Low Alcohol Homebrew Beer

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terrym

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I have been asked to brew a hoppy low alcohol beer about 1.5%ABV. Given my experience of the commercial very low alcohol beers (about 0.5%) is that would rather drink a decent cup of tea or coffee or a glass of tonic water I am not filled with too much enthusiasm. However I was thinking of giving it a go. It's either buy a 1.5kg one can and brew some or all of it without any additional sugars, or make up a low volume AG beer which I have slowly come round to thinking is my preference. I would base it on 500g Pale Malt plus some amber and crystal malts to give it a bit of oomph, with Summit for bittering and Cascade for flavour, brewed to about 9 litres. The ingredients are a variation on one of my house beers. I also have some GV12 trub from a a nearly finished beer that I could use.
I have looked through several threads on here about low alcohol homebrewed beers and I get the impression it's very much work in progress. And I don't want to spend the time and effort brewing something that turns out complete rubbish even though it won't cost too much.
So what does the team think? Give it a go or stick to brewing normal beers?
 
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Ajhutch

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It feels to me like going the AG route is better as you’d have more flexibility. As well as your recipe choices, if you mash right at the top of the range you’d get more body and could therefore add more hops for balancing bitterness. Also what about a malt with a bigger flavour like Munich or Red-X?

I’ve never brewed a beer below 3% but it certainly seems to me that given there will inevitably be less ingredients in there than in a 4-5% beer you’ll get more bang for your buck as it were.

Good luck!
 

Clint

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I've considered this as even though I don't drink every day I still find tipping it down my neck far too easy...
Perhaps just making shandy from my existing brews would be a better option...
There's dry January out the patio doors ..
 
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Good luck Terry , I would like to know how it turns out if & When you commence this brew. With your experience it would give us all a good benchmark. We all have friends who want low abv beers. Who knows you may be the 1st to unlock the ‘holy grail’ of full bodied hop driven beer with true mouthfeel & complexity at extremely low abv.
 

terrym

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Thanks for the replies so far.
I want to stay with ingredients I already have or on the way having just placed an order to replenish my store hence my 'recipe'.
And I had previously seen the work @peebee had done (and commend him for his efforts athumb..).
Otherwise keep 'em coming.
 

chrisb8

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I recently attempted a low alcohol brew from the second runnings of a conventional mash with good results regarding achieving a fermented and bottle conditioned beer with an alcohol content of 0.5%. However it is terribly bitter and I am putting this down to the fact that the extraction of bitterness from the hops is related to the sg of the wort being boiled. I just used the same amount of bittering hops as I would in a normal brew but it was a mistake - a bit of fiddling with brewers friend afterwards indicated an ibu of 80+ but it was too late by then. I am planning to try another attempt soon and am toying with the idea of using no traditional bittering hop addition but relying on the later aroma hop additions only if extraction of bitterness is so much more in low gravity worts.
 

peebee

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I recently attempted a low alcohol brew from the second runnings of a conventional mash with good results regarding achieving a fermented and bottle conditioned beer with an alcohol content of 0.5%. However it is terribly bitter and I am putting this down to the fact that the extraction of bitterness from the hops is related to the sg of the wort being boiled. I just used the same amount of bittering hops as I would in a normal brew but it was a mistake - a bit of fiddling with brewers friend afterwards indicated an ibu of 80+ but it was too late by then. I am planning to try another attempt soon and am toying with the idea of using no traditional bittering hop addition but relying on the later aroma hop additions only if extraction of bitterness is so much more in low gravity worts.
I've found hopping rates to be particularly tricky too. Using the GU/BU technique does give better results, if you can believe and follow the paltry hop quantities it dictates (which doesn't come easy!). Only using late hops is a good way of trying to keep IBUs under control while also keeping up the hop flavour too. I shifted to putting all my hops in as "whirlpool" additions, but not all recipe builders make any attempt to predict IBUs from "whirlpool" (or steep) hops, which would make this policy tricky.

