Last Summer, I was planning to take my first stab at brewing a saison. At the same time, I was reading about the English tradition of parti-gyle brewing. This is the practice of using the same mash to make multiple batches of beer. An extra large grist of basically as much grain as possible is added to the mash tun and the first bit of strong wort is hopped and boiled for a strong a beer as subsequent sparging results in lower gravity worts that are used for smaller beers. This practice was standard for centuries in England and is still practiced by some brewers, notably Fuller’s for their ESB and London Pride.
I have used this method a couple times and plan to use it again, but for this beer, it was simply inspiration, I didn’t actually employ it. I was brewing partial mash with brew in a bag mashes at the time, which doesn’t really lend to parti-gyle brewing. Instead, I just used the same grain bill for the saison I was brewing and for this beer. I brewed Bier De Table Cat and Honey Gold Saison on the same day. I started with the BIAB mash for Bier De Table cat and when it was done, I began boiling the wort on the stove top. It was, by necessity, not a full volume boil. Because I was brewing both the same day, I had the boils going on simultaneously and this batch was on my stove top, which can’t boil more than about three gallons at a time.
Once the first mash was done and the wort was boiling, I began the second mash with a new grist of the same grain bill. From there, I basically just brewed the saison and let the table beer boil away until I was done. To add more caramelized character and malt complexity, I boiled this beer for three hours. I have read that extended boils will darken the beer, but I didn’t experience this, the beer was very light. Maybe it was just too low gravity to matter.
The first two hours of the boil, I just let this beer go while I worked on the other. I didn’t add any hops until there was only one hour left. I used Nelson Sauvin hops for all additions. Additions at sixty, ten and zero minutes added up to about twenty eight IBUs. This turned out to be way too bitter, but the flavor and aroma from the one ounce added at the end of the boil were very nice. For the first time in homebrewing career, I didn’t add any extract. I didn’t mash any differently from other beers I was making at the time, but because of the extremely low gravity, I was able to make this my first all grain batch.
Once the boil was done, I added pre boiled and chilled water to take the volume up to six gallons. This water addition was all it took to chill the wort. I added a smack pack of Wyeast 3711 which is French Saison, and the same yeast I used for the other beer. I had to order this yeast online as none of the homebrew shops in my area carry Wyeast. I read a lot online before brewing these two beers about how finicky saison yeast can be. This one is supposed to be the easiest to work with. I am always concerned about this, but even more so with this beer than normal because of the extremely low gravity. I had to make sure that the yeast got right to work and finished strong all the way to very low terminal gravity I was hoping for. The starting gravity was under 1.020, lower than some beers finishing gravities. I was afraid if the yeast stalled out early, which some saison yeasts are notorious for, it would be very hard to get it going again without giving it some extra food. I was trying to stay under 2% ABV with this beer, but if it didn’t finish low there seemed to be a threat that it wouldn’t even resemble beer. Luckily, this was not a problem.
The only problem, which I already mentioned, was that this beer was too bitter. It was crisp and refreshing with some nice saison yeast flavor and fruity New Zealand hop aroma, but the finish was a bit harshly bitter. Similar to my Grimmuss Dry Stout, this was another low gravity beer that, against popular wisdom, aged well. Some bottles that I kept around for six or so months lost the hop character but also the bitterness and kept the yeasty goodness.
Despite the bitterness, I was pretty happy with this beer overall. At 1.8% ABV, it was still definitely beer. That may sound like a strange compliment, but I wasn’t sure what to expect and I was pleasantly surprised. I’m brewing something similar in a couple days, but I’ve also made a lot of changes. Check back Wednesday to see what I’m trying this time, but for now, I’ll post the recipe for this batch below.
Bier De Table Cat
Style: 16E. Belgian Specialty Ale (Table Beer)
Brew Date: 4/6/2013
Serve Date: 5/1/2013
91% 5 lb Belgian Pilsner
9% .5 lb Belgian Munich
60 min 18 IBU Nelson Sauvin .4 oz 12.5% AA
10 min 10 IBU Nelson Sauvin .6 oz 12.5% AA
0 min 0 IBU Nelson Sauvin 1 oz 12.5% AA
BIAB mash with all grains in a mesh bag in three gallons of water at 154º for one hour.
Temperature raised to 170º before grains were removed and discarded.
Wort brought to a boil, maintained for two hours with no other changes.
After two hours, the hop additions were started as the wort was boiled for another hour.
After three hours, previously prepared chilled water was added to take the volume to 6 gallons.
Yeast was pitched directly from smack pack into a six gallon carboy.
Carboy was kept next to an external heat source for a quick, warm fermentation.
Bottled after ten days.
Conditioned in bottles for two weeks before serving.