Tuesday, June 6, 2017

2.3% ABV Session NEIPA

Recirculating through the hop filter.
I received an email a couple month ago from a homebrewer looking for advice on a 1% ABV New England IPA. It got me thinking about how light I could push a beer that still scratched my hop-itch. All else equal, I prefer beers with less alcohol so I can drink more, especially when it is hot out. I’ve brewed a few low-alcohol hoppy beers over the years (Wheat-based at 2.1% and Vienna-based at 3.6%), but it seemed worth revisiting. Rather than make a 1% near-beer, I decided 2% ABV was a more plausible goal!

While dextrins aren’t a major mouthfeel driver (study, Brulosophy, Karnowski), lower attenuation allows more malt to be added for the same volume of wort. Below 3% ABV is where the simple lack of malt begins to really show, especially in a style like this that isn’t buttressed by specialty malts. Think of it as the opposite of a big DIPA where you might substitute sugar for base malt to prevent the beer from becoming too malty. To make an absurdly-unfermentable wort I opted for equal parts Maris Otter (for more malt flavor pound-for-pound than my usual Rahr Brewer’s 2-row) and dextrin malt (Weyermann Carafoam).

Dextrin malts vary substantially depending on the maltster. The two most common are from Briess and Weyermann:

Briess Carapils is a true glassy caramel/crystal malt, albeit one that isn’t roasted enough to develop the color or flavor associated with darker caramel malts. The problem is that the dextrins created during the stewing process are converted to fermentable sugars if mashed with enzymatic base malt (light crystal/caramel malts don’t substantially affect attenuation, further discussion). Although if they were steeped alone, that would be another story.

Weyermann Carafoam (Carapils outside the US) is akin to chit malt, high in protein and under-modified. It is mealy/starchy so it too is converted into fermentable sugars when mashed, but would be unsuitable for steeping. Weyermann suggests it can be used as up to 40% of the grist. I hoped the protein contribution would make up for the well-modified English base malt while preventing the beer from tasting too biscuity.

Omega British VI performed a brew-in-a-bag mash given the small quantity of grain. I mashed in at 165F to quickly denature the beta amylase responsible for creating most of the highly-fermentable maltose. Efficiency was a bit better than expected and it reached 1.030 instead of 1.028.

One of the takeaways from my recently submitted September BYO Advanced Brewing article (subscribe) comparing the mineral content of water to the beer brewed with it was that many of the flavor ions increase substantially. Much of that is from the grain, and using less grain suggests increasing the mineral additions. As a result, I increased my chloride target to boost mouthfeel.

I had some El Dorado in the freezer, and decided this was a good first batch to brew with them. I decided to pair with an equal amount of Simcoe to cut through the fruitier notes that El Dorado brings – often described as watermelon or strawberry. I used the new 400 micron hop filter I bought on a whim to hold the single flame-out addition, recirculating the wort through them.

For yeast I decided to try out Omega British V, which they compare to Wyeast 1318. I was hoping the grain and hot mash would result in ~50% apparent attenuation rather than the standard 71-75%. Despite all of my efforts the yeast still achieved a surprising 60% attenuation!

Session-Strength Session NEIPA

Smell – It smells like beer and not wort or hop tea! The hops provide an interesting mix of fruit (the power of suggestion says watermelon) and resin. Not much citrus or juice. Hop aroma would have been boosted by a keg hop. Not much else going on, but it doesn’t raise any flags given the style is all about hops.

Drinking Session IPA before mowing.
Appearance – Passes the eye test as well. Not too pale thanks to the Maris Otter. Appropriate haze. Head looks about right too, solid, white, with good-but-not-great retention.

Taste – The malt flavor is almost there, and then it isn’t, falling flat and fading too quickly. Doesn’t come off as excessively bready English-malty though. The bitterness was harsh when I tapped the keg, mostly because I was drinking it nine days after brewing! A week later, now that the hop matter has dropped out of suspension, it has mellowed to just a little sharp. No hint of alcohol...

Mouthfeel – Despite the chloride, Carafoam, and low attenuation the body isn’t fooling anyone. The mid-palate is more Bud Light than Julius, seltzery rather than pillowy. I remember the wheat-based batch having better body despite the same 1.030 original gravity.

Drinkability & Notes – Crisp, crushable, hoppy barley water. I like it, but it’ll need some tweaks to dupe anyone into thinking it is above 4%, let alone 6%!

Changes for Next Time – A small addition of honey malt would help the malt flavor and add sweetness to balance the hops. I’d probably swap half of the Carafoam for oats as well to bring the body up. Might chill to 200F before adding the hop-stand addition to reduce the bitterness.


Batch Size: 6.00 gal
SRM: 3.2
IBU: 48.6
OG: 1.030
FG: 1.012
ABV: 2.3%
Final pH: 4.89
Brewhouse Efficiency: 68%
Boil Time: 30 Mins

50.0% - 3.5 lbs Weyermann Carafoam
50.0% - 3.5 lbs Crisp Floor-Malted Gleneagles/No. 19 Maris Otter

Sacch Rest - 45 min @ 165F

2.00 oz El Dorado (Pellets, 14.00 % AA) @ Flame-out (30 min Hop Stand)
2.00 oz Simcoe (Pellets, 13.00 % AA) @ Flame-out (30 min Hop Stand)
2.00 oz El Dorado (Pellets, 14.00 % AA) @ Brew Day Dry Hop
2.00 oz Simcoe (Pellets, 13.00 % AA) @ Brew Day Dry Hop
2.00 oz El Dorado (Pellets, 14.00 % AA) @ Dry Hop Day 3
2.00 oz Simcoe (Pellets, 13.00 % AA) @ Dry Hop Day 3

9.00 g Calcium Chloride @ mash
4.50 g Gypsum @ mash
1.00 tsp 10% Phosphoric Acid @ mash
0.50 Whirlfloc @ 5 min
0.50 tsp Wyeast Nutrient @ 5 min

*Do not increase if your water is lower in carbonate.

