It had been well over 6 months since I’d taken the time to brew a batch of beer. It’s not that I’d lost the passion. I’d simply lost the amount of free time to do it. And when I did find the free time, my lack of interest in storing 5 gallons worth of home brew (more than 90% of which I would most likely be giving away to friends) took a little of that passion away.
A month ago, I found some of that free time. I decided to make it simple. I was going to brew an all-extract Belgian Saison with a basic hop schedule, pitching a packet of dry French Saison yeast that I’d never tried before. I didn’t care what the starting gravity was going to be, or how low it would finish. I just wanted to spend a few hours brewing beer, knowing that I’d be brewing something I might be interested in enjoying more than a few bottles of when it was done.
What I ended up brewing that day was a beer that came in at 4.2% ABV. This was the lightest beer I can remember brewing since I started the hobby over 25 years ago. When I tasted it, I was pleasantly surprised. It was definitely a saison, my favorite style of beer. But what surprised and pleased me even more was that even with the low ABV finish of this beer, it still had the body and sweetness that I’ve grown to love about the style.
I had, in essence, brewed a table beer.
What is a table beer? Back in the early 1900’s, it was the most commonly found beer in Belgium and France – a malty, low alcohol sipping beer that you could enjoy anytime without the fear of getting wasted.
Traditionally, they were much lower in alcohol than the beer I brewed. The style traditionally rang in at anywhere from 1.5 to 3% ABV. They were malt forward beers whose color could range from light straw to jet black. These days, table beer is a bit different. The alcohol percentage has gradually climbed.
The lightest beer I can remember tasting that actually resembled actual beer (sorry Coors Light fans) was Berliner Weisse, which ranges between 3-4% ABV. These beers are notoriously tangy. So much so that it’s not uncommon to find people flavoring the beer with fruit syrups to lend a bit of sweetness to an otherwise bodiless brew. For as much as I appreciated the idea of enjoying a light craft beer, it wasn’t as satisfying as I’d hoped it would be. That’s what makes the idea of table beer so attractive to me.
Unbeknownst to me, the style is gaining in popularity. I imagine the trend of ultra high alcohol brewing had reached its peak, so it was inevitable that the extreme on the other side of the spectrum would finally take hold. I, for one, am happy to see this. Having taken such a long layoff from enjoying a food item that brought me so much joy for so long, it’s difficult for me to navigate through a long list of beers to find something that I like that also doesn’t carry such a heavy ABV load.
Table beer came at the right time for me. I feel fortunate to have brewed one by accident.