The GU/BU technique isn't perfect. If also attempting to keep the FG up then the OG/FG ratio skews well outside what might be expected from a normal brew, resulting in under-doing the hops! Getting this right is where I'm going with low-alcohol beers next. I also want to perfect "cold-extraction" ("cold-mashing") that doesn't risk burning out the heating element (seriously!).
 

Markk

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I have been asked to brew a hoppy low alcohol beer about 1.5%ABV. Given my experience of the commercial very low alcohol beers (about 0.5%) is that would rather drink a decent cup of tea or coffee or a glass of tonic water I am not filled with too much enthusiasm. However I was thinking of giving it a go. It's either buy a 1.5kg one can and brew some or all of it without any additional sugars, or make up a low volume AG beer which I have slowly come round to thinking is my preference. I would base it on 500g Pale Malt plus some amber and crystal malts to give it a bit of oomph, with Summit for bittering and Cascade for flavour, brewed to about 9 litres. The ingredients are a variation on one of my house beers. I also have some GV12 trub from a a nearly finished beer that I could use.
I have looked through several threads on here about low alcohol homebrewed beers and I get the impression it's very much work in progress. And I don't want to spend the time and effort brewing something that turns out complete rubbish even though it won't cost too much.
So what does the team think? Give it a go or stick to brewing normal beers?
BrewDog published all their recipes here recently: https://brewdogmedia.s3.eu-west-2.amazonaws.com/docs/2019+DIY+DOG+-+V8.pdf
There are few LA beers listed. A quick skim through the first dozen or so I found a couple. Beer 11 is 2.7% abv and number 32 is 0.5%. There are probably more. I’ve not tried any of them but may be worth considering.
 

peebee

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I'd use a high temperature, short mash and a significant amount of specialty grains.
No idea what recipe builder you use (if you use one!) but I found the first of your "policies" uncovered some unexpected results … I'm using "Beersmith" as a recipe builder. Apparently Beersmith stops predicting SG and FG results after a mash of 71C, but if building a recipe mashed at 74C (yeap, you can mash that hot!) the predictions don't stop, they are just wrong. Annoying that!
 

terrym

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So encouraged (well sort of! ) by some of the comments received above, I have decided to have a go over the coming weekend. I have noted the comments about overdoing the IBUs, so have been careful with hops and boil times.
Based on what I have in my store, and given my basic stove top set up, the proposed recipe will be
500g Pale Malt
100g Amber Malt
40g Wheat Malt
40g Crystal Malt 82EBC
60min mash at about 67*C (I use roughly 3:1 w/w mash and sparge waters to grain)
30 mins boil 4g Summit 15% AA
3 mins boil 10g Cascade 7%
9 litres in the FV fermented with a GV12 3rd generation yeast trub.
Giving (using BF calculator)
Target OG 1.017; ABV 1.7%; IBUs 21.
Looks straightforward enough to me. Anybody think otherwise?
Otherwise I'll brew it and report back in several weeks time.
 
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chrisb8

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I am planning on having another go at a low alcohol brew this weekend, 9L with a proposed abv of 0.5%. I'm just going to do a 30 minute mash with cold steeped speciality grains to add colour and a 30 minute boil with no hop additions until the last 15 minutes. I will post a full recipe and write up after.
 

Sadfield

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I'd use a high temperature, short mash and a significant amount of specialty grains.
I'd start with at least 30% Munich Malt, adds body and, well, maltiness. https://www.simpsonsmalt.co.uk/our-malts/munich-malt/

Be careful not to over pitch yeast as that can lead to over attenuation and strip the body out, undoing everything else. Dry yeast is a godsend here as it's easier to measure the correct amount.
 

peebee

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No idea what recipe builder you use (if you use one!) but I found the first of your "policies" uncovered some unexpected results … I'm using "Beersmith" as a recipe builder. Apparently Beersmith stops predicting SG and FG results after a mash of 71C, but if building a recipe mashed at 74C (yeap, you can mash that hot!) the predictions don't stop, they are just wrong. Annoying that!
After trying this for myself in Beersmith (the "stop predicting gravities" claim came to me from another party), the "failing" appears to be that after 71C is it stops attempting to calculate potential attenuation, whereas in reality following a 71+C mash attenuation takes a rapid nose dive. In practice I was only getting 30% attenuation mashing at 74C, but Beersmith was still predicting 65% as it was for 71C. In fact Beersmith continues predicting 65% attenuation for a wort mashed at 87C!

