Fullers are one of very few breweries that use parti-gyle techniques. It's not difficult for me to see the advantages for a brewer like me who wants to make a range of beers from highly quaffable and approachable session beers through to high ABV flavour-bombs. For a number of reasons low ABV beers have various production efficiency benefits per unit of alcohol compared to higher ABV beers. Parti-gyling enables some of these efficiency benefits to be applied to higher ABV beers too. I immediately understood these benefits from John's enthusiastic explanations.
Although my brewery isn't big, it does have two mash tuns1 and two coppers. I can transfer the first runnings, which may well be in excess of 1100 degrees gravity, into a high gravity copper, and the second runnings into a low gravity copper at perhaps 1050 degrees gravity.
I did this recently, and made two beers; Queboid, a double IPA at OG1080 and Katalyst at OG1038. They are both concepts in development, although I'm happy that they have great potential. Personally I prefer Continuum over Katalyst but I've had feedback from a number of people whose preferences are the other way around. Perhaps Katalyst is more approachable.
Queboid, which was the prime motivation for this particular project, had slightly disappointing hop profile when tasted on racking after primary fermentation. The simple answer to this was to increase the dry hopping rate in cask.
The first cask, served at Dudley beer festival, was good, but could have been better. It had only had about a week in cask and was nowhere near long enough to maximise condition or for the dry hopping to really kick in.
The second cask was put on in The Rake. I think there were mixed reviews on this, but again, it was a few weeks ago now and I think a little longer in cask still would have been great.
The third and final cask, for now, is currently on sale in a quiet Cumbrian pub near here. Sadly, I think its sale will be slow, although the licensee is a master of his cellar craft and considering it's 8% and dry hopped into submission, I suspect with judicious hard pegging the cask might be good for a couple of weeks or more. The beer is a true candidate for that niche real keg market.
I have fretted a little about this little baby. I didn't think the hop utilisation in the copper was sufficient. I was worrying that the finished beer might not quite hit the mark. I was keen to taste the finished result in a pub, through a hand pull, appropriately clear and conditioned.
Meanwhile, we have bottled the remainder of the batch, which had been conditioning in kilderkins on the dry hops, and gave us 330 bottles of this first run. I'm currently waiting for the tadge of priming sugar and re-seeded yeast to add some carbonation before they are released. Oh, and I need to get some labels printed.
But the good news is that the assembled crowd last night, which included the irritatingly hyper-critical Jeff Pickthall2, pronounced it to be a marvellous beer. 6 weeks on dry hops seems to be just about right.
There may well be some improvements to be made; moving a little of the dry hops into bittering for instance will make it a little more balanced in my view. However, the key thing is, you can't rush a really good strong beer.
1It isn't necessary for parti-gyling to have two mash tuns. Indeed, I don't believe Fullers mash differently in their two mash tuns; both run in parallel with the same grist in each.
2I owe a huge amount to this irritation for my ever increasingly tuned palate. I fear one day I might become as irritatingly critical as him, for now I shall remain a novice irritant.