Blending is the process of pulling samples of various, matured sour beers (and optionally clean beers), measuring out different proportions of each, mixing them together, and tasting the blended samples. The idea is that different sour beers can contribute different flavors, and balance different flavors. Since precise measurements are required, investing in cheap plastic beakers or a precise scale (0.1 g or better) is necessary. The taste tester should take thorough notes on all aspects of the beer as different proportions of blends are sampled.
- Chill the samples. Taste them cold, and allow them to warm up to room temperature, tasting and smelling along the way.
- Taste each beer on it's own. Choose the best beers to begin with. Off flavors can sometimes be blended out (see Matt Miller's article below), but consider leaving beers with serious flaws out of the blend.
- Take note of everything you taste and smell, also noting the general temperature of the blend.
- Taste with friends who have good palates.
- A blend may not always taste the same once conditioned and carbonated.
- When blending a clean beer with sour beers, allow for additional fermentation to occur. Don't make any assumptions about a low final gravity of a clean beer - the Brett will probably find something to ferment.
- Make use of Michael Tonsmeire's Blending Priming Calculator if possible.
- To lower the acidity of a beer with a blending method, use a beer fermented with Saccharomyces and Brettanomyces (and without Lactic Acid Bacteria). You can also add water to cut down on acidity. A very small amount of non-sour beer will greatly reduce the acidity in a highly sour beer because the pH scale is logarithmic.
Blending by Weight
Blending by weight allows more flexibility in trial blend volumes and with a good scale it allows finer sensitivity in the amount of each beer added to trial blends. In addition, with the appropriate scale final blending may also be carried out with good precision by weight rather than estimating volumes. Small density differences between beers included in the blend can be ignored because the density range between samples is so small (an FG difference of 1.010 from 1.000 introduces a 1% error). See Dave Janssen's blending spreadsheet for a tool that will convert blended weights into volumes.
Articles On Blending
- Practical Blending by Brian Hall.
- Blending 101 by Ed Coffey.
- Lambic Solera Update #17 Part 2 -- Three Years (Finally!) by Adam Kielich.
- Blending Out an Off Flavor by Matt Miller.
- Beer Blending Experiment by Michael Tonsmeire.
- Understanding, Brewing, and Blending a Lambic Style Kriek by Matt Miller.
- Beer Blending: Tips from the Pros by Betsy Parks for BYO Magazine, September 2011.
- Blending A Gueuze by Chris Colby.