Low attenuation with a maltotriose adverse yeast, the simplest and most abundant "dextrin" after mashing (I use S-33 yeast), is a fine way of maintaining "body" and mouthfeel in such low-alcohol beers. And not just low-alcohol beer, apparently "Bombardier" (over 4% ABV) was mashed at 74C and used lots of sugar to make up the alcohol, but that might of changed when Marsden acquired it.
 

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Currently attempting dry january and cracked whilst in Tescos and bought a 0.5% Shipyard pale ale. Have to say it was the best low alcohol beer I've ever had. Just tasted like a pale ale.
Looking at the ingredients listed on the label - water, barley, hops and lactose. I'm guessing it was brewed as normal to give 0.5% ABV and the lactose is there to give body and replace the unfermentable sugars you would normally get from a proper quantity of malt.
Think I might give this a go. Not as low as 0.5% but maybe start at 3% and see if I can work it down from there to maybe 2%.
 

An Ankoù

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I have been asked to brew a hoppy low alcohol beer about 1.5%ABV. Given my experience of the commercial very low alcohol beers (about 0.5%) is that would rather drink a decent cup of tea or coffee or a glass of tonic water I am not filled with too much enthusiasm. However I was thinking of giving it a go. It's either buy a 1.5kg one can and brew some or all of it without any additional sugars, or make up a low volume AG beer which I have slowly come round to thinking is my preference. I would base it on 500g Pale Malt plus some amber and crystal malts to give it a bit of oomph, with Summit for bittering and Cascade for flavour, brewed to about 9 litres. The ingredients are a variation on one of my house beers. I also have some GV12 trub from a a nearly finished beer that I could use.
I have looked through several threads on here about low alcohol homebrewed beers and I get the impression it's very much work in progress. And I don't want to spend the time and effort brewing something that turns out complete rubbish even though it won't cost too much.
So what does the team think? Give it a go or stick to brewing normal beers?
I've always thought that it's relatively easy to brew a beer of decent strength or even too strong for a good session , while making a satisfying pint that you can down a dozen of is a real test of the brewer's skill. Personally I don't think I'd want to drink anything less than, say, 3.5% and that would probably be a mild and with a flagon in each hand. If I were driving, I'd not touch a drop anyway.
 

peebee

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Currently attempting dry january and cracked whilst in Tescos and bought a 0.5% Shipyard pale ale. Have to say it was the best low alcohol beer I've ever had. Just tasted like a pale ale.
Looking at the ingredients listed on the label - water, barley, hops and lactose. I'm guessing it was brewed as normal to give 0.5% ABV and the lactose is there to give body and replace the unfermentable sugars you would normally get from a proper quantity of malt.
Think I might give this a go. Not as low as 0.5% but maybe start at 3% and see if I can work it down from there to maybe 2%.
For adding "body" I think you will be disappointed with lactose, I always have been. I think it's to bring sweetness to the beer, as the one's I've tried had very small quantities of lactose (compared to say Mackeson). I got Maltodextrin to increase body, but have never used it because I was doing just fine altering the mashing parameters.

I wouldn't start at 3% and work down. At 3% you are making weak beer. At 1.5% (maybe 2%?) things seem to change, and you end up making something okay or flavoured water depending on the effort you put in.

Hopping is the trickiest bit. My last low-alcohol beer had 3.2IBUs at 1.5%ABV, which may have pushed it too low. I was brewing at 1.5% ABV because it is a little easier to work things through than at 0.5%.

Make beer, water it down, bottle. Simple.
I guess you are not going to try that? And therefore you can make such an ill-considered statement.

That's a fine recipe for "watered down beer", and everyone who drinks it (including you) will certainly know it's watered down beer.
 
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