Parti-gyle Brewing Intro

Parti-gyle, another strange word to add to the brewery vocabulary. As homebrewers, we generally think of a beer we would like to make, design or find a recipe, and make it. However this is actually a slightly newer way to brew beer, as some references point to the fact that brewers back in the 18th century and earlier were creating different beers from one set amount of grain – a strong beer from the first runnings, or wort pulled from the grain, and a second and possibly third beer from the subsequent runnings.

Essentially, parti-gyle brewing is taking one grain bill, and brewing two or more different beers with it. Generally this would be one stronger beer, up in the range of a Barleywine, Imperial Stout, or Double/Triple IPA. The second beer would be more of a session or standard beer, like a Pale Ale, Dry Stout, or Bitter.

Today, home brewing methods have largely been simplified. However, parti-gyle is still something you may want to experiment with, as it may only add a fraction of time to your brew day, but you can end up with two different beers from the same brew day. There are a few things to keep in mind though, as it does require some extra planning and forethought, and will depend greatly on your current setup. For instance, if you are set up to do 19 litre batches, would you like to do two 10 litre batches, or would you like to try and potentially stretch your system and try for two 19 litre batches? If you already do 38 litre batches separated between two fermenters, this may be exactly the thing for you to get two different beers from a single brew day.

We’ll discuss a couple ways we can do a parti-gyle brew, depending on your setup and brewing style. Instead of separating it between brewers with a mash tun, brewers who use brew in a bag, etc., I’ll separate it out by your brewing process.

  1. If you sparge – whether that is in a mash tun or over top of your grain in a brew in a bag setup, you’re probably quite familiar with first, second, and third runnings, and how the amount of sugary sweet wort has less and less sugars in it the more water you run through the grain. What parti-gyle essentially boils down to is taking your first and part or all of your second runnings, and making your first beer out of that. If you only have one boil pot, you can fill your mash tun again with mash liquor and let that sit while you boil your first beer.
  2. Full volume mash – this means you gather all the water you will need for the mash, add it all to the grain whether that is in a mash tun or directly to a bag filled with grain in the boil kettle. If this is how you brew, you will have to decide if you would like to make two smaller batches. If that’s the case, you’ll be adding less water than usual. Otherwise, you may be adding more grain than usual, unless you tend to brew very high ABV beers.
  3. Extract brewing – unfortunately parti-gyle doesn’t apply much in terms of extract brewing, since you don’t have to deal with pulling sweet wort from grains. If you are in the mood for two different beers though, I would suggest just planning two beers during the same brew day. Why not? Your brewing gear is already all pulled out and ready to go!
Photo courtesy of Kalen Johnson

Things to consider

Parti-gyle takes a bit more planning and requires modifying your standard brew day a bit. With some planning you can still make it a successful brew day.

  1. Consider your grain bill. Since you’re using the same grain for two different beers, you need to keep in mind some of the restrictions. If you are making an all base grain Barleywine or IPA as your first beer, you have a lot more options for the second beer. Add some crystal malt and turn it into an Amber Ale, add some roast grain and get a Porter or Dry Stout.
    If you want an Imperial Stout as your first beer, you cannot take away any of the roast grains from the second beer, so you’re getting a porter or stout for the second beer as well.
  2. Consider your brewhouse efficiency. It will most likely go down. Most brewers find this out the first time they try brewing a high ABV beer, you tend to leave more sugars in the grain than you do more standard ABV beers. The second beer will help pull more of those sugars out, so it really depends on the batch size you’re targeting.
    If you are accustomed to brewing beer with a final gravity in the 1.040-1.060 range, and now you are going to aim for a beer in the 1.080-1.100 range, it can be a very different experience.
    For instance, my brews range in the 70% efficiency range. My last brew was a cream ale, with 10kg 2-row, and 1kg flaked corn. I gathered a little over 43 litres to fermenters (targeting two 21 litre batches), with an original gravity of 1.058. Beersmith measured my efficiency brewhouse efficiency to be 75.6%.
    My last partigyle was a Barleywine and Pale Ale. The grain bill was 14kg of 2-row, with .5kg of Crystal 30 added for the Pale Ale. I collected about 21 liters of 1.095 Barleywine, which Beersmith reports as a 46.6% brewhouse efficiency. The Pale Ale was 1.043 and I collected 22 liters, giving a brewhouse efficiency of 20.6%. Combining those efficiencies places the brewhouse efficiency under 70%.
  3. Consider your brewing setup. 14kg of grain in my 38 litre Igloo cooler mash tun feels like almost too much. It is certainly maxing out it’s size for 42 litre batches. If an original gravity 1.060 IPA feels like a lot of grain in your system, you may want to consider reducing the amount of beer you brew using parti-gyle in order to keep the amount of grain used under control. One thing you may consider is pulling just the first runnings, getting that sweet wort full of sugar, but a smaller amount of it, and then getting a more standard sized batch of the lower gravity second beer.
  4. Consider flavour. My last parti-gyle I made, the Pale Ale lacked some grain flavour to my palate, even with 0.5kg of Crystal 30 added. It’s not surprising that a lot of that flavour can be pulled out in the first runnings beer.
    You can consider scooping out some spent grains, and adding a similar amount of fresh base grain to get some more flavour back in, which you can also allow to convert while you boil the first beer. Malt extract is another viable choice to bump up the ABV as well as add back in some grain flavour in your second runnings beer.

Overall, parti-gyle adds some extra steps, may make your brew day a little more hectic and long. It does allow you have more variety in beer for a little more work though. It’s another tool you can try and add it to the brewing toolbox. Give it a try, who doesn’t want a sessionable beer to go along with their 10% Barleywine?

Some more resources

Homebrewer for 4 years, beer lover forever. Having lived a few years in San Diego started the path for great beer. After moving to Washington state and finding out his brother was able to brew beer at home, Kalen Johnson took the plunge and got a starter kit. It wasn’t long before he was kegging and brewing all grain. Now living in Vancouver and continuing the quest for brewing the perfect beer.

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