Brew Dudes

Homebrewing blog and resource

Why Low ABV Beers Are Great

Everybody loves strong in alcohol beers or, at the very least, a large number of people rate them very highly on beer evaluation sites across the internet. But what if you’re brewing for a party-sized crowd? What if you’re looking to enjoy more than two beers? That’s when low ABV beers are needed. We discuss Mike’s table amber beer and why full flavored, full bodied, low alcohol by volume (ABV) beers are great.

Mike’s Table Amber Beer Recipe

For a 6 US gallon batch.

Grain Bill
4 pounds of German Pilsner Malt
4 pounds American 2-Row from Briess
1 pound of Munich 2 Malt (10°L)
0.25 pounds Crystal 120°L Malt
2 ounces of Roasted Barley

Distilled water, treated with:

2.5 grams of calcium sulfate (gypsum)

4 grams of calcium chloride

Trying to push the malty quality of this beer with more chloride than sulfate.


1 ounce of Nugget hops at 60 minutes to go in the boil
1 ounce of Falconer’s Flight hops at 10 minutes to go in the boil
2 ounces of Amarillo hops – dry hop (left them in the keg)


White Labs WLP007 – Yeast Dry English Yeast


Mashed at 158°F
Fermented for 2 weeks
Original Gravity: 1.040
Final Gravity: 1.015
ABV: 3.5%

Tasting Notes and Musings

Appearance: The beer had an amber color. The head was off-white with a pretty persistent head with tight bubbles. The beer was a bit hazy which could have been from chill haze or hops in the keg.

Aroma: The aroma had a strong hop presence which were clearly American or Cascadian.

Flavor: Lots of malty goodness with a good amount of hop presence to balance it out. It reminded me of the amber ales we drank in the 1990s.

Mouthfeel: Medium full.

Overall impression: Very easy to drink. Very tasty. I think Mike hit his mark with brewing a nice beer for the Fourth of July crowd.

For next time, Mike said he would up the Caramel malt and the roasted barley amounts and then maybe mash a little bit lower.

After drinking this beer, I got to thinking that low ABV beers may not get the credit that they deserve. There’s got to be a five star quality beer that has less than 5% alcohol by volume, don’t you think? Is there a flavor complexity that comes from high alcohol beers than cannot be matched by the low ABV ones? I still think there’s quality and transcendence that can happen with a table beer. I am not sure why the internet rating public isn’t in line with that opinion.

Something to think about the next tip you take a sip.

Brew On!

The Great Pilsener Redemption

Hi there, fair reader. Thanks for checking out this post. With homebrewing beer, like life, rewards are achieved with the simple act of getting up and trying again. When I brewed that Czech Pilsner earlier this year and wasn’t happy with the results, I knew I had to learn from my mistakes and try it again. That’s why this post isn’t just about the reward of homemade beer but of redemption, of making the best of a second chance. Watch this video about the German Pilsener that I brewed using the yeast cake of the Czech Pils and came out with a feeling of accomplishment.

The Great Taste of Redemption

I had Mike taste this beer and he said something funny like, “Sometimes your beer is as unpretentious as you are.” I think what he was getting at was that this beer tasted like how you expect beer to taste without any fancy gimmick or intense taste. If I was hearing him right, that’s a compliment.

This German Pilsener is clean, crisp, clear, and tasty. I really enjoyed this beer and was happy that it turned out the way it did. The yeast cake was the key. Having a large pitch really changed the game for me. It was so large, I have a bit of a mess on my hands on day 3 of fermentation. It was the first lager where the yeast activity was so robust that it blew the stopper right out of the carboy. Maybe a lesson is to use Fermcap more often, but I don’t want to overload everyone with lessons in this post.

The Lesson We Should All Learn

Make a yeast starter. There you go. That’s it. That’s the lesson. No, that’s not the lesson I am thinking about right now. It’s broader than that. The real lesson that I learned and hope we all can learn is that having time and taking time is necessary for making really great beer. TIhe issue I had was not about not knowing that a yeast starter would be good to make a good lager but not blocking off enough time to give myself a chance to make an excellent beer.

That’s what I want to pass along. Don’t rush it. Don’t take shortcuts. Make a plan and find the time. If your plan can’t be followed precisely, postpone and do it when you can.

Now that’s it. Hope that lesson finds you well.

Brew on!

Dumping Trub From Catalyst Fermentation System

After the first brew session with the Catalyst Fermentation System, it was time to test out one of its primary features and benefits. In this video, we see how this valve works as we open it up to dump the trub out of the primary fermentation of Mike’s Belgian Witbier.

Let’s see how much better this system is from fermenting in a bucket.

