The end of this week’s Great Beer Adventure ends with a cacophony of clinking beer glasses, so why not start off with that! Amanda sat down with 5 guests in this episode to discuss the intricacies of beer blending – which is an art form, science, and risk mixed together in (hopefully) one palatable drink.
Listeners who would like to book a tour of the Wiggly Bridge Distillery can get a discount when they book a date by entering the discount code GBA17
Nick Evans: The York River Landing
Patrick Rowan: Woodland Farm Brewery
David Roland: SoMe Brewing Company
Kevin McGann: Wiggly Bridge Distillery
Tim Golden: Seacoast Beer
This episode features an in-depth discussion about blending different beers and spirits. That means old beer with a new beer, and spirits with brews. If it sounds a little like mad science…that’s because it is. More or less. There are many schools of thought that dictate beer blending, but the good news is that you can try it at home.
So why would you want to blend beer at all? Well, as you probably well know, different beers carry vastly unique flavors and notes of complexity. Mixing them together is a common practice for brewers, and thrill seeking beer enthusiasts alike. You never know what combination will produce an undiscovered brew delicacy, or leave you with a puckered mouth and urge to…not swallow.
Brewers themselves find it a challenge to find tasteful blends of beers. For one, they need the space to let beer sit for great lengths of time. Some only have two barrels sitting on a dolly so they can cart it out of the way when they have more important beers to brew. This ‘lazy beer’ needs to be tasted periodically in hopes of inducing a ‘Eureka Moment’. Then an aged beer may be mixed with any number of other brews to see what flavors may be produced.
As a consumer, you may have certain apprehensions about blending beer. For one, craft beer isn’t bought for cheap. Secondly, there is a certain respect for the brewer when it comes to drinking craft beer- you want to taste the brew as the brewer intended. But fear not. Brewers blend beers all the time. Sure, it’s a risk. You never know what the end result will be. But therein lies the fun of it. You could mess it up and end up with something that leaves you spewing brew across the table. Or, you could end up with something wholly palatable that leaves your friends scratching their chins and high-fiving one another.
At the halfway mark of this episode, I decided to try some low-risk blending of my own.
(Roughly) 35% Watership Brown Ale – by Red Hare Brewing – a 7.2% brown ale pulled from my father’s Christmas Kegerator in honor of Richard Adams, the author of Watership Down, who passed away Dec. 24th 2016.
Roughly 65% Cadence – by Reformation Brewery – a 6.9% reformed Belgian ale.
Several family members reported the mixture was notably different than either brew by itself, even while similar in taste, with the mixture finding a clear middle ground between the two beers. Everyone found the concoction to be more enjoyable than the sum of their parts, but I take their testimony with a grain of salt. I mean, there was unsupervised access to a keg in the vicinity.
Back to your regular scheduled podcast…
Fun Fact: Amanda’s Gateway Beer was a Pumpkin Beer.
Brewers often see blending beer as an art form. You can be as meticulous as you want with your blend, calculating PH, Acidity, and estimating what the bitterness will be. But as a consumer, you should feel free to play around. At the end of the day, you buying the beer. And if you are psyched about it, great! If you want to experiment with it, even better.
Just like playing with fireworks, beer can yield incredible results when played with. Luckily, few lose fingers when experimenting with different beer flavors. Take a chance. Mess things up. Don’t be afraid. Unlike brewers themselves, you don’t need to set aside mass reservoirs of beer to play around with. Be bold. Be daring. And make sure you share the fruits of your labor with friends, family, and colleagues.