Learning how to make light beer, believe it or not, was one of my original goals when I got into homebrewing. I enjoyed a certain brand of local beer. However where I live in Canada beer is quite expensive. So it was my goal to learn how to make this light beer and save money.
A lot has changed since then including my pallet. I have come to enjoy a wide assortment of different styles of beer. But there is no question on a hot summer day I do still enjoy a nice refreshing light beer.
In this post I am going to show you step by step how to brew a light beer to include giving you a recipe you can use to get one on tap (or bottle) right away.
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A Lawnmower Beer
In the homebrewing world light beers are typically referred to as lawnmower beers.
In fact there are many styles of beer that could actually be described as this type of beer.
In the end it is simply a beer that is usually lower in ABV, has a mild flavor, has a crisp taste and is refreshing to drink on those hot summer days that you are working around the yard.
When I talk about light beers I do not mean Bud light or Coors light. If you are looking to brew a beer like those I would actually recommend against it. It is difficult to homebrew those beers because they simply do not use the same quality of ingredients as we do, the processes are different and in the end they are basically watered down and diluted.
Those commercial light beers are of a lower quality and when you are homebrewing using the ingredients we do it is very difficult to brew a low quality beer. You are better off simply buying those beers from a store.
I do not say that to bash those beers. I actually do enjoy them from time to time in the right setting, such as sitting on a beach on a hot day knocking back 20 of them and still being able to function as if I had only drank 4 home brews. They are simply not a craft beer but there is a time and place for them.
You Have Options
When it comes to making a light beer you actually have quite a few options in regard to how you go about it and what style of beer you want to make.
Believe it or not Stouts, English Bitters and Milds are all actually light beers. However when I envision having a light beer on a hot summer day those are not the styles of beer that come to mind for me. They may be for you and I am sure across the pond in England and Ireland they are exactly what comes to mind for many.
For me I envision what many might consider how a Lager should look. A light golden in color beer, with carbonation bubbles rising from the bottom and a nice medium size head.
In my mind I see this light beer coming in at around 4% ABV. Any lighter and it gets too watery and loses its body and flavor. Any higher in ABV and we are moving out of the light category.
So to start with you could make a Lager. However as great as that sounds, if you have been around homebrewing for a while you know that brewing a Lager is tricky and nowhere near as simple as brewing an Ale. Plus it takes a lot longer and you need to have the ability to actually lager your beer which requires having an area that allows you to ferment and condition at very cold temperatures.
Ales Make Great Light Beers
I recommend you brew an ale. And of course with ales you have tons of options on which style you would like to make.
Blonde ales, Kolsch, Wheat beers and even some Pale Ales make for some great light beers.
For me when brewing a light beer I brew a Blonde Ale that I lower the ABV on. Blonde ales work great as they simply do not have the body and flavor that the other styles I just named do. They are a very simple beer that fits the criteria we are looking for in a light beer. Crisp, light and refreshing.
However, you can use any of those styles. Simply take your favorite homebrew recipe and adjust it using the following tips…
Tips to Make a Light Beer
The most obvious (and best) way to make your beer recipe into a light beer is to reduce the amount of base grains you use. There are online homebrewing software like Brewer’s Friend that allow you to create and modify recipes. Simply plug your existing receipt into the software and slowly reduce the amount of base grains until you reach your ABV.
When you are doing this, I would recommend that you also reduce the same percentage of specialty grains so that the beer maintains it’s basic characteristics but at a slightly reduced level. If you leave the specialty grains at the same level they were at in the original recipe you might find they become overpowering compared to the original recipe. You might want to consider doing the same thing with your hops.
Other Methods to Make a Lighter Beer
There are two other strategies you can employ to lower the ABV of a beer.
The first is mash at a higher temperature, typically 154 – 156 degrees Fahrenheit. This results in more sugars being produced that are not able to be fermented. Which of course lowers the ABV, but it also creates more of a full-bodied beer. Which might not be what you are looking for when you are attempting to brew a light beer. By doing this you will have a lighter ABV beer but a fuller tasting beer. More like the Bitters and Milds we talked about.
And the last strategy that you can employ is to use a less aggressive style of yeast. One that will not convert as many sugars into alcohol. You can search around for different yeasts that do this, however English Ale yeasts typically have a lower attenuation and will work well.
How I Brew a Light Beer
So for me I take a Blonde Ale recipe, I lower the grain bill (both base and specialty) to bring it down to the ABV I am looking for and I use an English Ale yeast, typically S-04. I do not mash at a higher temperature as I am not looking to add more body.
The following is one of my light beer recipes. Feel free to brew it up and be sure to let me know how it turned out for you.
My Lawnmower Beer Recipe
Alright let’s get you making beer. I call the following light beer “Just a Wee One”. It is basically a very light blonde ale. Cold crash this beer and then let it condition for a while in either your keg or bottles and you are going to have a very, crisp, clear, tasty and refreshing lawnmower beer on your hands.
Target OG: 1.040
Target FG: 1.009
Pre Boil Volume: 6.25 gallons
Post Boil Volume: 5.25 gallons
Brewhouse Efficiency: 70%
- 7.5 lbs 2-Row (2.4 L
- 0.5 lbs Carafoam (dextrin)
- 1oz Styrian Goldings (60 min)
- Safale S-04 English Ale Yeast.
Mash for 60 minutes at 150 degrees Fahrenheit. Add your hop addition at the start of the boil. Boil for 60 minutes. Add whirlfloc with 15 minutes left in the boil. Chill wort. Transfer to fermenter and pitch yeast. Ferment between 60 – 65 degrees Fahrenheit. Cold crash in fridge. Transfer to bottles or your keg and condition at cold temperatures for 1 – 2 weeks.
Where to Get Your Ingredients
Any homebrew supply shop will have these ingredients. If you would like to help support this site I have put together a list of my top 5 online vendors. When you order from them they provide us with a referral fee at no extra charge to you. You get billed the same price as you normally would but they slip us a few pennies for sending you their way. It’s win-win and the support is appreciated. Cheers!
You Need All Grain Brewing Equipment
This is clearly an all grain light beer. I brew my all grain batches of beer on the all-in-one electric brewing systems. They are similar to the BIAB systems (which I also love) except they are electric so you can brew in doors which comes in handy on the winter days that we get a lot of here in oh”Canada.
And there you have it my friend, you now not only know how to make light beer but you also have a delicious recipe to brew up.
Let me know in the comment section if you have any questions on any of this. I’ll be sure to help you out. And if you enjoyed this post and plan to brew this beer do me a favor and let me know in the comments below, I always enjoy hearing from fellow home brewers!
No go get your brew awwnn…
Big Robb is out!