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Brew Fantastic Low-Alcohol Beer at Home

It's a new year, and some people need to drink lighter things than big stouts and barley wines, even though they suit the dark season well! However, there should be room for both, and I also really like having a stout or an IPA at 0.9% on tap so that you can enjoy an extra beer with a clear conscience during the cold and dark season. Although the heavy beers warm up better, you can still get lots of flavor out of the small beers! And if you know a few tricks, you can also get plenty of body in them, so no one will guess they are somewhere around 0.9%.

Why 0.9%?

Well... Bad habit... My "alcohol-free" beers I always make at 0.9% for the simple reason that the first one I made landed there, and I think I can get a bit more flavor out of them than if they land at 0.5%. However, I know several people who have had good experiences landing them at 0.5% instead. So, if you want it as a "real" alcohol-free, just adjust the recipe.

How to make low-alcohol beer?

There are several methods, as you can see in the box. You can choose to brew normally with such a low amount of malt that it hits alcohol below 1%. It’s easy but also gives a thin beer without real flavor. A better method is cold mashing, where the malt just sits in water for 24 hours at room temperature, which will keep enzyme activity down to almost 0 and therefore gives a beer with lots of flavor and body, but also a bit of potato starch taste, I think. But it can definitely work. You can also boil the alcohol away from a normal beer. I haven't tried it, but I know how harmful heat is to beer in general, so I can't imagine it will preserve the beer’s taste 100%. Maybe I'm wrong, but I won't be trying it any time soon. Then there’s, of course, the parti-gyle method, where you mash again on an already mashed mash. However, it’s really difficult to control where it ends up in terms of alcohol content. It's mostly relevant for breweries or homebrewers who brew the same beer often and know the result of a parti-gyle afterward. However, it’s always recommended to do when making strong beer. You can get a good schwarzbier out of doing a parti-gyle on an imperial stout. But that’s a whole other topic.

The easiest method is to mash at a temperature of 80°C so that there isn't much conversion to fermentable sugars. The process is described in the box. It's the one I always use and will use as a basis for further discussion in the article.

High Mash Method

1. Mash at 80°C

2. Use a maltotriose-negative yeast like Windsor Lallemand or London Lallamand

3. Use about 1.0-2.5 kg of malt

4. Focus on specialty malts instead of base malts, which means up to 5 times the value compared to a normal beer

5. Aim for an OG of around 1010-1025 and FG about a few points lower

6. Pay attention to your BU/GU ratio. You’ll need fewer hops!

7. Adjust your wort pH to 4.6 before adding the yeast

8. Use 2-3 ml of glycerin per liter for body

How to get body in a thin beer?

Glycerin... That's the short answer. 2-3 ml of pure glycerin per liter gives a fantastic body to a very thin beer. For me, it makes a big difference. I have also used lactose, but generally, I have thrown lactose far out of my cellar brewery because I don't think it ages very well. Additionally, oats can also contribute positively to the body. It should be food-grade or 100% pure glycerin.

Is pH important? What about tannins?

Yes, it's extremely important! In a normal brew, the pH in the mash and the finished beer ends up quite close to the optimal range. But low-alcohol beers do not. Therefore, I adjust the pH to below 6 (usually 5.6 as I do) in the mash to ensure not to extract tannins from the malt. Not necessarily to optimize the conversion of starch to sugar. We don’t want that in principle, but we absolutely do not want an astringent beer full of tannins, so tannins trump conversion. It can easily happen that we extract tannins from the malt when mashing at 80°C and have a high pH value, so it is really important for the result to get the pH down. After mashing and cooling, we need to adjust the pH value again to ensure it is health-wise safe in terms of microorganisms, etc. Therefore, we adjust the wort to a pH of 4.6, which is considered food-safe. It also means a lot for the taste, so it's doubly important to make the final pH adjustment!

Why 80°C mashing and maltotriose-negative yeast?

At that temperature, we don't make much fermentable sugar. We still have quite a lot of malt to give flavor and body, but not much sugar to give alcohol. If we also use a maltotriose-negative yeast, which can only ferment very short sugar molecules, we can make flavorful low-alcohol beers. It should be noted that there is a big difference between 79°C and 80°C. I have found that my system needs to reach 82°C (poorly calibrated) to hit 80°C. This meant that the first beer I made landed at 2.5% instead. Therefore, it is really important to have control over your temperature, and you should check your system beforehand and account for any measurement errors by calibrating the system or setting the temperature slightly higher.

What types of beer can you brew?

All... I think... I have brewed lagers, IPAs, hazy IPAs, and stouts. All with good results. It is really fun to play with additions in these beers. A coffee stout (see the recipe) works incredibly well! Soft, round, delicious, and full of flavor. My homebrewer "club" was really impressed with it when I brought it, and that night more of it was drunk than any of the other beers on the table. Feel free to write to me if you want some good recipes for other beers.

Everyday Coffee Stout

Amount: 25 liters

IBU: 15

BU/GU: 0.59

Color: 97 EBC

Carbonation: 2.4 CO2-vol

Original Gravity: 1.026

Final Gravity: 1.020

Mash Temperature: 80°C for 30 minutes


- 500 g - Caramunich III (18.5%)

- 500 g - Munich Dark (18.5%)

- 400 g - Carafa Special III (14.8%)

- 400 g - Melanoidin (14.8%)

- 400 g - Oats, Flaked (14.8%)

- 200 g - Carafa Special I (7.4%)

- 200 g - Chocolate Wheat (7.4%)

- 100 g - Roasted Barley (3.7%)

- (optional 300 lactose if you like)


- 30 min - 20 g - East Kent Goldings

- 15 min - 15 g - East Kent Goldings

1 pack Windsor Lallemand yeast

Ferment for 5 days at 19-22°C

Diacetyl rest for 7 days at room temperature

Add 90 grams of freshly ground coffee, cold-extracted in the refrigerator for 24 hours at the start of fermentation or add it to the keg or directly into the bottle.

Simultaneously add 75 ml of glycerin.