Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Homebrew 13 - Low ABV Pale

Brewday - 13/04/14

Boy Racer - 2.8% ABV Pale Ale

With a window of brewing opportunity presenting itself at fairly short notice, I had a look through my ingredients box and decided to do something I'd been meaning to do for a while and try my hand at a low alcohol beer. 

After a bit of calculation, the measly collection of grain and hops I had left appeared to lend itself quite well to this beer. All I needed was some yeast so I decided to use liquid yeast for the first time, seeing as how it was a bit of an experimental brew anyway. I got some White Labs WLP001.

The grain bill was mostly Maris and lager malt. I decided to use 5% torrified wheat for head retention and a bit of Munich and Crystal for flavour. The colour would have been so light with this, that I had to add 20g of chocolate malt to get the colour to hit 7 SRM, which is the kind of area I was looking for.

Grain Bill Type Amt (g) Amt (%)
Maris Otter 2095 58.2
Lager Malt 1024 28.4
Crystal 101 2.8
Torry Wheat 180 5.0
Munich Malt 180 5.0
Chocolate Malt 20 0.6
Total 3600

These low ABV beers require mashing at a high temperature for a short amount of time, to limit the conversion of starch to fermentable sugars, thus retaining body in the beer. I decided to mash at 71C for 60 minutes although in hindsight, 45 minutes would probably have done it.

I dumped a kettle of boiling water into the mash tun at the end, to try to stop the enzymes and sparged with 80C water until 32L had been collected. The OG was 1.032, which considering I was trying to make a 3.4% beer, was a little less than I had been expecting.

I used Northern Brewer, Target and Amarillo hops for no other reason than they were what I already had. I wanted to make it quite bitter and hoppy so went for 50 IBU, with decent late additions and 100g in dry hop.

After 2 weeks, the FG never made it past 1.011, which gives a strength of about 2.8% ABV, much less than I had been expecting. It's a good job I hadn't been trying to make a 2.8% beer really, as it'd have ended up as utter dishwater. This beer was a bit of a journey into the unknown but given that a short, hot mash would create less fermentable sugar, I suppose it shouldn't come as too big a surprise.

I eventually filled 37 bottles, priming with 99g of dextrose, which should give carbonation of around 2.1 volumes. Looking forward to the verdict in a few weeks.

The verdict:
Horrible! The beer looked okay, was nicely carbonated and didn't have any off-tastes but was simply not a very nice recipe. The Northern Brewer was vile and the small amount of chocolate malt seemed to have the effect of making it taste, well, like watery, weak chocolate.

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