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"Small" (low-alcohol) beer- anyone tried it?

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CiderPat

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I'm researching historical "small" beer for purposes of reenactment and coming up with a good-tasting, low-alcohol beer that can be enjoyed all day without all that messy passing out business. Has anyone tried this before? (Nothing came up in a search). Here's what I've got going so far (I'm doing 1 gallon batches in case I need to pour it out):

--Add 2 lbs. American 2-row barley, 2 oz. Cascade hops, and 4 oz. Chocolate Malt to 1 gal. of water and boil for 1 hour. Cool, strain, pour into fermenter, top up with water, pitch some yeast, let ferment for 1 week, prime and bottle for 2 weeks (This makes a batch of regular beer).

--Take the "spent" grain and hops from the previous step, add 1 gal water and boil again. Again, cool, strain, pour into another fermenter, top up with water, pitch some yeast, let ferment for 1 week, prime and bottle for 2. This becomes the batch of small beer.

The small beer I came up with is 2.5% ABV (matching estimates of historical small beer) and fermenting away nicely. Hopefully using all-grain (or at least all-barley, if I have to make bigger batches than I want to go whole-grain for), will keep the beer flavorful enough without the extra malt.

Anyway, let me know what you think- I'll continue to experiment if this batch comes out bad, but wanted to hear if anyone had any other advice for making low-alcohol beer.
 
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I wouldn't boil your grains...

you should mash your grains in ~154* water for an hour, then boil, add your hops, boil for an hour, etc...

2 oz. of hops seems like a lot for a one gallon batch also.

Just curious - what do you mean by: "for purposes of reenactment"?

regardless - good on ya' for experimenting :mug:
 

the_bird

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Small beers are often made with the second runnings from a larger beer (like an old ale or a barleywine). Do a search on parti-gyle. If you're doing all-grain, you could take your first runnings for something big, your second runnings for something small. I'm not sure where you're at in terms of your brewing, though; you never want to boil your grains. Are you an AG brewer? You've got to mash those grains or they aren't going to do you any good.
 

mew

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Try a Dry Stout, Mild, Ordinary Bitter, Blonde, or maybe some type of lager. Mash a little higher than you otherwise would (a couple of degrees), bump up the specialty malts a little, and add something for body like flaked barley, carapils, or maltodextrine. Also, use a low attenuating yeast (for British beers I tend to go with Fermentis Safale S-04).

That's it. Now Brew!
 

TeleTwanger

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the only commercial 'small beer' I ever had was Anchor's and although it's a decent beer I'm not a big fan, too plain for me. But if you want to talk session beers I'm all about some low gravity bitters, specials, and bests with ogs around 1.034-45. Not technically small (party gyle)beers though.
 

farmbrewernw

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Check out Milds and for heavens sake don't boil grains you wont end up with anything to ferment and it will taste nasty. If your an all-grain brewer you probably already knew this otherwise if your new to this check out some of the recipes on this forum and try using extract until you feel comfortable doing all-grain.
 

the_bird

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the only commercial 'small beer' I ever had was Anchor's and although it's a decent beer I'm not a big fan, too plain for me. But if you want to talk session beers I'm all about some low gravity bitters, specials, and bests with ogs around 1.034-45. Not technically small (party gyle)beers though.
I was really disappointing in Anchor's example. Not sure if it's truly representative of a table beer or not, but it was very bland, no body, nothing to it. I really wanted to like it, too.
 

TeleTwanger

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I was really disappointing in Anchor's example. Not sure if it's truly representative of a table beer or not, but it was very bland, no body, nothing to it. I really wanted to like it, too.
Yeah considering how much I love their Porter, Steam, and Liberty the small was pretty boring. I know they make it from the second runnings of thier barley wine and I'm pretty sure that is a single malt wort. What I love about session beers is thier complexity and the ability to use several different grains to make a balanced, yet complicated beer.
 

BierMuncher

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What ever you brew, mash it a shorter time (40 minutes) and higher temp (160).

I did that with this recipe and got a nice rich tasting 2.8% mild.

Frothy, creamy and smooth.

10Der_3.jpg


Batch Size: 11.50 gal
Boil Size: 14.26 gal
Estimated OG: 1.038 SG
Estimated Color: 18.6 SRM
Estimated IBU: 15.5 IBU
Brewhouse Efficiency: 76.0 %
Boil Time: 60 Minutes

Ingredients:
------------
Amount Item Type % or IBU
9.50 lb Pale Malt, Maris Otter (3.0 SRM) Grain 60.3 %
2.00 lb Munich Malt (9.0 SRM) Grain 12.7 %
1.00 lb Cara-Pils/Dextrine (2.0 SRM) Grain 6.3 %
1.00 lb Caramel/Crystal Malt - 60L (60.0 SRM) Grain 6.3 %
1.00 lb Honey Malt (25.0 SRM) Grain 6.3 %
0.75 lb Chocolate Malt (350.0 SRM) Grain 4.8 %
0.50 lb Caramel/Crystal Malt -120L (120.0 SRM) Grain 3.2 %

1.50 oz Williamette [5.20%] (60 min) Hops 12.5 IBU
1.00 oz Williamette [5.20%] (10 min) Hops 3.0 IBU
 

Brewsmith

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For authenticity, I'd do a barleywine and then take the second or even third runnings for the small beer. Use traditional English hops like Goldings or Fuggles.

