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.
I 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.
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
Final pH: 4.89
Brewhouse Efficiency: 68%
Boil Time: 30 Mins
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
*Do not increase if your water is lower in carbonate.
Omega OYL-011 British Ale V
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.