I've tried making table beers before---that is, light beers with around 3% ABV that I can drink on a week night without worrying about how sharp I'll be the next day. I was quite happy with how those beers turned out: noone would confuse them with a higher strength beer, and their shelf-life was somewhat short, but while they were in their prime they were both flavourful and refreshing.
The beer I brewed on Saturday was a variation on Table Beer I: another hoppy saison. For the earlier beer I relied on the glycerol produce by Wyeast 3711 to ensure that the final product was dry but not too thin. But while the mouth-feel and high attenuation of Wyeast 3711 are both attractive properties for the kind of beers I want to brew, I often find the flavour profile a little lacking: I've had it vary from muted citrus with earthy notes to full on stewed oranges and black pepper, and while its worked better in some beers than others I can't say that any of the saisons I've made with it have been among my favourites.
This time round I decided to come back to another strain I'm ambivalent about: Wyeast 3726, supposedly the strain from Brasserie de Blaugies. I've only used this strain in one series of beers (so three or four total), and again I had mixed results. All of the beers tended towards a fruity profile that almost reminded me of white wine: pears, grapes, white stone fruit, etc. Since I seem to prefer beers with more esters than phenols, this ought to have been a desirable result---but some of these beers, despite their dryness, seemed almost cloyingly sweet because of all the fruity flavours. A single glass was enjoyable enough, but I never found myself going back for a second because the fruitiness was a bit overwhelming (and I still have a few bottles lying around as a result).
The strain worked best in beers that had some tartness to set against these esters---in fact, used alongside brettanomyces and lactic-acid bacteria it produced one of my favourite home-brews to date. I'm going to try to keep this in mind as I use it this time round by setting its fruity flavours against some tartness in the beers I brew with it.
Well, except this table-saison. Since this beer is doing double-service as an extra large starter, I didn't want to throw in any LAB from the start, as this would determine what I could brew in subsequent batches. And as it was such a low-gravity beer, an extended secondary fermentation with brett and bugs didn't seem to make much sense. Instead I focused on making something with a little spiciness and bitterness that might also balance the fruity esters of the hops.
The grist was very simple: 70% pilsner and 30% rye. Unlike Wyeast 3711, I don't remember this strain giving much mouthfeel to its beers, so part of the reason for including the rye was to yield some body in the final product. The other reason was to get a little bit of spiciness alongside the pilsner---and it was building on that idea that led me to chose Bramling Cross and Saaz Special as the mains hops. I'm hoping all of this combined will provide a nice contrast to the yeast, leading to a beer that is refreshingly crisp and drinkable.
Of course, the other nice thing about table beers is that if these flavours don't balance in the way I'd hoped, I haven't wasted much grain or hops in producing the beer, and it will provide me with harvestable yeast however it tastes. I overshot my predicted O.G. by a few points, aiming for 1.024 but ending at around 1.027. No big deal. I'll be harvesting before next weekend, and I plan to use this in a couple more saisons over the next month or so.
Measured O.G: 1.028
30% Rye Malt
30% Rye Malt
Bramling Cross 60 10.0 IBUs (firstname.lastname@example.org%)
Bramling Cross 20 6.3 IBUs (email@example.com%)
Bramling Cross 0 0.0 IBUs (firstname.lastname@example.org%)
Saaz Special 0 0.0 IBUs (email@example.com%)