I have found myself drinking more than usual during COVID-19 – a situation I suspect many other homebrewers have found themselves in. In response, I’ve been focusing on lower-gravity brewing to reduce the potential negative health effects of this increased consumption. I’ve brewed a number of low-alcohol lagers, stouts, Scottish ales…and most recently, a surprisingly delicious grisette. This is a form of brewing which can be quite challenging, as imparting the bolder flavours I enjoy into lower gravity beers can be challenging. So imagine my surprise when an experimental batch, brewed in just 14 days, produced a beer with a flavour and complexity similar to that of a mixed-fermentation sour.
Yep, somehow the combination of a Belgian yeast, wheat and rye malt, and rhubarb, created a wonderfully complex beer that more than compensates for this beers meagre 3.2% ABV.
Recipe – Rhubarb Grisette
This recipe is for 20L (5 gal) of grisette, assuming 72% brew house efficiency. O.G. of 1.032, F.G. of 1.005, 17 IBUs.
- 2.5 kg Pilsner Malt
- 0.45 kg Torrified Wheat
- 0.45 kg Rye Malt
- 14.5 g (7.7 IBU) Liberty Hops (60 min)
- 14 g (4.5 IBU) Liberty Hops (20 min)
- 28 g (4.5 IBU) Liberty Hops (20 min whirlpool)
- 2 kg rhubarb, cleaned and frozen
- LalBrew Abbaye Belgian Ale Yeast (Lallemand)
- Mash at 65 C (149 F) for 75 min, batch sparge.
- Boil for 60 min, adding hops at the indicated time.
- Chill and pitch a rehydrated package of yeast at 21 C (70 F)
- Add rhubarb after high krausen (~1.5 days) and ramp fermentation temperature by 1C/day until 26C is hit.
- Hold at 26C until day 14 of the ferment, then keg beer.
Appearance: Crystal clear, pale yellow, with a short-lived thin head. Almost cider-like in appearance.
Aroma: Mixture of bread-like and earthy malt notes, with a moderate rhubarb (slightly vegital and spicy) note.
Flavour: Up-front, this beer presents with a complex malt note of white bread notes with a moderate rye-malt earthiness. The rhubarb produces a modest acidity that is surprisingly similar to the complex sourness I associate with a traditional sour beer. The yeast was less expressive than expected, providing some fruity esters and slight phenolic character. Despite its low final gravity, it still has some residual sweetness which is slightly out of place.
Mouthfeel: As you would expect, this beer is lightly bodied, crisp and refreshing. It is currently carbonated to ~2.4 volumes, and could do with a much higher carbonation level (3 to 3.5 volumes) to help enhance the acid bite and counter some of the sweetness in the flavour.
Overall: A surprisingly good beer, with a degree of complexity far beyond what I would normally expect from such a low-gravity and quickly-brewed beer. If I were to rebrew this beer I would make one major change – I would either reduce the amount of yeast I pitch to a quarter-package or less, or pick a more expressive strain (e.g. Dupont saison strain), in order to get more yeast character.