Advice on brewing low-alcohol (i.e. <3%) beer?

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EdmontonBoil

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So I was getting ready to brew a large batch of IPA for the summer when we discovered that my wife is pregnant. Since she's my main drinking buddy, I now need to modify my plans and am trying to figure out how to brew a low-alcohol beer (definitely <3%, preferably under 2.5%, or even close to 2%) that is still tasty but allows her to safely have a beer every day or two. Any recommendations on how to maximize flavor while keeping alcohol levels extremely low? Stylistically, I'd still like to do some kind of pale ale or possibly an English bitter; we generally prefer full-bodied beers, but I recognize that may not be possible here. I've already actually got the following grain-bill crushed for a 10 gallon batch of IPA, so if you've got any suggestions on how to modify and scale this, that would be great as well (although feel free to throw out random suggestions and ignore the grain-bill below):

16 lbs 2-row
2 lbs white wheat
1.75 lbs dark munich
1 lb crystal malt (120L)

[Sidebar: For those concerned with the ethics of this, I'll just note that we've done a good bit of research and have concluded that there isn't any evidence drinking less than 3 drinks per week during pregnancy has any negative effects. One study actually showed that moderate drinking was correlated with higher IQ -- which we interpreted not as "drinking increases IQ" but just that the sample of those mothers who would admit to moderate drinking during pregnancy was probably a slightly more educated demographic. In any case, both our research and our anecdotal experience from our own children and those of quite a few friends indicates that moderate drinking is ok. You should definitely do your own research or consult with a doctor before making any of your own decisions -- but please don't feel like you're encouraging irresponsibility by advising me on recipe-building... :)]
 

DBhomebrew

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If bitter was already on your mind, you're on the right track. Or mild. Modern versions are already pretty weak, in the range of 3-3.5%. WW2 recipes below that.

For example...


British malts and yeast strains will be your friends.
 

schmurf

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There are a quite few other threads on HBT that deals with similar question, try searching for hot and cold mashing, which is two techniques suitable for brewing low alcohol beers.
 

lumpher

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Tafelbier might be what you're looking for. Look up "Tafelbier recipes", and you'll get a full gamut of recipes, anything from Trappist Singles to Saisons to just regular small ales.
 

Miraculix

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Mash extremely high, like 76 c for half an hour. Use 20% crystal, use 20% torrified barley, 30% Vienna, 30% pale malt. 25 ibus, noble dry hops, weak attenuative yeast, English yeasts are good for this. Windsor or similar.
 

Alan Reginato

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I'm moving into low alcohol brewing too. You could mash high, with lower base malt and higher special.

Other option is mash normal or low. For a low calorie beer. And use saison yeast. They give a flavour background and some strains produce more glycerol, so the beer doesn't seems too watery.

Too much crystal is not advised, because it could turn out too sweet. My suggestion here is use kilned or roasted.

Munich or Vienna malt, used base malt, are great. They improve body and flavour.

Keep one eye at BU/GU ratio, a 6% beer with 50 IBU is one thing, a 3% is completely different and possibly too bitter.


Late additions are great here, they impart flavour and not that much bitterness. Dry hop too, if you like it.

And please share yours experiences with us.

Cheers!
 

t1mmer

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For the lazy or time-restricted, here is a vague recipe:

3 lbs DME
1-2 oz hops, boil 10 minutes
[optional] 1-4oz flameout or dry hops if you want more hops flavor/aroma
Low-ish attenuating yeast

DME notes: Pretty much any could work. Most recently I used Golden Light but Wheat, Amber, or Munich could be great too
Hops notes: Go on the low side if the AA is high. I recently used 2 oz of 5% AA (Meridian) for 10 minutes and whirlpooled for 20 mins with another 4 oz
Yeast Notes: To be lazy, I direct pitched an 11g pouch of S-04
 

Zambezi Special

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One of my first beers was a low alcohol one by accident. My milling was way too coarse for the blonde I was brewing (biab(. Kept the hops, but didn't get the gravity.
It turned into a very nice beer. Reminded me of a Vedett 2.7.
I would like to brew it again, but I haven't figured out how to make the adjustments yet.
If you want, I can delve back into the details
 
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EdmontonBoil

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Ok, this is what I'm doing (again, a 10 gallon batch):

4# base malt (2 row)
2# victory malt
1# kilned amber malt
1# crystal malt (120L)
.25# cara pils
a handful of aromatic malt.

