I'm not by nature a pessimist. Sure, like most people I have a zombie apocalypse survival plan, and I've even given some thought to the more horrifying possibility of the world running out of hops. But on the whole I like to think of myself as a realist. The glass is half full because the other half is foamy head.
But realism means planning ahead for contingencies, and it struck me the other day that brewers have a profound vulnerability: the lead time involved in getting a beer to the table. Imagine this scenario: you're on the way to work one day, and your buddy calls to tell you that Emma Stone is throwing a party for her BFF Mila Kunis, and they want to serve your beer. Bad news though: you're fresh out. What can you do?
Like most people, the thought of minor intellectual property fraud crossed my mind before being swiftly discounted. Imagine the work involved in peeling off all those labels. What else can you do? Sure, the thought experiment is imperfect: in Central London, you have little choice but to order ingredients by post, so any solution has to take that into account.
But my recent experience with Squatch, a west coast IPA, has taught me that three weeks is the minimum age for my go-to style of beer. Can I rely on having that much notice when Emma wants to throw a party? I cannot. How much time do I need to put a serviceable beer on the table? How quickly can I rally my troops? It's August 1914, and I need some goddamn ships.
First things being absolutely first, it can't be too strong, or it will simply take too long to ferment. I'm thinking 4% ABV max. Second, a simple malt bill is essential as there isn't time for those fancy flavours to develop. It'll all be up to the yeast and hops. Third, the yeast needs to be a quick starter and be capable of working just as well in summer as in winter. Emma isn't about to take optimal yeast temperature ranges for an excuse.
What does this sound like? To me, it sounds like it might be a farmhouse saison. Wyeast 3711 (French saison strain) has been described as a monster, chomping through everything in its way within just a handful of days. It's also a happy camper working away in the middle of summer in months without Rs (allegedly stony ground for oyster enthusiasts and brewers alike #receivedwisdom). Saisons have simple grain bills, and typically let the yeast do all the heavy lifting, with a smattering of spicy hops.
The one reason why the saison style might not fit is that they're not renowned for being produced quickly. Brief internet research tells me that for a quick brew I might get away with an English mild or Bavarian hefeweissen, but those are respectively bland and temperature intolerant (how unlike something German to be intolerant...). So the saison shoe might not fit into the weeklong foot, which is exactly why I'm calling this a challenge. Ooh, challenge.
I'm shooting for a modest original gravity of 1.040, or perhaps slightly less, to hit my abv of 4%. To do this, I'll need a bit less than 3kg of malt, most of which will be English pale and the rest of which will be malted wheat. I'm also departing with tradition (for no reason other than cost) and dipping into my Citra hoard. In keeping with the theme, I'm speeding my usual brewday routine up a bit by nudging my mash down from 90 minutes to 75, and my post-boil hop steep from 30 minutes to 20. No doubt I will use those extra 25 minutes doing something sensible like knocking back some beers and watching some MLB.tv.
66 2/3% Pearl malt (2kg)
33 1/3% Wheat malt (1kg)
12g Citra pellets at 60 minutes
24g Citra pellets at 0 minutes
12g Citra pellets at 10 minutes after flameout
12g Citra pellets at 20 minutes after flameout
1 packet of Wyeast 3711 French saison
IBUs 25 or so
1.040 OG (right on the money)
15 L batch (16L+ into the FV)