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I'm thinking about doing a series of lightweight, flavorful beers. The fact is, I'm not going to drink more than one or two beers a night: I want to be able to drive my kids to the ER if I have to. But if I can Brew a sub 3% beer then I could have three or four without a problem.

I've found a handful of great sounding recipes, but I was surprised none of them were stouts... It feels like a dry or sweet stout would barely be out of style with that low of an ABV. And the grain bill should cover the low gravity nicely.

I'm leaning toward using an existing recipe, but just dropping a bunch of Base malt. Will I run into any issues by doing this?

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Scaling back just the base malts (fermentables) will lean a style to have more mouth feel body and make residual unfermentable sugars more noticeable without the alcohol to "cut" them down. These changes can also be countered by water dilution.

If you had a 4% ABV recipe and scaled back the fermentables 25% it should still be pretty close to style and enjoyable.

But if you want to geek out to try and simulate the original beer closer you can dilute with water. Let's use a 10 gallon 4% ABV recipe scaled to 3% ABV as the example. It loses 25% of its ABV but 1% ABV is only 0.5% of the fluid volume. Now adding 6.4oz of water to 10 gallons wouldn't change much of anything because alcohol as far as mouth feel and flavor "cuts" more than water. From experience adding water equal to the the volume the missing alcohol would occupy gets it pretty close. 1 cup water + 1 cup alcohol = 1.5 cups fluid. So for this example add 19.2 fl oz or 2.4 cups of water, post boil or even post fermentation. Doesn't sound like much and will reduce the recipes ABV by 1.5% going from 3.0 to 2.955, But it does work and this is just for the geek factor, you will probably be very happy with just reducing the base malts.

Irish and sweet stouts have a BJCP style baseline of 4-4.2 ABV. But all styles can be a Sessions also.

As a side note, consider brewing second runnings (partygyle) of a buddies all grain stout brew. I've found that a 7-8% ABV brew can have second runnings that can make great sessions with very little tweaking. Look up how scottish/60 is historically made for more insights.

  • Nice! It sounds like you've had some experience. I know all styles can have "session" versions, but for the "sub 3%" I was looking for styles with some non-alcohol centric strong flavors. I currently have to brew partial boil (induction friendly large kettles might crack my cooktop...no good), so topping up a little extra would work fine! – Crisfole Nov 17 '17 at 18:31

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