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I brewed a pomander inspired wit beer for the holidays. It is currently in primary. Since my wife just had gall badder surgery, she is avoiding alcohol for a little while and asked if I could brew her a NA. I like a good challenge. I am thinking of halving the wit, one wit and the other witout.

My searches for NA revealed a couple methods that I will not be able to enact without the required equipment. I would need a really fine filter or the ability to pressurize the beer. That leaves the boil off option. Reading up on results others have experienced it sounds like a lot of hop aroma flashes off and sweetness comes out and the bitterness is altered.

I wonder if I could make a hop tea, match the hop profile and IBU in sterilized water to correct the changes. After the boil off, top up with the tea and bottle. Thoughts?

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4 Answers 4

A hop tea may work. However, the bitterness extracted from hops at pH > 6 becomes progressively harsher with higher pH. Thus, to get a more rounded bitterness, you should not boil in plain water, which has a pH > 7.

You could try boiling the hops in a little of the fermented beer, since this will have pH in the ball park of what you need. (Fermented beer is typically around 4.3-4.5pH). You could then treat this as regular hop additions - boil for 45 mins for bittering, 30-15 mins for flavor and 5-0 mins or less for aroma. The beer pH is a little low - if you dilute with a small amount of water to get in the range 5.0-5.5 that would be ideal.

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The advice I've read for removing alcohol from beer doesn't include boiling. Instead the beer is held at 175 F. Until the alcohol has evaporated. Boiling the hops in a small amount of beer should be fine though. –  Tobias Patton Nov 27 '13 at 16:06
    
When I say boil off I mean just heating to 175 to evaporate the alcohol. Thank you for prompting the need to clarify this. –  shamann Nov 29 '13 at 0:09
    
Thank you mdma for the information. I guess I didn't think much about the ph. Do you really think it would have that big of an effect considering the tea is only used to top up? Could gypsum be an alternative to adding beer? –  shamann Nov 29 '13 at 0:18
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AFAIK, Gypsum in water doesn't change the pH much - you get the pH change in the mash because the calcium combines with phosphates to create an acid. Lactic or phosphoric acid might be better. –  mdma Nov 29 '13 at 0:26
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I have done quite a few experiments trying to make a hop tea that wasn't gross and digusting. I have spent a lot of time experimenting with adjusting pH of the water. It made virtually no difference in the quality of the hop tea. –  Denny Conn Nov 29 '13 at 17:29

Both Denny Conn and mdma were correct to some extent. I am not able to pick who answered the question fully at this go of it. So I’ll answer with my own results and hope others experiment further to dial in the process.

I planned on splitting a 5 gallon batch all along for comparison so I wouldn't feel it wasn't wasted if it didn't turn out. The design was a wit beer with orange peel and clove added at flameout to emulate a holiday pomander aroma. This is a highly aromatic beer which is why I felt the hop tea would work well. The original was a huge success. Minor tweaking from here on out would produce a showcase beer in my opinion. As for the NA; the hop tea was successful although incomplete as a solution to the problem. I did manage to match the bitterness and got the aroma back into the beer, though the aroma was not as pronounced. On this it is successful. As Denny Conn pointed out in his experimentation, “weird caramelized maltiness" persisted and I found the same. I did not adjust the pH at all which may, in future attempts, help but may also do nothing at all. My feeling is that the tea is added as such a small volume that the adjustment may not contribute as much as I would hope.

Was it drinkable? Sure. Not as fun being NA and, having the original to compare to, not of the same motif any longer due to the affect on grain. Would I do it again? Maybe. If I could find a way to counter the effect on the non-fermentables I’ll give it another shot. The wife is all healed now so no need to play with this experiment for the time being.

This method requires a lot more work and time involved, not to mention the additional ingredients for the tea.

My method was this: Prior, I took a test tube of the beer from the carboy and stored it for later addition to the NA. I racked roughly 2.5 gallons onto a primer, stirred and bottled. That was my control. The remaining 2.5 gallons I racked to the kettle and heated to 170 degrees. The beer showed large bubbling which I assumed was the alcohol evaporating off. The kitchen was completely filled with all the aromatics I had in the beer which was deeply saddening to me. Once the bubbling stopped, I cooled and racked onto another priming solution. Meanwhile, I boiled a downsized hop tea I crafted through beersmith to match the IBU of the main batch while only using water. I followed the addition schedule including the aromatics at the end. In this case, orange peel and clove. Cooled the tea and topped up the now NA beer to 2.5 gallons. I added the beer from the test tube to reintroduce live yeast back into the volume. Stirred well and bottled the NA. The NA took significantly longer to condition being as only a small amount of yeast was reintroduced.

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You cannot make a truly alcohol free beer. The best commercial brewers can do is get it down to about .5% ABV. At home, most report that about 1.5% ABV can be achieved with boiloff. However, it is reported to have a severely negative impact on flavor. Having tried this, I would advise you not to waste your time.

The bitterness is concentrated, not reduced. However, since the malt is also concentrated, it makes the bittering sometimes (not always) appear less.

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I don't need it at 0%, just easy on her stomach. I am aware of the impact on the flavor. That is what I'm trying to find a solution for. How do you figure the bitterness and maltiness are concentrated? Did you notice any aromatics? –  shamann Nov 29 '13 at 1:37
    
No aromatics, harsh bitterness, weird caramelized maltiness. Heating the beer to drive off the alcohol produced significant negative flavor impacts in my 2 trials. –  Denny Conn Nov 29 '13 at 17:28
    
Denny, this is one of the articles that led me into the realization that I need a strategy. A lot of what you are saying sounds like it is covered here. What, if anything, did you notice differently with your experiments? Would you say this article is accurate in your experiences? gizmodo.com/the-science-of-non-alcoholic-beer-509674407 –  shamann Nov 30 '13 at 5:33
    
I think there's a bit of a disconnect here...that article mainly refers to commercial NA beers, with little about homebrew. In my trials, and from tasting attempted NA beers made by others, the hop impact seems to be less than the article states. The flavors have been terrible, cooked, flavors that I can only describe as strange and unappealing. –  Denny Conn Nov 30 '13 at 17:20

Since you don't necessarily need the beer to be completely non-alcoholic, perhaps you could consider brewing an small (session) beer instead?

Mashing at the higher end, perhaps with some flavourful caramel malts, wheat or rye for extra body and an small grain bill should give you a head start.

I did some experiences with second (and third) runnings from my beers and the results was not that bad, a little extra body and they would have been great.

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