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Low Alcohol Beer b/c of Liver Disease

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Zedition

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I'm looking for insight into brewing low-alcohol beer. I've been brewing on and off for a couple of decades, so I know my way around both syrup and all-grain brewing, but I'm no expert by any means. I started brewing because in the early 90's, in central Iowa, you could only buy crappy beer. I like the taste of beer, real beer, German purity law big-taste beers. Not anything that would ever qualify as "lite".

And then my quandary. I've got a rare, genetic liver disease. Had it for years, but it's moved from "not good" to "bad" lately. My liver functions, it's not what could be called healthy, but putting a half-dozen 8% maibocks through it in one night would be a very bad idea.

So I'm trying to figure out how to get big-beer taste, without 5%+ alcohol contents. I've tried some tinkering with basic recipes, to little success. Boiling ethanol out of beer seriously damages it's taste as well. Most of the commercial NA beers seem to be crafted by adding back sugars (syrups) and vacuum boiling at a much lower temperature than 174F.

Any ideas on how to get good tasting big-beers, with low alcohol contents?
 
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I know this is the answer you are expecting, and not wanting to hear, but if I was in your shoes I'd get into something else altogether.

So, that out of the way, maybe you can mess around with pepper beers. That hotness can make up for a lack of alcohol.
 

KAMMEE

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I wonder if you could try using a bunch of steeping grains that won't really add to the alcohol but would give you the body you're looking for. I know some of the crystal malt sugars won't ferment if you steep them appropriately. The key is to keep the starches from converting so the yeast won't work on them. Thats the only thing I can think of, otherwise you're looking at just brewing some really weak beer which will end up tasting more like hop tea than beer...
 

JNye

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dude, quit drinking. what has your doctor told you on the subject?
I'm pretty sure there comes a day when all of us have to throw in the towel or go for broke, me, I'll quit.
 

KyleWolf

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for all grain it would be simple enough to just mash a smaller grain bill at a really high temp to end at a high gravity for bigger body. For extract brewing, it maybe as simple at not letting primary go though full fermentation.

Otherwise...I am very apologetic, but I have to kinda agree with JNye, but if it was me...I know I would probably do everything I could do to not stop either.
 
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Zedition

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Quitting drinking is what I've been doing. But think of it this way. If you love your wife, and the Dr. says, "Sorry, you have a rare disease. Every time you touch your wife for the rest of your life, there is a 1 in 1,000,000 chance you will die." Does that mean it's time for a divorce and you spend the rest of your life living like a hermit in your parents basement? After all, you eventually die anyway, does living another 30 years without love make that time worth living?

Well, I love beer. I don't love getting drunk. Since it's alcohol that both makes you drunk and damages the liver, there's a middle ground that I'm looking for.

I've burned through every available commercial low-A and kinderbeer out there. Some are awful (O'Dules tastes like flat 7-up). Some are bad (St. Pauli NA tastes like a eating hops heads). Some are teasingly bad (Bush NA tastes like Bush that was left out in a hot truck then chilled). Some are drinkable in a pinch, (Buckler makes you really thirsty for a good beer to wash it down).

Increasing the body sounds like a good approach. My first experiment was to increase the non-fermentable sugars (2nd try was same thing but with more hops to hide the sweet), both tries obviously ended up in over-sweet beers. My third and fourth were boiling a low-gravity and a high-gravity beer respectively, then repriming with malt-sugar. The wife loved that one, house smelled like a molasses still after both boils.

Since many commercial NA's are vaccuum boiled, my fifth try was a boil in my pressure canner, which is aluminum, and the metal made the beer taste like a tin-can. But even metallic it tasted closer to what beer was supposed to taste like! It was nearly reminiscent of German mini-kegs like DAB and Schwarzbier. Flat, under-sweet, mini-kegs at least. I suspect that since the pressure canner boiled at a lower temp and for less time, it destroyed fewer of the complex sugars and oils.

At the same time, I know people have experimented with homebrew low-NA beers for both kids and in cases like mine, illness. I'd love to find a natural way to get real beer taste instead of going down the route of welding up Frankenstein's version of a beer-boiler from scrap stainless steel parts.
 

JNye

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just drink in extreme moderation then. 4oz of 6% beer is the same as 12oz of some crappy 2% near beer. at least you'll be able to enjoy sampling all the world's great beers. you could also taste and spit a portion of it too. maybe not the best solution but better then piss water IMO.
 

