the beers as possible.

What is the best way to do this? Doesn't feel right to just dilute with water as I'd imagine this would thin the beer out quite alot. I was thinking more along the lines of something like mashing at a higher temperature to produce less fermentable sugars achieving the same OG but finishing at a higher FG? I assume this would lead to a lower ABV beer but with body. I'd have to adjust bettering hops to balance the additional sweetness. Not sure this would deliver the results I outline, but feels like a far more elegant approach compared to just diluting with water?

What are peoples favourite ways of taming big beers?

Thanks.
 

St00

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David Heath is always a good shout

 

hoppyscotty

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Thanks. Seen that an it’s on my ‘to brew list’ but in the context of this question I wasn’t thinking that low ABV. More like turning a circa 7% beer recipe into a 4% to 5% beer.
 

RichK

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I'd consider 3 things; a) Mash higher (say ~70c) b) Substitute base grain eg replace some Maris Otter with (say) Munich &/or use proportionately more adjunct grain. c) Less attennuable yeast - Windsor is an obvious one to try.
 

St00

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Good brewing software like Brewfather allows you to set an ABV and scales the ingredients accordingly.
Although the lover you go the "thinner" the body will go and the BU/GU ratio will need adjusting. Melanoid malts and similar specialist grains will add elements that you will lose by dropping the ABV as will a less attenuative yeast.
 

dmtaylor

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Less attenuative yeast is a great tool for this.

 

Sadfield

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If your talking IPAs I'd be cautious with making dramatic changes, as you still want a relatively well attenuated beer that retains its hop profile. Keeping to a relatively clean, hop forward yeast. Dilution is still the best route to lower abv without altering the character of your recipes. Then subtly tweek the grist, mash temp by a degree or two and reduce the bittering addition slightly to keep the GU:BU ratio the same.

+1 to using Munich though, roughly 10% for every % abv dropped, should bump the perception of maltiness, body and the colour up to where it would be before dilution.

A portion of Rye malt is worth a try too, it works well with hops.
 
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Alastair70

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This came out really well. I upped the proportion of Munich and Vienna to keep the body of the beer, mashed low and used an attenuating yeast for a dry finish. It just needs a bit more hop aroma.
Next time out it’s getting a dry hop and WLP090 for fermentation.
 

Cwrw666

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With very hoppy beers and simple grain bill like an IPA I'd just reduce the amount of pale malt to get the % ABV you want and keep everything else the same. It's what I usually do.
 

matt76

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I design almost all my beers to be around the 4% ABV mark, and yes it's easy to end up with a tasty but thin beer.

I'll give you two DON'Ts:
- Don't try to do it by raising the mash temp - I've found this to be very unreliable/hard to predict in that the FG doesn't always end up as high as predicted (it's also a myth that our makes the beer sweet). Unless I have a very good reason to do otherwise I mash all my beers at 67degC for consistency in my process.
- Don't try to do it by chopping and changing the yeast - it's probably the most important ingredient, change the yeast and you'll change the character of the beer.

I've literally just started fermenting v3 of one of several lower strength IPAs I make.

V1 was stronger so for v2 I simply cut the base malt to give me the right OG (no other malts used, just golden promise). Since my process and yeast is consistent I'm confident the predicted FG will be bang on. The beer was good but a bit thin.

For v3 I've subbed in some speciality malts similar to what others have suggested:
50% golden promise
25% Vienna
12.5% each Munich & Carapils
(And then just a touch of Victory malt)

Regarding how to adjust the hops this is more tricky. BU:GU ratio is a useful starting point but in practice I always feel like I want more bitterness, so you may end up having to iterate and adjust to get out how you want it.
 

the baron

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I do a lot of 4% beers and I generally use melanodin, carapils wheat and then anything else to style.
I also do a split mash 30mins @ 62 and 30 mins @ 67 with a mash out @ 75.
My latest is a Red Rye IPA using Red X and 20% Rye with my IPA hops. I would always try to use a mixture of base malts wherever possible so use Rye, Munich and Vienna to give a little backbone to your beer as it will lack this with a plain grainbill IMO.
Use your usual yeast as low attenuation ones will leave you with a sweeter beer than you are looking for and I have never had a problem with various yeasts
 
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