I’ve been on a session-style kick lately. Recently, I brewed a 4% ABV session IPA and a 3% ABV session Oatmeal Stout. With each beer, I pushed the ABV lower, so naturally, I was curious to see how low in ABV I could go while making a beer that was flavorful. Essentially, I wanted to make an extremely low alcohol beer that still tasted like a beer, not carbonated water with steeped grains. The result: the 2% ABV session Amber Ale is quite nice! A review below. Cheers, and happy brewing!
Pouring into an English pint glass, the session Amber Ale has a clear, ruby-red appearance with dense, off-white head that lasts through each sip. The aroma is surprisingly lager-like, with strong tones of husk, and toasted grain. In tasting, the beer has medium-to-low maltiness with more grain-y, husk-y presence and hints of caramel. On the palate, this ale is on the dry-side, but with noticeable body and mouthfeel. Sweetness is low, but so is the bitterness. Also, fermentation was neutral, leaving this beer pretty clean on the palate, making this one easy the drink by the mouthful. Overall, the session amber is only a good beer, but a great session beer that you can drink by the pint, yet still have enough flavor to be pleasing. I’ll be making this recipe again soon.
Brewing at low gravities presents many brewing challenges that I’ll likely detail in a future blog post. In a nutshell, good brewing practices are necessity, since any flaw will easily show. Additionally, in the recipe design, use base-malts and speciality-grains that have intense flavors, since low alcohol beers have small grists. For the session amber, I went with some flavorfuls malts I normally use in small percentages: Munich, Crystal 75 L, Aromatic malt, and made it the entire grist. On the yeast side of things, I suggest using a strain that will improve the mouthfeel. I used Wyeast 1450, which is a mouthfeel and caramel enhancing strain with a neutral ester profile. Most English strains are also good, but will usually produce some fruity esters, a must-have for any English-style session ales.
Recipe: Session Amber Ale
5 Gallon Batch
Stats: OG 1.032 FG 1.017 ABV 2.0% IBU: ~25, 85% mash efficiency
3 lbs Munich Malt
1 lb Aromatic Malt
1 lb Crystal 75L
8 oz Flaked Barley
8 oz Honey Malt
Single-infusion mash at 156 F 60 min, mashout at 170 F 10 min
Boil additions of Magnum to get you to 25 IBUs
1 packet of Wyeast 1450, pitched and fermented at 68 F
Added 1 tsp CaCl to nice clean soft water