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Beer - Brew A Light With Flavor

Updated on October 28, 2009

Although one could make the argument that mainstream light beers are indeed light and refreshing, it is also true that they offer little in the way of flavor. Sure, they are thirst quenching and light on the palate, but so is water. Water also has zero calories and is much cheaper. But, if it's beer you want, you can do much better than the stuff they call light "beer." If, however, you occasionally find yourself in the mood for something a little lighter: a beer that's less filling but actually does taste great... why not brew your own?

Some want a beer that's crisp and refreshing while others are primarily concerned with calories. In the United States, mainstream light lagers are slightly lower in calories and carbohydrates than the regular brands but have nearly the same alcohol content. In most European countries, however, low alcohol beers are considered light. Because alcohol contributes most of the calories in beer, reducing the alcohol brings about a concomitant reduction in calories. Thus, by lowering the alcohol content, brewers can retain more of the flavor producing dextrin and still end up with a relatively low-calorie beer. Although the production of very low alcohol and nonalcoholic beer is beyond the capability of most home brewers, we can make moderately low alcohol beer easily by lowering the original gravity or raising the final gravity. Simply reduce the amount of fermentables to lower the original gravity or use a less attenuative yeast to raise the final gravity.

Brewers who feel a light beer should be crisp, refreshing and light in body can achieve that goal in a number of ways. Substituting grains other than malted barley is one alternative. Wheat and rye tend to impart a dry, crisp character and corn can be used to lighten the color and intensity of malt flavors. Clean fermenting yeast strains limit yeast-derived flavors and thus, produce beers with cleaner, crisper flavors.

When brewing light beer styles, the options that are best for will depend on your definition of light beer. Since most home brewers' tastes fall outside the range of the mainstream light lagers, I am guessing that few of you go along with the definitions provided by Bud, Miller and Coors. I drink beer because I like the way it tastes and that stuff has none. Maybe it's the stinging sensation on the taste buds from the high carbonation levels in such beers that fool some into thinking they do have flavor. At any rate, even when I do want something lighter than usual, I still want something that tastes good. Otherwise, I'd rather just drink water.

Below are a few recipes for those who want to try brewing their own flavorful light beers. As with most home brewing recipes, you shouldn't feel compelled to follow these recipes to the letter. They are merely intended as guides to get you started. If you have trouble finding particular ingredients, substitute with something similar. Experiment with these recipes and change the parameters to suit your system, your brewing style, and your preferences.

Continued In: Beer - Great Brew Recipes

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