Omega OYL-011 British Ale V

Brewed 5/19/17

BIAB with all of the salts and the acid, 3 gal each distilled, and DC tap. 5 gallons of 1.035 after removing the bag. Diluted with 1 gal each distilled and DC tap. That knocked the temperature down to 140F, but the enzymes should have been mostly denatured.

Brought to a boil for 30 minutes. Turned off the heat and added the hops for a 30 min stand with the wort recirculating through the hop filter.

Chilled to 70F, added first dose of dry hops to fermentor during run-off, pitched the yeast directly from the package, left at 64F to ferment.

5/22/17 Added second dose of dry hops.

5/29/17 Kegged, no keg hops at this point.

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Richard said...

Great read, Mike. Curious about the dry hop prior to fermentation. What do you find that gives you?

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

It really pushes those hop-yeast interactions. To my palate it gives me much of what a hop-stand does without the bitterness. It needs to be paired with later dry hops if you want the big/classic fresh hop aroma of an IPA. Not an efficient use of hops, but I think it is a useful technique.

Anonymous said...

Love the ultra low abv beer trails! As a way to boost dextrins what about a mild ale malt?

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

I don't know much about mild malt, any idea how it increases dextrins?

rrenaud said...

Did you consider lactose? Gun Hill Brewing's Mosaic Soft Serve is my favorite very low ABV hoppy commercial beer at 3%, and it uses oats and lactose. Pretty delicious.

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

I try to avoid lactose when I can because I have a few friends who are vegan or lactose intolerant. Not a bad option though! I may try dosing some into a glass to see how well it works.

Anonymous said...

Have you ever played around with non-enzymatic mashing to try to make a low ABV beer? We had a post about it in our local homebrew club's Facebook group and I've been meaning to give it a shot.

Unknown said...

Have you considered adding oats? I have pretty good success on my low ABV (sub 2%) beers by adding a healthy amount of flaked oats to the grist.

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

Someone mentioned non-enzymatic mashing on my Facebook page as well. I hadn't heard of it before. Would be clearer if it was just called cold steeping. Looks like it pulls the flavors and proteins out without the dextrins and beta-glucans. Would be interested to taste, but doesn't sound like a perfect match for a recipe like this that isn't driven by malt flavor. Have you tasted any beers brewed with the method?

Unknown said...

Have you ever thought about doing a raw ale / no boil for something like this? Perhaps you would get better mouth feel and body without denaturing the proteins. And if you are going to move your hop stand to below boil any way, you are not missing anything in the way of isomerization...

CRUSADER1612 said...

What would you say is the main difference between adding hops at transfer to the FV and a bio-transformation dryhop. ive seen both used, and wondered if there were different characteristics?

Unknown said...

Super interesting! I love this! Here in Sweden, alcohol sales above 3,5% are limited to state stores at certain times, so there is a huuuge scene of delicious low-ABV beers at 3,5% and below - I even have a friend from the US who started a whole bar/cafe with food and only 3,5% and below. Yours is right on target for that classification.

About the malt: I like the British malt idea, but I can't help but think it would benefit from Vienna as a base in high percentage - that might just be a good ticket to a full body. But I don't think there will ever be a beer at that strength to fool with the alcohol content, IPAs truly do rely on a good ethanol hint for the wholeness of the experience. Wonder if there's a way to perhaps push fermentation temperature up to make up for this?

Once again, another fantastic MF post!

Benedikt said...

I was thinking doing a 100% Rye Hop Bomb at that ABV.
But hop aroma more spicy and citrusy to go along well with the rye.
100% Rye beers over 5% have a mouthfeel that is too thick but for a low ABV beer it could be great :)
Really nice post!

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

I'd worry that a raw ale wouldn't have enough bitterness because you aren't heating it above isomerization temperature. If you did get it hot enough for isomerization you'd also be creating DMS. I'm also not sure the "doughy" flavor I get in my no-boil Berliners is the sort of malt flavor I want in an IPA.

I think dry hopping (much like boil hop additions) is on a gradient. The brew day dry hop is like a mid-fermentation dry hop, only more so. You lose more of the bright/fresh/raw hop aromatics, but get even more of the yeast-hop interactions.

I might try a blend of Vienna and Maris Otter next time, so that neither is too distinct. Stressing the yeast or fermenting hot results in more fusel alcohols, that isn't something I'm interested in although it might fool some people into thinking the beer is stronger.

James Spencer shared one of his ultra-low-ABV 100% rye session ales with me (I think it was this one), and it was pretty chewy compared to mine, not a bad idea!

Two Shepherds said...


What is the reason for the 30 minute boil? Is it just because the grains are in such a small amount?

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

Are you asking why I didn't boil longer? No need to given the low target OG and bitterness. DMS is an over-stated risk for homebrewers (especially for ales).

Anonymous said...

Was version 2.0 brewed Mike?

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

Not yet, but I promised BYO an article on ultra-low ABV beers sometime in 2018... so it will be!

Unknown said...

I would love to see more on low ABV brews - especially for my own health reasons.