PeeBee's Brewday - Low Alcohol Beer

Discussion in 'Beer Brewdays!' started by peebee, Jul 24, 2018.

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  1. Jul 24, 2018 #1

    peebee

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    Hum. New on me posting in this forum area. This trendy brewing of low-alcohol beer (<1% ABV) is a bit new to me (new to everyone?) so it might help others launching on this path, and it might attract comments to further help me too. I'm going to try and make something like "Big Drop's Pale Ale". I've only made "Brewdog's Nanny State" in this style (<1%) before, and there are no recipes from "Big Drop" so this is a bit of a shot in the dark.

    Brewday was Sunday, so this is retrospective. Start late in the day because there isn't going to be a lot of waiting around - 40 minute mash followed by 30 minute boil, and kegging day will never come because it is straight out of the kettle and into the kegs (no fermenter).

    The mash ingredients are quite straight-forward: 250g each of Munich (light), Crystal (150EBC), Caramalt and Wheat Malt for a 40 litre batch (all Crisp grains). To be mashed in 5 litres (+2.5 litres because of the mash tun's dead space) of untreated soft water at 69C (strike 72C). pH was 5.0 … what! But that's a different story.

    20180722_120335_WEB.jpg
    This is the mash! Looks more like I'm cleaning out the mashtun after emptying a "normal" size mash. I've toyed with the idea of having a small mashtun just for these beers (an old-fashioned "floating" mashtun to go in the boiler/kettle perhaps) but I use the mashtun to collect hot water from the counter-flow cooler for rinsing brewing gear clean, so the full-size mashtun will get messy anyway … may as well use this mashtun for the diminutive mash.

    Not sure if the mash was at 69C (high temperature mash), possibly was 66-67C. It is difficult regulating the mash temperature with these fiddly little mashes (in a 70 litre HERMS controlled mashtun!).

    After 40 minutes the mash is run off into the boiler and the spent grain "batch sparged", 10-15 litres hot water (75C) added and runoff again - there really is little point attempting a "fly sparge". The boiler/kettle made up to 50 litres with hot water (treated for a "yellow" "balanced" beer as would have been the mash water if I'd bothered). And brought to the boil.

    70g "Bobek" whole hops added. 7 minutes from end 30g "Bobek", 30g NZ "Wai-iti" whole hops and 250g Lactose added. The whole boil was just 30 minutes.

    Start cooling in-situ until kettle at 75-80C, add 30g "Bobek" and slap lid on kettle for 30 minutes (actually about 50 minutes as I struggle getting the kegs ready).

    20180722_154643_WEB.jpg

    The kegs are filled from the kettle, via the counter-flow cooler, and a shelf cooler (both product coils, the cooler is hidden in that dark cupboard under the sink in the piccie) because the CFC would never get the temperature low in this weather (and there is a drought on, so it would be irresponsible cooling with a tonne of tap water). The fermenter in the piccie is redundant for this brew.

    The kegs each contain two stainless steel baskets holding a total of 170g "Wai-iti" and 70g "Bobek" whole hops. A 11g packet of "London ESB" yeast (Lallemand) is rehydrated (200ml) and shared out between the two kegs. No aeriation (no point) and my approach to "spunding" valves fitted. Wort temperature about 18-19C. No temperature control on these kegs and daytime ambient can be 24-27C.

    20180723_113756_WEB.jpg

    Those little regulators are set to 7PSI. The CO2 cylinder is only there to provide back-pressure on the little secondary regulators so they work as expected. Rather handy though, because two days in I could vent the keg headspace so that the headspace is all CO2 and not diluted with air (that's getting technical - but it is important, honest). These are new second-hand kegs (from Angel Homebrew - someone's still got some left!) and a different design to what I'm used to - these are shorter and more squat - and really do only hold 19 litres each. Hence the bottles on the floor; I had to empty a couple of litres of the 20 litres in each because the gas-in diptube was submerged (not good).

