This week we take a look at ways to create more than one beer from a single batch of homebrew. Some time back, I wrote an article on parti-gyle brewing which can make two beers from a single mash. In this article we’re going to take it a step further by looking at ways to split off multiple batches thoughout the brewing process. We also discussed this in BeerSmith Podcast #5.
Parti-Gyle Brewing Reviewed
The start of the discussion is a method called parti-gyle brewing. The basic idea is to create two different beers using the first and second runnings from a single mash. So, for example, you could create a strong scotch ale, and then a second weaker one from a single mash. The first runnings are drawn off into one boiler, where they can be hopped and fermented separately from the second. Because the first runnings are of higher gravity, you typically will get one high gravity beer and one low gravity beer from the same mash.
Also, since you can make separate hop additions and even select different yeasts for the two beers, you can make different beer styles from a single mash as long as their grain bills are similar. The article linked above provides some details on estimating gravity and color for a parti-gyle beer.
Taking Split Batches to the Next Level – The Mash and Boil
If you can make two related, or even unrelated beers by splitting the runnings of a single mash, the obvious extension is to consider splitting the batch at other points in the brewing process. So lets take a look at some possibilities.
First, you can consider actually doing a two stage mash with additional ingredients. In the first stage, a high gravity light colored beer could be made, for instance, and then you could add dark grains and additional water to the mash for a second running that produces a lower gravity dark beer. If you maintain temperatures in the normal mash conversion range of 148-156, you could even convert your second stage grain additions by holding them at that temperature for a period of time before draining the second beer off.
A closely related concept is to draw two separate runnings from a single mash, as you would with parti-gyle, and add a bag of steeped grains during the early part of the boil – much as extract brewers do. This would let you create two completely different styles such as a strong ale and mild brown from a single mash.
Obviously, in addition to varying the grain bill or steeped grains for your two batches you can vary the hops additions, spices and misc ingredients added. So you could create two very different beers by varying the hop schedule – producing for example and IPA and a mild from the same mash.
If you don’t want two beers of different strength, you can split the wort from your mash after you’ve collected the entire volumes. This would give two batches of wort that are identical in strength and composition, but again you could vary steeped grains and hops to make very different beers.
Splitting Post Boil
You don’t need to stop splitting batches at the traditional mash or boil stages either. You can split a batch after the boil and ferment the wort into beer with varying yeast, fermentation schedules, and additions. Consider making a lager and an ale from a single batch! How about a wheat beer and fruit beer out of the same boiler? A spiced holiday ale along with a honey ale. The possibilities are endless.
Even after fermentation is complete you still have options. Many wines and Belgian beers are made by combining young and old finished beverages. Blend two beers together to make something truly unique. Mix an old batch with a younger one. Mix two styles to create your own.
You can also mix finished beers to hide flaws in a single batch. Have a stout that is over the top? Consider smoothing it out by adding something milder to it. A spiced beer with too much spice? Dilute it with a clean neutral ale.
Finally you can alter the character of a finished beer with spices and flavors. Add an oak tea to part of a batch to see what it tastes like. Make a hop tea to create an IPA from your pale ale. Add some bitter orange peel and coriander tea to your American Wheat to make it taste like a wit. Add some raspberry extract to your wheat to make a fruit beer. Again, the possibilities are endless.
While I can’t cover every possible combination, I was hoping to open your mind a bit to the option of splitting your batch at any point in the brewing process to experiment. If you have the time and equipment you can create a variety of micro-batches from a single batch by splitting it at several points in the process. This saves time and money as you are not locked into brewing 5 or 10 gallons of a single beer, and may more quickly zero in on that one beer that tastes really great!
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