Predicted ABV: 2%... but I always seem to come in under that, so probably something a little below that.

Mash:
25 liters
160F for 40 minutes.

Sparge:
25 liters @ 168F.

Boil:
60 mins.
1 oz Golding (60 mins)
.5 oz Golding (10 mins)
.5 oz Golding (5 mins)

I'm going to clarify with irish moss. Fermenting with Windsor yeast.

If anyone has any final recommendations, I'm in the middle of the mash, so speak now or forever hold your peace. :)
 

IslandLizard

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160F for 40 minutes.
Make sure you do everything you can to reduce heat loss in your mash tun, as much as possible.

Adding more or better insulating is the easiest. Mash indoors, where it's warmer, not out in the cold or breeze.

Reheating the mash during its rest, to keep the temps in the higher range can be done. But do it under low to medium heat and most importantly, under constantly stirring, while thoroughly scraping the bottom with the flat/tapered bottom end of a wooden paddle to prevent sticking and scorching. A looser/thinner mash helps prevent sticking too, while the larger volume has more thermal mass, keeping the mash warmer.

I've noticed for higher mash temps, to reduce fermentability, you need to either hit it right on the nose, and keep it there, or come in from above, a few degrees higher, letting it settle on the intended mash temp, while stirring (and heating up the tun if you're not using a kettle).

Preheat your mash tun.
If there's a relatively large headspace in your mash tun, put a "floating lid" right on top of the mash. Then the lid on the tun, and pack the whole thing in a sleeping bag. or moving blanket.

You definitely need to perform a mashout. For example, by just adding enough (near) boiling water. Without a mashout, beta will keep nibbling while you're lautering and heating in the kettle toward boiling temps.

Also, don't mash too long. 20-30' can well be enough.

Enzymes, once in the liquid phase, work very fast on gelatinizing starches.
For illustration, starting at a somewhat lowish temp, then raising it, seems to create a much more fermentable wort than I expected. So much, that I could not tell the difference between mashing at 152 and 158, when coming in with the temps from below, then heating up. But when coming in from above, starting out at say 2-4 degrees too high, there was a clear difference. The hydrometer agrees.

Also, use low attenuating yeasts.

Yummy Milds...
 

NightFlight

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[Sidebar: For those concerned with the ethics of this, I'll just note that we've done a good bit of research and have concluded that there isn't any evidence drinking less than 3 drinks per week during pregnancy has any negative effects. One study actually showed that moderate drinking was correlated with higher IQ -- which we interpreted not as "drinking increases IQ" but just that the sample of those mothers who would admit to moderate drinking during pregnancy ]

Perhaps as a new parent you haven't yet developed the overprotective instinct that comes with the territory. I've researched and justified many an experiment on my own body this way just as you have above. However, this is not the same thing. It is not a baby, this is another human being for whom you are entirely responsible for without prejudice. I'm a brewer and a drinker. My GF and I have excellent beer taste and love trying new beers together. However, this is not just my opinion, you can ask anyone this question. Responsible parenthood should trump everything else - this is the road you are going down.

I'd recommend you spend some time with some kids and adults that have been chromosomally damaged as a result of a negligent mother and then reassess your risk to enjoyment ratio.
 

bracconiere

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One study actually showed that moderate drinking was correlated with higher IQ


now everyone knows why my posts are dim witted! my mom was a straight edge! ;)

and i'd say your grain bill is going to be A LOT more then 2%....i'm not sure but when i want 'small' beer per see i shoot for high ABV kombucha? are you dead set on beer as your drink of choice?
 
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