    Fermentation has started but isn't going strong. This is only day two and fermentations of these "low-alcohol" beers I know from experience will tend to be sedate. When fermentation picks up the pressure in the kegs will rise to 11-12PSI before the regulators "relieving" mechanism kicks in to vent the over-pressure (hence "spunding" valves - note not all regulators will do this).
     
    Last edited: Jul 24, 2018
  2. Jul 24, 2018 #2

    Clint

    Clint

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    Hammered.....

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    Is it the low sugar content of the wort that makes it low abv?
    Why are you making it?
     
  3. Jul 25, 2018 #3

    peebee

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    Easy questions. I like easy questions.

    Yes, low fermentables make for low ABV. I don't care for the complexity (or taste) of any of those "alcohol reducing" tips and tricks. Would you stick a bucket of beer in your oven?

    And I make it because I'd got into the habit of drinking (only lightly to moderately) every day, and this isn't supposed to be good for you. So I drink my low-alcohol beer on the "government recommended" two abstention days a week (it is cheating a bit because it is low-alcohol at 0.5% ABV, not "no alcohol"). I don't want to risk trashing my liver or worse, developing a dependency (alcoholic), because the first step in treatment for either of them afflictions is stop drinking alcohol - completely! Now that would stuff up an excellent hobby wouldn't it.

    Oh, and just to rub it in: A few years ago I had an accident and it was asked by the doctors whether I was a heavy drinker (I wasn't asked; I was going to be out of it for a few weeks) because some tests they ran showed my liver to be under a bit of stress. But I've never been a heavy drinker, only a persistent one. Lecture over, I hope people are taking note?
     
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  4. Jul 25, 2018 #4

    Sadfield

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    I'd personally add that it's an interesting challenge to try and eke out the same flavours from a tenth of the ingredients, to the list of reasons.

    Sent from my E5823 using Tapatalk
     
  5. Jul 25, 2018 #5

    Sadfield

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  6. Jul 25, 2018 #6

    peebee

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    Terrific links! I've printed out the first one as that's going to take a bit of digesting (i.e. sitting outside in the sun).
     
  7. Jul 25, 2018 #7

    peebee

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    I never thought of that, probably because I don't look at it as an "interesting challenge" but more as a "desperate challenge"! But I view "Big Drop's" pale ale as evidence that it is not a "hopeless challenge".
     
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  8. Jul 27, 2018 #8

    peebee

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    The beer has been fermenting for 4.5 days now. Kegging day!

    Ah, okay, it is already in the kegs. But those dry hopping baskets can come out now. Pressure in the kegs is vented, lid removed (it doesn't froth up, which always used to worry me), and baskets fished out. It is a good idea to have some way to grab the baskets without dunking your hand in the beer (if you can actually get your hand through the lid aperture); I use two baskets and have them tied together, and a sterilised "hook" to catch the string with - but I'm using whole hops and despite all the marbles (weights) the baskets pop up out of the surface anyway.

    Baskets out, lid back on, purge the airspace with CO2 (this is where my regulator "spunding" valves come in handy; just pull the PRV a few times - I did 5 - letting the pressure build back up between pulls) and they are ready for the 'fridge. 'Cold crash' (yak, I still hate that term) and it'll be ready for serving on Monday (I reckon about 8C will be right for serving).

    Sorry, no photos 'cos my mobile has just died.

    Sneak preview: It was hopped for 35IBUs. A lot less than Brewdog's Nanny State's 55IBU but not that I could easily tell - it's too bitter to be a Big Drop Pale Ale clone. But certainly not unpleasant. Hops provide a strong lemony character, but a bit more than lemon which I guess is where all the suggestions of "mandarin" and "lime" come from in descriptions of Wai-iti hops. Aroma a bit raw still (geraniums?) but certainly citrus zest.
    Not much in the way of malt flavour (what could I expect) but mouth-feel ("weight") is impressive for the lack of grains - whether that's due to high temperature mashing or the lactose (only 125g per 20L keg) or both, I couldn't say, but a huge step-up from my Nanny State attempts.

