Author Topic: Low Alcohol Beer Ideas?  (Read 3617 times)

Offline pyrite

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Low Alcohol Beer Ideas?
« on: April 27, 2012, 08:47:06 AM »
Any ideas on how to approach brewing a very low alcohol beer that tastes great? 

Is it possible to make a beer of 2-3% ABV or lower that tastes GREAT?

Would a Lager or an Ale be better suited for such an attempt?

What are some issues that occur when brewing low gravity beers, (water, pH, ingredients, etc.)?

Ideas, thoughts, recipes, would be appreciated.

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Offline beersk

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Re: Low Alcohol Beer Ideas?
« Reply #1 on: April 27, 2012, 08:59:47 AM »
Hmmmm I've sort of been pondering this idea lately too.  You could use more specialty grains, roasted grains, and crystal malts and lower the base malt percentage.  I'm not sure how else you'll make good low alcohol beer.  Diluted I think would not be good, and boiling off some of the alcohol also I think wouldn't be good...don't know.
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Offline ethalacker

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Re: Low Alcohol Beer Ideas?
« Reply #2 on: April 27, 2012, 09:09:41 AM »
I brew a mild that is just 3 percent and it tastes really good.  I mash at 158.

you could also do a pale ale. just lower the base grain.
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Offline denny

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Re: Low Alcohol Beer Ideas?
« Reply #3 on: April 27, 2012, 09:24:06 AM »
Obviously it depends on your own tastes.  I have yet to taste a low alcohol beer that I thought was really flavorful.  Others will disagree with me.  My own brewing has been trending toward lower ABV, but I can taste the flavor diminishing as the OG drops.
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Offline garc_mall

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Re: Low Alcohol Beer Ideas?
« Reply #4 on: April 27, 2012, 09:24:47 AM »
I am going to start off with the disclaimer that I am not an expert, but I have made 2 session beers of between 3-4 percent, and basing my advice on that. I love my session beers, and try to keep at least one available at all times. If you come to NHC, I will have a Mocha Mild that will be on for either club night or the hospitality suite.

Ok, now that's out of the way, here is what I have learned about making tasty low-alcohol beer.

1. American 2-row sucks. It doesn't provide anything to a beer other than fermentable sugars. maybe a couple pounds if you need the enzymes, but really, get rid of regular American 2-row. Use Marris Otter, Golden Promise, or even Belgian Pale malt. Eek out every ounce of flavor you can get in these beers.

2. Character malts are awesome. Munich, Vienna, Biscuit, Aromatic. All of those are really nice to add to a beer. If you are doing a darker beer, look at pale chocolate, dark Munich, special B and the like. Crystal is nice, but I have noticed that the sweetness stands out a lot more in these small beers, I would recommend keeping it under a pound.

3. Mash Higher. I mash my session beers between 154-156, but I have heard of people doing mashes as high as 160-162. You want some unfermentables in there. You could also try no-sparge, I have tasted some really nice beers that no-sparge, and I find the malt flavor is appreciably better. I intend on trying this with my next session beer.


As you may have noticed, the biggest problem I have personally run into, and seen others run into is lack of complexity. The lower alcohol and generally less malt can make for a boring beer if you don't work at it. I make up for this with the above, character yeasts (I like 1968) and interesting hopping. I threw up a recipe in this folder for a Munich mild. That is the beer I have been drinking lately, and it will be the base recipe for the Mocha Mild I am bringing to NHC.
In a Keg: Flanders Red Ale, Rye Altbier, Cascade/Topaz Pale
Fermenting: Flanders Red, Saison

Offline morticaixavier

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Re: Low Alcohol Beer Ideas?
« Reply #5 on: April 27, 2012, 09:50:08 AM »
For my ordinary bitter (~3.2%) I use mostly munich with a little crystal 40-45 and lots of hops.

Just did a rye stout and accidentally mashed at ~162 that one had lots of body and flavour. It clocked it right at 2.9-3%.

I don't have any recipes with me but I will post them when I get home.

but yeah, mash high and use some specialty grains for flavour. also try using mostly or all munich or similar as a base grain. I don't know how much specialty malt it can convert beyond it self but if you use crystal malts that doesn't really matter.

**EDIT**

also consider oak. I aged half my rye stout batch in an oak barrel and it added consideral complexity and flavour. Just don't leave it on the oak to long, maybe a couple days tops if using new oak chips. Mine was 2 weeks on a used rum barrel that had had two other batches aged it in for a couple months each.
« Last Edit: April 27, 2012, 09:51:58 AM by morticaixavier »
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Offline weithman5

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Re: Low Alcohol Beer Ideas?
« Reply #6 on: April 27, 2012, 09:53:25 AM »
i am planning something along the lines of a scottish 60-70 this weekend. pale malt, roast barley and some crystal.  early magnum very little.  i will use 838 lager yeast though and lager it.  kind of a hybridaltscottie 65.
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Offline corkybstewart

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Re: Low Alcohol Beer Ideas?
« Reply #7 on: April 27, 2012, 11:08:21 AM »
I've brewed a 3.5%(+-) brown ale that fooled a lot of my employees at a company party.  I brewed it with Maris Otter, brown malt and a little crystal 60.  It had about 30 IBU's of Goldings with a flameout addition.  They all thought because it was homebrew it must be strong
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Offline Joe Sr.