Last Time… On Brew Dash Dudes

In the last video, Mike showed you how he brewed his witbier. After the camera was shut off, he took the Catalyst filled with wort and chilled it in his fridge because it was a hot day.  Twenty four hours later, he came down to his basement and saw that some stuff had fallen down to the bottom of the cone.

He identified it as some protein break and probably some hop particles too.

With the camera, he showed us that the jar was attached firmly but there was some leakage outside of the jar that had happened overnight.

With the inspection done, it was time for the main event: opening up the valve to remove the trub!

He grabbed onto the handle and pushed it down with one quick motion.  There was a sound of victory that rang through the air – it kinda sound like one big BLURRRG — and with that sound, all the trub fell into the jar.

He was pretty impressed and happy that there was no suck back from the airlock into the wort.

With the trub out of the fermentor, he pitched the yeast. He should how it easy it was by loosening the lid.  He liked that the clasps held the top tight to the tank of the Catalyst but that it sealed pretty tight even without them.

Catalyst Concerns

Mike wasn’t all that concerned with the big bubble of air that ran up the tank at this point in fermentation. When you have a finished batch of beer, he doesn’t want to introduce that amount of air to it and will need to figure out what to do when he gets to that stage.

For part of the process, I think we can say he as successful.


First Catalyst Fermentation System Brew Session

Hi home brewing friends,

A few weeks ago, we got a Catalyst Fermentation System that we unboxed and now we have the time set aside to try it out. To document this momentous event, Mike brought his video camera and recorded his brew session. Many people have asked us for more brewing process videos, so here’s one that showcases a new piece of brewing equipment that we’re review. Click play and watch our first brew session with the Catalyst Fermentation System!

Mike’s Wit Beer Plan

For our first beer using this fermentor, Mike put together a Belgian Witbier recipe. For this beer, his grain bill was as follows:

Grain Bill

46% Weyermann Light Wheat Malt Malt
46% Pilsner Malt
8% Flaked Oats
2% Acid Malt

Mike used some (a handful) of rice hulls in his mash to make sure there wasn’t a stuck sparge. He didn’t need to measure it

As for water chemistry, he uses distilled water and then he added 3 grams of calcium chloride and 2 grams of calcium sulfate.

This recipe is following his orange wheat recipe and he typically adds orange zest to the boil. He wasn’t able to do that (darn camera distraction) but he wants to add it later during fermentation.

Catalyst System Features

Mike gave a nice tutorial of how to clean and sanitize a new piece of equipment. He didn’t have to go crazy with his procedure but he was thorough. After he was done with his boil, he used his pump to move the chilled wort from his kettle to the Catalyst. He collected a little more than five gallons of wort.

For this first session, he left the valve to the jar closed. I think the hot tip was to leave it open but he wanted to experiment with this configuration of the Catalyst first. He is planning to put together another video where he opens the valve to collect some of the cold break.

Stay tuned for more~!


A Tale of Two Sour Beers — But Really It’s Four

Mike brewed two batches of beer. He made 10 gallons of wort each time which he split into two equal 5 gallon batches to have four different beers for us to enjoy. Even though I quote Charles Dickens, this is a tale of not just two sour beers but really four of them. Watch this video as Mike tells his story and we taste each of them.

The Sour Story

Mike started his sour brewing last year but he has been using the same culture. He used it for his two most recent sour beer batches. Splitting the 10 gallon batches, he has been able to make four distinct beers.

His grain bill for all the beers:

50% Pilsner Malt
25% Malted Wheat
25% Flaked Oats

Mike uses this grain bill to form what he calls is his “Golden Sour” base beer. The one he brewed last year, he split into two batches and added cherries to one of them. That unadulterated beer is now known as Golden Sour #1.

So for this post, we are tasting the sequels to that first batch of beer.

The Tasting Notes

Here is some information about each of the four beers and our thoughts after we evaluated them.

Golden Sour #2: Of the two Golden Sours, this one had strong sour notes. It matched up well with what I remember from #1. The body was thinner than the younger batch.

Flander’s Red: Mike looked at Jamil’s Flander’s Red recipe and steeped Crystal 120°L malt and some Munich II in the kettle before the boil for this batch. We thought this one tasted like commercial versions of this beer style. Mike thought that an oak addition would get it to taste more like a Rodenbach beer.

Golden Sour #3: It was fine but needed some age to get to the right sour.

Black Plum Sour: This beer has a peachy color and a strong plum aroma. Mike added six pounds of black plums (soaked in StarSan for 20 second before adding) to this batch and it really presented itself well, even at this young age.

Mike has some great potential here and we thank him for sharing.

Brew on!

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