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Reducing ABV

Here’s a newbie question, hoping the master brewers have some suggestions. I would like to brew a dubbel or tripel belgian ale but want to reduce the abv to around 5%. In order to maintain the same/similar flavor, body, complexity, etc how do you approach modifying the recipe? I’m guessing that it’s not as simple as reducing the amount of base malt to yield the new target OG.
Thanks

If you have a recipe that is for 5 gallons and a beer that is 7.5% (or whatever), you can reformulate the recipe so that it’s lower in ABV by reducing all of the ingredients by whatever percentage you want to lower the ABV by. 5% ABV is 66% of 7.5% ABV so you can use 66% of the base malt, specialty malts and hops and at least get in the ballpark of what you’re talking about. Make sense?

Let me guess… the others here will respond by saying, “You want to do WHAT?!?”. :expressionless:

But it won’t really taste like a dubbel or tripel.

If the flavor of alcohol is what a Dubbel or Tripel needs to taste the way it tastes, then you would have an issue. I often make beers at lower OGs than the guidelines would suggest but that’s just me. I can make a 5% Oktoberfest and it’s still a delicious beer to me… it’s just not at the 6.5% or higher as you might ordinarily see.

Thanks Ken and Denny; What I’m asking is if this is a straight forward proportional adjustment as Ken writes or if you need to consider using non-fermentables as a replacement for the fermentables taken out.
Thanks again

[quote=“BoJest”]Thanks Ken and Denny; What I’m asking is if this is a straight forward proportional adjustment as Ken writes or if you need to consider using non-fermentables as a replacement for the fermentables taken out.
Thanks again[/quote]

For what you want, Ken’s advice is spot on.

Ken, I’d have to say that in the tripel (and the dubbel to a lesser extent) the alcohol is a component of the flavor.

I don’t have any advice for a tripel but if you want to faux a dubbel with low alcohol you can do a few things…

Steep Crystal 80 and crystal 120 in equal parts in 1.1qts/lb for 60 min…then remove grains and boil until vol is reduced by 75%…add this to the boil kettle with your reduced gravity wort, this will boost the body in a D-90 kind of way. Then ferment very warm…like 75-78F, this will up the fusel production and will mimic the alcohol warmth of a dubbel. You’ll want to put a cool rest on this after primary and age it for a few weeks to let things smooth out…otherwise watch out for the headache…

You maybe could try the same type of thing using carapils and simmer so to reduce the maillard reactions and reduce to get a somewhat clear dextrin syrup…never tried it but the other works ok…

Like Denny said…

 Won't really taste like a dubbel or tripel though...but will give some character.

Thanks all; Sounds like the alcohol is a major/fundamental contributor to the flavor, character, etc. Guess I’ll have to live with the higher abv. Just have fewer pints per session. Don’t want to deal with fusels, they can be nasty.
Thanks

[quote=“Denny”]
Ken, I’d have to say that in the tripel (and the dubbel to a lesser extent) the alcohol is a component of the flavor.[/quote]

Yes, I know you’re right. Anything with a relatively high OG is going to rely on alcohol as a part of it’s flavor profile. The other factor that I would take into consideration would be the yeast. The grains and hops to a point but the yeast for sure, especially with Belgians. If you found someone who said that they really liked the profile of THIS particular beer (Chimay, let’s say… with the 1214 and all its bubble-gummy goodness) but they had a problem with ABV (I have no idea what ABV Chimay is so let’s just go with it), you could still make a beer that had that profile in a lower ABV beer. I am someone who may decide to hit the taps at noon on Saturday. I may continue to drink until 6pm at which point some friends may stop by and then the drinking really starts. I don’t want to be face-down at that point. I like to enjoy the taste of beer w/o getting overly sloppy or paying for it the next day so I make most of my beers in the 4.5 to 5.5% range. Just me. :wink:

+1. I’d much rather drink 2 lighter IPAs than 1 imperial IPA. Probably because I find it hard to stop at 1 or 2 beers. You can still get lots of malt and hops flavor from session beers.

[quote=“Ken Lenard”][quote=“Denny”]
Ken, I’d have to say that in the tripel (and the dubbel to a lesser extent) the alcohol is a component of the flavor.[/quote]

Yes, I know you’re right. Anything with a relatively high OG is going to rely on alcohol as a part of it’s flavor profile. The other factor that I would take into consideration would be the yeast. The grains and hops to a point but the yeast for sure, especially with Belgians. If you found someone who said that they really liked the profile of THIS particular beer (Chimay, let’s say… with the 1214 and all its bubble-gummy goodness) but they had a problem with ABV (I have no idea what ABV Chimay is so let’s just go with it), you could still make a beer that had that profile in a lower ABV beer. I am someone who may decide to hit the taps at noon on Saturday. I may continue to drink until 6pm at which point some friends may stop by and then the drinking really starts. I don’t want to be face-down at that point. I like to enjoy the taste of beer w/o getting overly sloppy or paying for it the next day so I make most of my beers in the 4.5 to 5.5% range. Just me. :wink: [/quote]

Oh, I agree about the lower alcohol beers. As I get older, the ABV of my beers trends downward. But that’s why I brew something like Patersbier…that great Belgian flavor without the high alcohol. To me, the answer is not to cut down on the ABV of a tripel, but to brew something else.

1+ The Patersbier kit will get you what you want. Great “Belgian” flavor in a light low alcohol beer. Plus you can reuse the yeast cake to make the “real deal” high alcohol Tripple for when you want a higher alcohol beer. The best of both worlds!

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