Grisette is making a come-back, particularly after Yvan De Baets wrote about the style in Farmhouse Ales. He describes a golden, saison-like beer, though with more punchy hop character. Harking from the Hainaut region of Belgium, this brew translates to “Little Grey”, likely paying homage to the grey-frocked women who served this refreshing beverage to local miners.
Given this style was last brewed in the 1800s, there’s really no true guidance as to grain bill for a grisette. That being said, it’s likely that just as with saisons, ingredients were seasonal and contained home-grown, and possibly unmalted grains. Ever since discovering my local Bin Inn supplied flaked spelt, I’d been dying to incorporate it into a recipe. Hence taking the opportunity, I planned a beer with similar grain bill to a saison, though with the addition of wheat, oats, and spelt. I opted for a low ABV beer (De Baets suggests 3 – 5 % ABV), and decided against souring this batch.
Sophie helped me with this brew day, which was completed in record time – 4.5 hours from mash in to end of clean up. I did take a bit of a gamble though, reducing my boil time from 90 to 60 minutes. After reading Brulosophy’s exBmt that suggested no detectable change in DMS with the shorter boil time, despite an all-pilsner grain bill, I figured my extremely vigorous boil would likely prevent me from running into trouble. I also recently listened to the NZ Brewer podcast where Doug and Gabi Michael from Gladfield Malt spoke at length about their excellent lineup. These two are clearly incredibly passionate maltsters, and one of their most interesting tidbits was Doug’s comment that their pilsner malt is produced more like a pale malt, whereas their German pilsner malt behaves more like a typical continental pils malt.
Aside from a slightly lower-than-anticipated mash temp (which I believe is because I didn’t account for my cold grain temp in BeerSmith) the brew day went down without a hitch. A small bittering charge of Magnum was added as a first wort hop, with a 10 min whirlpool addition at flameout of Willamette and Motueka. Gravity was 1.045 (11.6 Brix) having targeted 1.050, confirming my brewhouse efficiency is actually more in the 70 – 75% range. A vial of TYB Saison Blend I was pitched at 22.4 °C, setting the fermentation chamber to 22 °C. CO2 was being produced less than 10 hours latter, and high krausen was reached at around 16 hours post-pitch. 5 days later the beer had reached 1.007 and fermentation was tailing off, so I added 1/3 of a vial of TYB Amalgamation II. Things smelled a little odd at this stage – a harsh apple acidity, that I presume was acetaldehyde. The beer was then allowed to funkify at ambient for a number of weeks (see below).
‘Unicorns, baby’ – NZ Grisette
Batch Size (L): 25
Total Grain (kg): 5
Mash temp (°C): 67
Anticipated OG: 1.050
Anticipated SRM: 3.2
Anticipated IBU: 35.5
Brewhouse Efficiency (%): 80
Wort Boil Time (min): 60
70.0% 3.50 kg. Gladfield Pilsner Malt
10.0% 0.50 kg. Gladfield Wheat Malt
10.0% 0.50 kg. Flaked Oats
10.0% 0.50 kg. Flaked Spelt
6.50 g. Magnum (Pellet, 11.80% AA) @ FWH
53.00 g. Willamette, NZ (Pellet, 7.40% AA) @ flameout, 10 min whirlpool
50.00 g. Motueka (Pellet, 4.00% AA) @ flameout, 10 min whirlpool
The Yeast Bay Saison Blend I, one vial
The Yeast Bay Amalgamation II, 1/3 vial (added following primary fermentation)
Profile: Bru’n Water ‘Yellow Dry’
Ca 55 | Mg 12 | Na 6 | SO4 98 | Cl 43
Sacch Rest – 60 min @ 67 °C
Brewed 19/5/19 with Sophie. 4.5 hours from mash in to end of clean-up!
Mash temp settled at 64.5 °C, likely due to cold grain at 15 °C (had not adjusted BeerSmith).
Wort chilled to 22.4 °C following 60 min boil. Aerated via splashing, pitched vial of TYB Saison Blend I at 1435 hrs on 19.5. Chamber set to 22 °C. OG = 1.045 (11.6 Brix).
CO2 being produced at 2200 hrs same day. High krausen 0700 hrs following morning.
24.5.19 1640 hrs – 1.007 (5.4 Brix), fermentation activity slowing down, 1/3 vial of Amalgamation II pitched.
25.5.19 – moved to cupboard, ambient likely around 15 °C, allowed to funkify. Beautiful pellicle present by six weeks.
17.7.19 – kegged, 5.2 Brix.
Tasting notes 23.7.19
I’d read in American Sour Beers that instead of ruining a beer, leaving a Brett-containing brew in primary over a long period (i.e. more than a month) provides precursors from yeast-breakdown that feed the Brett, and allows further complexity to develop. Bearing this in mind, my grisette remained in primary for eight weeks, until I finally acquired kegerator space for the poor neglected individual. At six weeks a stunning pellicle had developed, making me hopeful for high levels of funky goodness.
The palest beer I’ve produced to date – the lightest of golds.
During kegging, the initial smell from the carboy was similar to the earlier harsh, apple-y aroma that stung the nostrils something mighty. Thankfully, this quickly faded to dizzying levels of orchard fruits, bubblegum, earth, and tropical funk. Wow! Now pouring cold and from the keg, the aroma is of a fruity funk that borders on the sulphurous. Could the long time in primary have contributed a sulphur character from yeast breakdown? I’m unsure, though the sulphuric note is now almost indistinguishable a week following kegging.
Tart, lemony, light, and dry as a dry thing. A slight sulphur note in the finish, though where the funk begins and the sulphur ends is somewhat unclear. Aside from the dryness, the saison character is suprisingly lacking. In keeping with my perceptions, I felt validated reading Drew Beechum’s description of the strain: “Initial nose of apple and cinnamon. Lightly sulfurous to close out. As the beer warms, becomes an apple bomb.” Not at all what I would consider typical for a saison strain, hence the final funky note from the Amalgamation II is very welcome.
Light, dry, appropriate ‘to style’ (i.e. fitting for a saison, its spiritual sibling).
Drinkability and notes
Eminently drinkable, particularly as the sulphur fades. I would be interested to brew this next time with a transfer to secondary to limit any potential contribution from yeast autolysis, though I suspect the sulphur note is intrinsic to the saison blend I used. I think a mid-fermentation pitch of Brett would also lift the funk and brighten the tropical notes. Overall, while I feel I didn’t achieve the ideal held in my mind of a grisette, I produced a beer that is perhaps closer to its historical reality – a funky, dry, tart beer that thirsty miners would have lusted after.