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Monday, July 25, 2011

My Grisette (and Breakside's)

Back in June, Breakside held a "collaboration fest"--though the collaborators were citizens, not other brewers. Well, not exactly citizens. One was world-famous beer writer John Foyston and another was world-famous beer writer Lisa Morrison. One was not SE-Portland known blogger Jeff Alworth. I sought to rectify this, and to his great credit, Breakside's brewer, Ben Edmunds, agreed.

That beer debuts this week, and we shall discuss it in due course. As it is the finest beer ever to have been brewed in this world or any other, you will want to take note. But first, and a bit more seriously, I wanted to describe the process, which was a joy. It's less a collaboration than an invitation--Ben encourages his collaborators to brew the beer of their bliss. His role is to use his experience to help craft the recipe and process.

On brewing day, you go down to Breakside and walk through every step, from measuring the grain to pitching the yeast. Ben and his newish assistant Sam help guide the process along, but it's very hand's-on, and you do as much hauling and clamping and washing as you're able. It all concludes with a particular test of brewing mettle. I won't describe it so that the next collaborator may experience it fresh. Suffice it to say that you will be judged against those that have come before. Even if you've homebrewed, it's an education. I was almost instantly asking questions like what the Breakside mill was set to. Ben is a born teacher, which makes the whole experience relaxed and fun.

The beer is a grisette--sort of. Historically, saisons were brewed at farmhouses to serve to workers. Grisette's ("little gray") were served to miners. Although the style died out, they were described as small, refreshing blonde ales that probably lacked the lactic acid that characterized their close cousin, saisons. In fact, what we brewed was more in keeping with farmhouse ales, or bieres de table. We were aiming for a rusticity of malt but a characterful beer that would come from a finicky saison yeast. For good measure, we wanted to add a bit of sour snap to evoke historical saisons, which would have been infected--and would have therefore been very thirst-quenching on a hot day at the farm. So call it a rustic small saision (petit saision?).

We used 65% pils and a dash of rye (about 2%), and the rest was split of wheat and spelt. We used a sprinkling of Spalt Ben just brewed Beach Saison using the Dupont strain, so we were able to harvest and repitch that yeast. Finally, we did a small post-fermentation sour mash to add just a touch of tartness. We were shooting for 1.035/9 P and a shade under 4%. That makes it Breakside's lightest ever--though only in alcohol. By luck, it also turned out to be Breakside's 100th beer.

When can you get this fine beer? Why right now, at the pub. (820 NE Dekum Street)

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