Brewing: Partigyle Style

Posted on 12.18.07 5:30PM under All-Grain, Brewing, Partigyle

Wort CollectedMany brewing processes and techniques have funny or fun names. One particular time-honored brewing tradition is called partigyle (or parti-gyle) brewing. This is the practice of making two separate batches of beer from a single mash. Generally a big beer is made from the first runnings of the mash, and a small beer is made from the sparge runnings of the mash.

I did my first partigyle before I even knew there was such a thing. When I transitioned to all grain, I first made a few kit recipes from Northern Brewer. But that only lasted three batches. Even by the third, I was making some changes – I added honey to the Brown Ale. Then I started playing around with ingredients. I decided I wanted to make a high-alcohol beer. Everything I’d been making was coming out to be under 4% ABV, and I was sick of it. So I set out to make an Imperial IPA. I wanted to use 20 pounds of grains (I had been getting terrible mash efficiency) but I could never mash more than 15 pounds at a time, and really, only twelve pounds per mash.

So I decided to make up a technique where I’d do two mashes, each with half the grain bill, and draw off half my boil volume from each mash. This left me stopping the runoff with the wort still coming out pretty dark. I couldn’t handle dumping that, so I collected it into my old extract brew kettle. I did this for both mashes, and had a free batch of beer out of the deal. It was a small two-gallon batch. I ended up using it to experiment, and added wormwood to that batch. This was the perfect opportunity to play around with unusual things to do to beer, without risking a whole batch and without spending money on ingredients just for a batch that may or may not pan out well.

That’s about it, when you make a big beer, you may still have viable runoff from the mash when you finish collecting wort. If that’s the case, then collect wort into another kettle until it’s done, then make a small beer from that. It can be hard to predict the gravities of the big and small beers when you use this method. I found that for the big beer I got a pretty standard efficiency, but I don’t have a gravity reading recorded for the small beer. I would expect the gravity of the small beer to be maybe 1/3 of the big beer, but your mileage may vary. Let me know if you have a good formula for this information!

So the big beer ended up being problematic. The starting gravity was 1.095, and I was excited for the prospect of a beer that was nearly 10% ABV. I called it Big Slick and looked forward to the day I could proudly unveil it to the guys at poker. I expected something like the Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA. Unfortunately, the gravity never dropped to where I wanted it to, even though I used a 2 liter starter of WLP001. I messed with it many different ways trying to get it to shed a few more points, but to no avail.

It finished at 1.030, which gave me 8.5% ABV. I should have been happy with this attenuation, because in the end, it had what I believe to be a DMS flavor, in a big way. This may or may not have been caused by an infection introduced by me. The beer was really good behind that, but it was a hard flavor to get past. I have one sitting around, hoping that the DMS will go away magically, but I am not optimistic. On the optimistic side, I will make this recipe again soon, and I expect it to be excellent. I don’t know if I’ll use this partigyle method or reiterated mash. I will do reiterated mash in a few days, then I can compare and contrast the experiences to pick how to do big grain bills in the future.

The small beer was terrible. I don’t know if 0.25 oz of wormwood is just too much for two gallons of beer, or if wormwood is just gross to me. I tried to use the dosage recommendation from the recipe from Sacred and Herbal Beers. Maybe I miscalculated. I still have these Absinthe Beers sitting around in the hopes that the wormwood will chill out over time.

In conclusion, partigyle is fun. Getting a free batch of beer is really fun. A small beer is a great complement to have with a big beer in your fridge. You will want to make sure you have enough capacity to ferment two beers at once, and consider all the other practical aspects of handling two beers born at the same time. But assuming you’ve got the yeast, fridge space, bottles, etc. you can create your own buy-one-get-one beer brewing session.

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