…one dedicated entirely to small beers. By that, I don’t necessarily mean low alcohol beers but those made with the second runnings of a larger brew, such as a barleywine, imperial stout, or quad. The Anchor Brewing Company of San Francisco has long produced such a beer, called Small Beer, from the second runnings of its popular Old Foghorn Barleywine. From its website, Anchor gives the reasons for producing such an unusual beer:
The tradition of brewing two distinct beers from one mash has existed for thousands of years, and for centuries the term “small beer” was used in English to describe the lighter and weaker second beer. By association, the term came to mean something of little importance.
Let’s get small We make our Old Foghorn Barleywine Style Ale from the rich first runnings of an all-malt mash, and Anchor Small Beer is our attempt to duplicate the “small beers” of old by sparging that same mash: sprinkling warm water over the Old Foghorn mash after the first wort has run off, thereby creating a second, lighter brew from the resulting thinner wort. Technically, both beers are “ales” because they are made with top-fermenting yeast.
We believe you will find Anchor Small Beer delicious—similar to what modern brewers call a “bitter”—and we hope you will also enjoy the idea of reviving an ancient brewing tradition, which is something of great importance.
I’ll add another. In an age of economy–by which I mean conservation of resources and funds–it hardly makes sense in many cases to simply discard grain that still has enough combined sugars to produce a second beer. And in this age of inventive brewing, brewing small beers doesn’t mean every resulting offering has to taste like Anchor’s Small Beer.
Such an event, filled with small beers of all flavors and varieties, is an example of what I have been talking about with the need to redefine “extreme beer.”
Maybe we’ll see some at this year’s Extreme Beer Festival. Somehow I doubt it…
FYI–there is an interesting description of parti-gyle history and techniques in the Jan-Feb/’10 Brew Your Own magazine; the link to the story is not yet posted to their website.