Here's a beer that I did with collecting 3 seperate runnings and made three seperate beers, each 2 gallons. I mashed in with around 14 lbs of grain and collected about 2.5 gallons for each in succession. The recipe is earlier in the thread and is the #50 brew in my sig.

https://www.homebrewtalk.com/f12/brew-50-recipe-suggestions-41419/index2.html#post445853
 
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CiderPat

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Weird- the guy at the store said to boil the grains for an hour, and the original recipe (written by George Washington) from 1750 called for a 3 hour boil- I also found a recipe online that called for boiling the grains.

Anyway, I'll see how it comes out.
 

joety

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I've not tried it, but I believe Papazian suggests the best way to brew a small beer that doesn't lack taste is to brew a large beer (10% ABV) and reduce 3:1 in the secondary. This will cause the yeast to attenuate (sp?) where it should for a rich tasting beer. I believe he discusses it in The Homebrewer's Companion.
 
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CiderPat

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I've not tried it, but I believe Papazian suggests the best way to brew a small beer that doesn't lack taste is to brew a large beer (10% ABV) and reduce 3:1 in the secondary. This will cause the yeast to attenuate (sp?) where it should for a rich tasting beer. I believe he discusses it in The Homebrewer's Companion.
Thanks- that sounds like a good reference. I just put in an order for it.
 

fratermus

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Another vote for mild. It's my favorite "table beer" (in the loose sense).
 

john from dc

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i've been to washington's brewery many times, it's actually a short bike ride from my house and i assure you he separated his wort from his grain husks before boiling it.

i'd guess that most of the same rules apply for making small beer as regular strength beer. do you currently brew?

edit: that sounded really snarky after i read it back, sorry i didn't mean for it to be. what i mean to say is that boiled grains will lead to bad things, and that if you currently have a brewing process you're best off adapting it to a lower gravity beer. if you don't currently brew that's cool too, we can probably point you towards some instructions that'll suit your needs.

the reenactment part sounds interesting, what's the occasion?
 
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CiderPat

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i've been to washington's brewery many times, it's actually a short bike ride from my house and i assure you he separated his wort from his grain husks before boiling it.

i'd guess that most of the same rules apply for making small beer as regular strength beer. do you currently brew?

edit: that sounded really snarky after i read it back, sorry i didn't mean for it to be. what i mean to say is that boiled grains will lead to bad things, and that if you currently have a brewing process you're best off adapting it to a lower gravity beer. if you don't currently brew that's cool too, we can probably point you towards some instructions that'll suit your needs.

the reenactment part sounds interesting, what's the occasion?
Yeah, I haven't brewed beer before (unless you count brewing from a kit)- there's an Elizabethan reenactment group out here that I drum for from time to time, and the last time they set up a tavern, they were serving "small beer" that was just watered down Henry Weinhard's Dark. I figured that even if I don't normally do beer, I could still improve on that particular recipe fairly easily...
 

TeleTwanger

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Are you referring to the GW recipe that is like 2lbs of molasses boiled and then covered with a horse blanket overnight and bottled? I'm not sure how good that would come out. Maybe this is why Franklin was so into wine lol.
 

john from dc

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Yeah, I haven't brewed beer before (unless you count brewing from a kit)-
personally, i say brewing from a kit counts! do you still have the equipment?

i took a look at the washington recipe you mentioned, and he boiled his hops in water, then added molasses (no grain was used at all). if you want to recreate it, i'd boil a quarter ounce of ~4% alpha acid hops in 2 gallons of water for an hour. then add 0.2 gallons of molasses and boil for another 5-10 mins. after that, you cool, add yeast and ferment like any other beer.

i have no idea if this will turn out any good or even palatable, it would definitely be different from the beer that most of us are used to making. also the colonies were notorious for making nasty, nasty beer. so i'd definitely have a backup plan a la watered down weinhards.

instructions on the basic brewing process can be found here. for new brewers sanitation is key. everything that touches the beer must be not just clean, but sanitized. the site i linked to has info on sanitation as well.

good luck, if you have any questions post em up and we'll try to help.
 

Boerderij_Kabouter

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Traditional small beer was very thin and very low ABV (~1-3%). It is a fun thing, but should not have the standards of a regular beer. If you are looking for the real thing for your enactment, you will need to do a parti gyle brew. Otherwise just brew a mild, they are delicious and pretty easy to do.
 

DeathBrewer

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sounds like he's looking more for a "non-alcoholic" <1% beer.

small beers are awesome. you can make a small beer from any regular batch. just run more water through your grains and throw the wort in a second pot with some hops. really great to do if you are already brewing and have an extra fermentation vessle around.
 

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