How to Homebrew A Low Alcohol IPA
Since we launched NAY (our yeast for non-alcoholic beers), there has been a ton of interest from both professional and home brewers. Lots of brewers are diving into non alcoholic beers, as a way to reduce alcohol consumption but still enjoy fantastic craft beers.
And indeed, one of the most frequent questions we've gotten since then has been "when are you releasing NAY for homebrewers?"
The short answer to that question is that we won't be doing that any time soon. But fear not, you can still brew tasty low alcohol beers at home. In fact, it's actually easier if you are OK with your beer being in the 1-1.5% ABV range rather than the <0.5% ABV range that professional non alcoholic beer is required to hit.
While NAY is a great yeast for the sub-0.5% ABV category, we've done some sensory comparisons between NAY and low-attenuating Saccharomyces ale yeasts and have consistently found that the ale yeast beers rank higher. It's a bit of a tradeoff.
For Pro brewers, we think NAY is best as it produces convincing NA beers below 0.5% ABV with high reliability.
For homebrewers, we think low attenuating ale yeasts like Hydra are the best option, as long as you are OK with slightly higher ABV. Using an ale yeast also reduces some of the potential food safety risks (read on below for our FAQ!)
FAQ for Homebrewing No and Low Alcohol Beers
Can I purchase NAY in homebrew format?
Currently, we do not offer any of our non-alcoholic yeast products (such as NAY) in homebrew format. We apologize for any inconvenience this causes you. We have made this decision in order to ensure that we have some control over the safety of products produced using our non-alcoholic yeast products.
What are the safety risks associated with non-alcoholic beer?
Our main reason for avoiding the homebrew distribution of non-alcoholic yeast products is safety. When it comes to producing a safe food product, there are typically three areas you can control to keep fermented foods safe for consumption. They are:
- pH: Products with a pH below 4.5 will usually see a lower risk of foodborne pathogens.
- Salinity: Many pathogens cannot survive in brine solutions which allows preserving bacteria (such as Lactobacillus) to thrive and create acid.
- Alcohol: Is a preservative that also makes make the item stable as many pathogenic organisms cannot tolerate alcohol.
For products that are missing typically two of these three elements, you need to introduce something into your process to reduce or eliminate the risk of pathogens. Often this comes in the form of pasteurization or sterilization.
For foods above a pH of 4.5 (meats, soups, etc.) you'll need to deploy a pressure cooker to ensure a food product is safe. For products that are below 4.5 a fully submersed hot-water bath for at least 20 minutes will be sufficient.
If you are making something such as Alcohol-free beer, you won't have the controls to ensure the product will be safe for an extended period of time. While home pasteurization could be an option, without equipment to validate your process it can be difficult to know if you are reaching the requisite amount of Pasteurization Units.
How can I make non-alcoholic beer at home?
First, there are other options such as kombucha or water kefir that you should consider! If you are interested in producing a malt-based product, consider making a low-OG wort (1.020 SG or lower) and fermenting with a standard Saccharomyces cerevisiae ale yeast. This will produce a beer of 1-2% ABV and below pH 4.5 (make sure to check), which would be safe for production and consumption in a home setting. You could also look at arrested fermentation or non-enzymatic mashing as techniques for making safe non-alcoholic beers at home.
Below is the difference between NAY (H. uvarum) and a low attenuating S. cerevisiae. You can get similar low attenuation from commercially available S. cerevisiae yeasts such as Hydra by using a hot and short mash.
We provided some additional advice for making NA beers at home on the Experimental Brewing Podcast.
What other tips do you have for non alcoholic homebrewing?
Make sure to also check out our blog post "Approaches to Non-Alcoholic Beer Fermentation"!
Want to brew your own low alcohol IPA the Escarpment Labs way? Read on below for the recipe!
Recipe Name: Hydra "NA" IPA
This recipe is based on our advice for making wort for fermentation by NAY. If you are a home brewer and do not absolutely require your low alcohol beer to be under 0.5% ABV like professional brewers do, we recommend using a low attenuation S. cerevisiae yeast such as Hydra rather than NAY, which is not available to homebrewers.
In this recipe, I used a mix of Munich and Maris Otter base malts with a bit of Carapils added. This was to support a good body and malt flavour despite the low malt content. For low/no alcohol beers, I recommend a hot and short mash: 73ºC (163F) for 30 minutes, and a mashout at 78ºC (172ºF) for 15 minutes. This will limit the amount of fermentable sugars and ensure a lower ABV.
I used clean bittering hops (Magnum) coupled with an El Dorado whirlpool and dry hop. I find it's OK to go a bit aggressive with hops in these beers, as the residual sweetness/body from the hot and short mash can support a good dose of hops! The hop flavour also balances out the "wortiness" of these beers. I used ALDC in fermentation to reduce diacetyl as this is recommended when using NAY, but it's not required when using Hydra.
Note: Low alcohol worts fermented with Saccharomyces benefit from larger than usual nutrient additions. Here, I doubled up my usual Yeast Lightning addition, using 2 grams at the end of the boil to ensure a vigorous fermentation and no sulfury off flavours.
We brewed the same recipe using both NAY and Hydra. NAY yielded an ABV of approximately 0.3% while Hydra yielded an ABV of approximately 1.2%. Overall, tasters preferred the Hydra beer noting it as less wort-like and less tea-like with stronger biotransformed hop aromas of mango and citrus.
Author: Richard Preiss
Beer Style (BJCP): N/A
Batch Size: 25L
Original gravity: 1.021
Final gravity: 1.012
ABV (predicted): 1.2%
Apparent attenuation: 40% (specialized mash)
IBU: 32 (Tinseth)
Color: 4 SRM
Fermentables (3.07 kg):
1.23 kg - Maris Otter Ale Malt (43.1%)
1.23 kg - Munich Malt (43.1%)
0.61 kg - Carapils (19.9%)
Water profile and additions: Guelph (hard)
Guelph water is naturally very high in chlorides so I tend to add a bit of gypsum. Most brewers have softer water and may add calcium chloride instead. If your water is low in magnesium, add a small amount of epsom salts (MgSO4) if you are adding a high rate of calcium chloride. For this recipe I used half Guelph water, half distilled water to reduce the hardness of the water profile.
Ca 65 Mg 19 Na 32 Cl 75 SO 65
Mash - 0.9 g - Calcium Chloride
Mash - 8 ml - Lactic Acid 88%
Sparge - 0.18 g - Calcium Chloride
Sparge - 1.54 ml - Lactic Acid 88%
Target wort pH of 5.0, adjust in the boil to hit this target.
Hot and Fast
73 °C - 30 min
78 °C - 15 min - Mash Out
60 min - 14.8 g - Magnum - 12%
45.5 g - El Dorado - 13%
2g - Yeast Lightning Nutrient
3 days - 45.5 g - El Dorado - 13%
Fermentation profile: Cool out to 22°C and pitch 1 homebrew pouch Hydra. Fermentation should be completed within and it should drop down to 1.012 or so within 2-3 days. This beer was dry hopped at terminal gravity. No hop creep was observed in this batch. Crash and transfer when it has passed a forced diacetyl test.