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Re: Low Alcohol Beer Ideas?
« Reply #8 on: April 27, 2012, 11:23:22 AM »
Obviously it depends on your own tastes.  I have yet to taste a low alcohol beer that I thought was really flavorful.  Others will disagree with me.  My own brewing has been trending toward lower ABV, but I can taste the flavor diminishing as the OG drops.

I'd be interested to know where you wind up with lower gravity beers.  I've been attempting to brew more lower alcohol beers myself, but my efforts seem to wind up in the 5 - 6% range.  Which is lower than my typical beer...
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Offline denny

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Re: Low Alcohol Beer Ideas?
« Reply #9 on: April 27, 2012, 12:28:41 PM »
Obviously it depends on your own tastes.  I have yet to taste a low alcohol beer that I thought was really flavorful.  Others will disagree with me.  My own brewing has been trending toward lower ABV, but I can taste the flavor diminishing as the OG drops.

I'd be interested to know where you wind up with lower gravity beers.  I've been attempting to brew more lower alcohol beers myself, but my efforts seem to wind up in the 5 - 6% range.  Which is lower than my typical beer...

Yeah, that's about where I am, too.  I cut my all time favorite alt recipe back so it ended up at 5.5% instead of the 6.5-6.75 it usually ends up at.  It seems thin and watery.  Admittedly, I didn't really add any crystal or mash higher to compensate....I just took the same recipe and used less grain overall.  Maybe if I had started from scratch it would have worked out better.  A few years back, I was trying to formulate an "American mild" using American ingredients.  I was shooting for about 3-3.5% but I just couldn't make it work.
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Offline Joe Sr.

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Re: Low Alcohol Beer Ideas?
« Reply #10 on: April 27, 2012, 12:43:48 PM »
I hear you.  I tried to do a lower gravity Belgian blonde and it does really seem thin.  It was great as a starter for my quad, though.

I only have room for two beers on tap, so my goal has been to have one strong and one not-so-strong going at the same time.  My stronger beers are better sellers, though.
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Offline denny

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Re: Low Alcohol Beer Ideas?
« Reply #11 on: April 27, 2012, 01:26:21 PM »
I hear you.  I tried to do a lower gravity Belgian blonde and it does really seem thin.  It was great as a starter for my quad, though.

Now that you mention it, one that really worked for me was a Patersbier.  Great flavor and low alcohol for a Belgian...but still in the 5-5.5% range.  That seems to be the lower limit for me right now.
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Offline garc_mall

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Re: Low Alcohol Beer Ideas?
« Reply #12 on: April 27, 2012, 01:30:37 PM »
Come find my beer at NHC! It should be about 4%, and I am working on packing in a ton of flavor. I am really hoping to get good feedback on it. I did the base recipe, and it tasted good, going to throw a couple of small changes into it for my next batch in a couple weeks.
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Offline Joe Sr.

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Re: Low Alcohol Beer Ideas?
« Reply #13 on: April 27, 2012, 01:33:28 PM »
I hear you.  I tried to do a lower gravity Belgian blonde and it does really seem thin.  It was great as a starter for my quad, though.

Now that you mention it, one that really worked for me was a Patersbier.  Great flavor and low alcohol for a Belgian...but still in the 5-5.5% range.  That seems to be the lower limit for me right now.

Did you throw that recipe up on the wiki?  I think my main problem with the blonde was mashing too low.

Nope...it's pretty basic.  Pils malt to 1.050 OG.  24 IBU of Hallertauer at 60, .5 oz of Saaz at 10.  I did a 148/160 step mash.  WY3787 fermented in the mid 60s.  That's about it!
« Last Edit: April 27, 2012, 02:16:02 PM by denny »
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Offline denny

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Re: Low Alcohol Beer Ideas?
« Reply #14 on: April 27, 2012, 02:12:09 PM »
Come find my beer at NHC! It should be about 4%, and I am working on packing in a ton of flavor. I am really hoping to get good feedback on it. I did the base recipe, and it tasted good, going to throw a couple of small changes into it for my next batch in a couple weeks.

I'll look forward to trying it.
Life begins at 60.....1.060, that is!

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The best, sharpest, funniest, weirdest and most knowledgable minds in home brewing contribute on the AHA forum. - Alewyfe