CreekBrewery

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I hear yah Zedition, it's all about the flavor and not as much the alcohol. Even though my liver is in fine shape I'm interested in where you can take this.
 

Edcculus

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I think the word you are looking for is session beer. English Milds, Browns etc and even some bitters. There are a lot of flavorful beers you can brew that clock in under 4%. Berlinerweiss is also a good, light refreshing sour beer that is between 2.5-4%.
 

Loweface

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If you are looking for a recomendation on a good non-alcoholic beer then I'd happily endorse both erdinger and pauliner NA. (If you can get them in your area) Also, if you are going to this much effort then having some shipped to you wouldn't be that much of a big deal. Try to get a bar or offie to stock it by promising to buy the first five or six cases...
 

DeafSmith

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How about mixing two beers. Find a NA beer that's not too bad and mix it with a good tasting beer that is < 4%. Of course, you would need to only drink half the 4% one (share the rest with someone else, or toss it).
 

millsware

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You could try something like the opposite of what they do when (can't remember the word). Freeze the beer, then skim off the water/beer, and leave the alcohol behind. Might be worth a shot.

Or you could intentionally mash so that you get a lot of unfermentable sugars, and just enough fermentables to make a low percent beer.
 
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Zedition

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Thanks for all the replies. A few good tips and ideas in here.

I hadn't found the "neuter" thread when I searched earlier. One step I haven't tried is straight into the wort-chiller after the boil. That might make a big difference. By dropping the heat right away, it'll reduce the damage to the sugars (although the oils will still be fried). In my boil experiments, I had been refreshing the finish hops, but had included the bittering hops in the original boil.

To keep it consistent, I've been using syrup in my experiment, Midwest Brewing amber malt with home-grown Cascade hops. Going with a light-malt instead needs to go onto my experimenting list. I probably should consider going with a pelleted hops too, my home-grown is great when it's fresh, but the oil content is highly variable and I have no way to measure it.

I had a "duh" moment when I was sketching out ideas - why am I experimenting with 5 gallon batches? I end up pouring the failures into the garden - which I might add, low A beer makes a great fertilizer! Or it's just a good gardening year. My Duh was because I usually make 5 or 12 gallons at a spot depending on if my demi-john is fermenting or not. But I don't need too, I could ferment two gallons in a carboy almost as easy as 5. Well, short-ferment ales I can at least. Volume of batch can affect taste, but it shouldn't be a big impact.

One idea I haven't tried yet was to skip the bittering hops on the first ferment, then just add it during the de-ethonolization. (I think I like neutering, it's a better term!) If I add malt-grain back with the finish hops during the neuter-boil would increase both body and should add grain lipids... That should really boost the malt, body and floral-hops flavors. Another thing to try is skipping the bitter hops during the first boil, then adding them at the beginning of the 20-45 minutes of neuter-boil.

Blending is another idea I had not considered. I can tell my wife is getting irritated with me stealing a really big swig off her bottle when she's not looking - the "4oz of good beer is better than nothing idea". I've been drinking Kaliber when I can't stand yet another diet-Coke, and it might make a respectable backdrop with a more full-flavored beer.

Going with the "normal" low-A beers was going to be my backup plan. Mild-nut ales and low-A weissbier is not my favorite drink, but it beats the pants off of no-beer. Or I could just something like Anchor Small without homebrewing, it runs around 3.25% iirc.
 

midfielder5

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Parti-gyle with a friend; they get the bigger beer from first runnings and you get the small beer (Anchor's Small Beer is the "leftovers" from their barleywine brewing).
Just a thought.

And +1 on doing a Mild (eng session beer).
 

david_42

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I'll ditto the Milds and Bitters, and add that 10% rye can make a huge difference in flavor without boosting the ABV in any session beer.
 

boostsr20

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Did you ever successfully get a decent beer? Just had our first baby and the lactation consultant suggested brewing a low alc session beer. She said 3 or 4 beers in the 2% range is fine as long as it's not within 2-3 hours of feeding. I am thinking some oats/Vienna/2row/c60 and a high mash. She loves hops so I'm think 20ibus of citrusy hops with lots of late additions. Low/dry finish is fine but I'm hoping a little oats will help.
 
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Just a thought: Make a 5% beer, and once it's fermented, reheat it to 175F and hold it there for one hour, with the lid off, and the fan running (if you're inside, otherwise you'll get a helluva buzz!). Cool, keg and carbonate.

You may need to get it checked somehow to confirm that most of the alcohol is evaporated.

M_C
 

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