Heard of table wine? I’m thinking table beer…

English: Silex from Kullabygdens Vingård in Sc...

White table wine. Table wine is generally considered a wine with an ABV percentage at or lower than 15%.

Table wine defined in European terms as a lower quality wine. Which in my head conjours up a notion of cheap, sugary sweet concoction that you might sip out of a brown paper bag.  From what I have read, it seems that table wines are looked down upon by the wine snobs in Europe as a less sophisticated option to consume during a meal. I’m not sure why this is the case, but that is definitely not the case in other places. It may be possible that its a completely different definition altogether to European wine aficionados. I am by no means a wine drinker and as of this writing have not found a wine that has that “wow” factor that I have gotten from some beers.

What I am referring to is a lower ABV wine that is kept on the table while eating,socializing, etc. It is meant as a good tasting wine (not a cheap adjunct wine), that won’t get you trashed on a glass or two when you enjoy it with your favorite pasta dish or whatever you maybe eating that night. It should enhance the flavors and bring out the nuances of the meal at hand. It should be a full flavor wine and occasionally fizzy.

While making a small batch of fermented iced tea (don’t ask),   I realized that if I was fermenting in a pressure rated bottle, I could be carbing up my tea at the same time( again… don’t ask.) That brings me to flip top bottles and my idea of making a quick but flavorful table beer. More on this in a minute…

  • Low ABV beer 
Belgian brewers came up with this idea years ago.  So as always, this concept is nothing new. But I would say (with some exceptions), it’s a lost concept when it comes to brewers and beer enthusiasts outside of Belgium these days. Even in Belgium its popularity has seemed to drop off somewhat lately.  In America to brew a lower ABV beer and bottle condition at the same time is practically unheard of. Especially nowadays where it seems the high ABV beers get the highest points on Beer Advocate. Who ever said the high alcohol equals excellence?  British and Scottish brewmasters might be the closest with this low ABV concept with the styles of milds, standard bitters and 60/- (schilling), which were brewed as session beers and very easy to drink. They were brewed to be flavorful and not completely intoxicating when drinking a lot of them. In the U.S. around the time of prohibition is when many “near beers” and extreme low ABV beers were made especially by some of the former breweries that were trying to stay in business during prohibition.These days the low ABV beers have popped up seemingly under the radar as some homebrewers are starting to brew them. Some of my cohorts (Drew) in the Cabarrus Homebrewers Society (www.cabrew.org), have made small IPA’s or session IPA’s which are fantastic! They always went over well at the club meetings. These small beers, session beers, or whatever you want to call them, should be full flavored, low alcohol brews that taste great and work really well for cooking with or just plain out drinking.
The American light lager is another brew that can be considered a low ABV beer, but this is completely not what I’m talking about.
While I have no problem with this style of beer *gasp*… it is still a flavorless invention of the mass marketing, mass producing, macro brewing companies. But enough Miller/Bud/Coors…Inbev bashing!
  • Some “pros” about making a table beer:

Consider that a table beer is a small beer, alcohol-wise. The low ABV can essentially be a step up for a yeast slant. White Labs and Wyeast both recommend when making a starter to aim for a 1.040 or so for a starting gravity of the starter. However in this case you won’t necessarily treat the batch of beer like a starter (ex. stir plate, swirlling). You would want this to be a drinkable batch,not tasting like a starter. However, you are still making a bigger starter because you are feeding the smaller yeast count with fresh wort, much the same way one would save the yeast from a previous batch of a normal 5 gallon batch. My advice would be to pour the beer into a glass and don’t drink from the bottle if you plan to keep the yeast for another batch. Just try not to pour out the sediment! That’s the good stuff to keep for the next batch. As far as yeast autolysis issues, that is something I have never had an issue with ever, and I have left yeast at the bottom of fermenters for months on some occasion with no ill effect: always remember what Charlie Papazian says…RDWHAHB.

A two liter growler. This and other flip top style bottles are capable of withstanding carbonation pressures.

I was thinking that a flip top bottle or a flip-top growler would be perfect for this occasion. The trick would be to figure out when to close the cap to carbonate the beer. This may take a few trial runs. The best way would be to check the gravity of the small batch, but then again you don’t want to use up beer you could be drinking solely for tests.(so actually that becomes a con). I would say its safe to close the flip after about two days depending on your starting gravity.Which brings to me to another point

A true table beer

The idea here is to make a quick turn around beer, intended to drink pretty fresh. It also shouldn’t take long to ferment because of the low starting gravity (say no higher than 1.040). This beer could be something to sip while sitting around the table, entertaining guests, or to drink while you cook your favorite meal on Saturday night.  My original concept was a beer that is literally a “table beer”: a beer that can stay on the table a can still taste good at room temp. ( this of course is optional). Most people (non-brewers) would wince at the idea of warm beer sitting out on the table, but I taste warm, uncarbed samples all the time from my batches of brew. I guess I have acquired a taste for it (or maybe just used to it). Drinking straight from the fermenter might be a strange concept from some, but you are essentially doing that every time you drink a bottle conditioned beer.

As of yet I have not had the chance to brew one of these beers but I am very anxious to try. I still need to work out some of the “brewing math’ involved in brewing a small ABV in a small batch. I do plan on using a brew-in-a-bag style mash on the kitchen stove top. Again the idea is make a quick and easy beer that’s ready to drink in a week or two at most. The most important thing above all is a great flavor and quality ingredients, which is always the case anyway, and this is no exception. In my case I more than likely will not employ a full 60 min boil because of the extreme boil off that I get from my particular stove top.  Its looking like a Scottish 60/- style brew may be the one to go with first… Scottish beers rule! As always I’ll keep the site posted with my recipe when all the chips fall in the right place. And keep thinking outside the…brewpot. Cheers!

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One response to “Heard of table wine? I’m thinking table beer…

  1. Thanks for the mention Matt! Good idea with the table beers, would like to work out some recipes for the next couple of batches. I have found that more body and mouthfeel help these beers when they are so low avb and packed with hops.


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