    Gravity? Waste of time really, but a hydrometer would be useful as this really pushes the limits for refractometers, especially now when full of yeast which makes reading refractometers a bit of a compromise (line is smudged). I judge OG to have been 1.007 and SG now 1.005. The PET bottles I filled earlier have been useful for monitoring fermentation by checking how hard they are (which is "very" just now).
     
  9. Jul 27, 2018 #9

    Leon103

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    Why don't you just not drink at all on your two days off full strength.
     
  10. Jul 27, 2018 #10

    Clint

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    I wonder if you dished this beer out and didn't mention the abv,but still said it was homebrew you'd have people thinking they were getting hammered....and acting accordingly..?
     
  11. Jul 27, 2018 #11

    peebee

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    More easy questions! After a few weeks you begin to dread the upcoming "abstention days". Its not long before you start thinking "I'll put abstention off a day" and pour a beer (there's loads of it around). Not much longer before abstention days are a thing of the past.

    But if you can make something worth looking forward too, you can find yourself sneaking in the odd extra abstention day.

    For two years I kept up the abstention ritual with New Year Resolutions and home-made ginger beer, but I began to doubt the "alcohol-free" status of the ginger beer. In this third year, brewing low-alcohol beers and with no "New Year Resolution" acting as a rod for my back it is much more fun.
     
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  12. Jul 27, 2018 #12

    Leon103

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    I think it's time to quit drinking if it's getting that bad
     
  13. Jul 28, 2018 #13

    peebee

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    Exactly the situation I want to avoid …


    I've perhaps been a bit dismissive with questions why I want to do this: "Easy questions" I'd write because I know very well why I'd want to be doing it. But there appears to be plenty of people out there with their reasons to want to do this. I've been writing this up for them, and at the same time trap useful comments from those already doing this to help with my attempts in the future.

    For those thinking "what's the point of brewing anything weaker than … " … 5%, 6%, whatever; I used to think like that! Until something unplanned happened to me (and there's lots of unplanned things out there waiting to happen to anyone). I still want to drink 5%, 6%, whatever% beers, and I still want to drink home-brewed beer whenever I want (Breakfast? Na, I've never stooped to that, except on Christmas Day). But I've grown to realise that to do so I need to manage what I brew or end up not being allowed to brew anything. Brewing good 0.5% ABV beer is an excellent way of achieving that goal.
     
  14. Jul 28, 2018 #14

    peebee

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    I could try that. But I'm not very good at fibbing so I probably won't get a result.

    As for me, people think I act hammered after a cup of tea!o_O
     
  15. Jul 28, 2018 #15

    MyQul

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    Im a bit like you PeeBee, if its there, I'll drink it. I'll quite happily drink every day. I dont drink a lot in one go though usually 1L per day but Ill drink most days given half the chance
    The way Ive stopped myself from doing this is basically by not having much stock to hand. I make 10L batches ( so there not a lot of beer for me to drink in one go). Ill bottle it then drink it. But I wont make any more whilst the first batch is being brewed, bottled and drunk. So that means theres a gap of at least two weeks before I can start tucking into some HB from the last lot.
    I normally make low OG bitters so I dont really have to wait more than about 3 days conditioning time till I can tuck in. So it gives my liver a good break but I dont have to wait too long before I can have another drink.
    I know this wouldnt work for everyone, and HB is defiantely better with a longer condioning time. But commercial breweries knock out their bitter this quick (actually faster, as they dont leave it for two weeks in the FV) all the time.
     
  16. Jul 28, 2018 #16

    Sadfield

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    They do leave it conditioning in a pubs cellar for longer though, providing the landlord does their job properly.

    I do like a low abv beer, although I do brew just as many double figured Abv beers, so it evens out in the end. I feel the easiest thing to brew is a good 5% beer, as they are very forgiving and everything works in the brewers favour, both in terms of flavour and body, and the practicalities of a brew day.
     
