Everyone seems so interested in getting high alcohol into their beers. I like to drink and not get wasted, so how about good beer with low alcohol? Last summer's trip to England was an eye opener. First night, seven pints. Next morning felt great. Found out ABV is around 3% to 3.5% in most English pale ales. But they were creamy, full bodied and very satisfying. I would like to brew that kind of beer:

Full bodied and low alcohol.


  • 1
    Look into the "Mild" sub category of English Brown Ales. I brewed one recently that was 3.4% ABV and it was the best beer I've made in a long while.
    – Graham
    May 5 '14 at 12:34
  • The title of your question is misleading. I think you mean 'Fuller body/Low Alcohol'.
    – jalynn2
    May 6 '14 at 16:15
  • I agree with previous comment - High Gravity would inevitably require the end product to be too high in sugar / sweetness
    – rohancragg
    Oct 21 '16 at 12:12

First, happy National Homebrew Day celebration day. I hope you have a LHBS or club that is participating in the Big Brew.

Gravity is a measure of sugar in your wort, and the more fermentable sugars you give your yeast to munch on, the more that yeast will pee alcohol. To get gravity without booze, you provide yeast more of the stuff they can’t consume.

From the first recipe I created without looking to clones or other recipes, I learned that the greater the malt, the fewer the fermentables. For instance, pilsner malt offers more potential fermentable sugar than a dark crystal malt. A brew heavy on crystal malts should have little alcohol and plenty of flavor, mouthfeel / body, and color. That’s something Beer Smith assumed I would understand… but itself does not understand when calculating ABV.

In all-grain brewing, controlling the time and temp of your mash helps determine what sugars are available. “How To Brew” and “Designing Great Beers” have great intro info about that process. Other types of sugars, like lactose used in “milk stouts,” add body without booze.

Finally, adjuncts (maybe not the right word in this case) like oats or wheat will also add to the body, creaminess, and head retention.

The best way to figure it out is to research the recipes and process of the beers you enjoy. That’s done on some breweries’ websites, by calling the breweries, or by looking for clone recipes.


  • 1
    Isn't gravity the measure of the density of the wort or which the sugars are only a part of?
    – a_hardin
    May 5 '14 at 13:07
  • 1
    Gravity is a measure of liquid density compared to the density of water. In wort, sugar is (or typically should be) the primary contributor to density. In the ocean, I assume salt is the main, unfermentable, culprit. In many American rivers: chicken poop.
    – Tom
    Jun 27 '14 at 15:35

A good article from Brew Your Own. "Tastes Great! Less Alcohol!"

Then there is the style guidelines which includes commercial examples. 2008 BJCP Style Guidelines Category 8 — English Pale Ale

  • Yeah, that article mentions low attenuating yeast and higher mash temperatures. Together you can get a pretty sweet beer.
    – Wyrmwood
    May 6 '14 at 22:42

You probably want to try brewing some "ordinary bitter" or "best/special bitter" recipes, or perhaps a "mild ale." There's lots of great recipes for these, and they're typically in the 3.5-4.5% ABV range. Here's one that's very tasty, and matches the style you're talking about: http://www.homebrewtalk.com/f64/boddingtons-bitter-21131.


You can get it just keeping the mashing in high temperature like 68C and 72C. I already got about 3 ABV using approximately 200g of malt to each 1L of water (0.44 pounds in 40oz).

But, of course adjuncts can help you to build a custom body to your beer.

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