Second runnings are when you make a strong, high gravity beer, save the grains, and reuse them a second time to make a lighter, lower alcohol beer. Sort of like how my grandma used to reuse her Lipton teabags. The second running of a beer is often called a “small beer”, which just means a lower alcohol beer. Small beers were often used as house beers back in the day–the kind of beer you had with your pub lunch so you could head back to work afterwards.
Yesterday Joe and I headed to Oakland where a friend of mine cooked us dinner and shared his homebrew with us. He has a triple bubbling away in his brewing cabinet, but the Honey Heather beer he made from the second runnings of that one were bottled and ready to drink. It was fantastic.
He actually added 5 lbs. of honey to bring up the sugar/alcohol/flavor content from the used grains. Small beers are often fortified with some kind of sugar or extract to punch it up a bit. This means the alcohol content might have been slightly over the typical small beer 3-4%, but it was still fairly light. I could drink it all night.
He also had a bitter brew, which was tasty (the Honey Heather stole all the glory, though) and we finished off the meal with espresso with Sambuca. I never thought I’d be a Sambuca drinker, but just a splash adds a perfect balance of sweetness to your evening espresso. I would call it a nightcap, but the night continued with wine and cheese…