  17. Jul 28, 2018 #17

    MyQul

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    I find 3%-4% beers dont improve that much with conditioning. I dont find a huge difference between a 3 day old low OG bitter and a 2 week one. Its only when your OG starts to go up that longer conditioning comes into play

    Ive never made anything stronger than 6%
     
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  18. Jul 28, 2018 #18

    peebee

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    I agree, I often start drinking my 4% standard bitters after 2-3 days casked (long enough to get some CO2 condition, not much 'cos it is "cask-conditioned" style beer). Except … The current bitter wasn't good at 3 days. By 7 days it had transformed miraculously. It's the second time I've done this recipe (a "London Pride" clone) and was same last time. Different hops (and slightly more in the "pride", about 30IBU against 26), different yeast, less crystal malt (in the "pride"), who knows, but for some reason it needs a few more days before serving.

    Anyway … stepping back to about one tenth that gravity: My camera broke and the new one (mobile) doesn't arrive until Tuesday. I was forgetting everything has a camera these days. So, using my "Amazon Fire" I got this update (really naff camera as you can see):
    IMG_20180728_121523_WEB.jpg
    Kegs don't seem to be in 'fridge yet. It does not prove the "spunding" valves are working, because I upped the pressure on the regulators after venting the kegs and removing the hop baskets. But it does illustrate another advantage of using regulators as "spunding" valves - you can switch between functions at a whim. The disadvantage - when using as "spunding" valves - (warning, I'm getting techie, skip to end of paragraph if not interested) is the need to keep some back-pressure on the regulators' high pressure side. This "need" was reinforced with this brew - the eagle-eyed (with good imaginations) will see the primary, or cylinder, regulator has a solenoid valve. With a timer I only opened the cylinder for 15 out of every 120 minutes. That created enough time for the pressure on the high pressure side to weaken (not disappear). This was enough to allow pressure on the low-pressure side (keg) to very slowly bleed. So for this brew the "spunding" valves never had chance to "spund" (???). How do I know it wasn't leaking on the low pressure (keg) side? A. There are two kegs, it is unlikely both have the same leak. Easy cure - don't use a timed solenoid valve next time.

    This is Day 6 (wrong, it's 7 – seems I can’t count now) (not a week old yet - I need to emphasis this). I can't get a cold sample from the kegs yet. But I did put some in PET bottles after Day 1 and these did go in the 'fridge eventually:
    IMG_20180728_130547_WEB.jpg
    Bit murky! Ah, it has 25% wheat malt - call it a wheat beer. But this is only 6 days in the bottle (only 7 days since it was made), and heavily dry hopped which might account for some fog. Carbonation is a tad light. Comments much the same as in earlier post, but less hop flavour from the short dry hop contact (just one day - a jab in the eye for those saying 2-3 hours is enough time for dry hopping; it isn't). Bitterness is much less pronounced - that could be the cold, the extra few days, carbonation, or perhaps I over-reacted with my first tasting.
     
    Last edited: Jul 29, 2018
  19. Aug 7, 2018 #19

    Sean C

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    I like reading about low ABV beers experiments - hope yours matures nicely. Can I ask where you got those nifty inline co2 secondary regulators/spunding valves?
     
  20. Aug 7, 2018 #20

    peebee

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    They are Shako regulators: http://www.shako-online-sales.com/frl/regulators/miniature-regulator-nr200-01-nr200-02. The "L2" version (yellow capped 0-2kgf/cm2) with, because it suited me, 1/4" BSP ports. The gauge is an add-on so don't miss it. I never resolved having to maintain some back-pressure on the input port (i.e. plugged into a seemingly un-necessary CO2 cylinder, like when using as a regulator) simply because I'm finding it an advantage having the cylinder attached.

    I discussed them a while back when I was playing with AP100 relief valves too (they were a disaster). The write-up/discussion was here: https://www.thehomebrewforum.co.uk/threads/regulators-as-spunding-valves.74958/.
     
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