Blending beer is a way to make new what you’ve already got. You can blend different beer styles, barrel-aged and non-barrel-aged beers, portions of each batch of the same recipe, or various ages of the same recipe. Make a new beer that is even more delicious than its various parts.
Here are all the different ways to tackle blending, though you could surely even blend these ways to blend. 😜
Ways to Blend
- Blending various ages of the same recipe a.k.a Multi-Vintage Blending
Purpose: Creating Complexity // Example: Gueuze
Blending the same beer recipe at different age points allows you to experience the character of that same beer at each of its ages all at once. Imagine capturing some of the aromas and flavors you enjoyed earlier on in your beer, tempered by the smoother character it now possesses.
Styles like barleywines, lambics, and imperial stouts all benefit from this type of blending.
This is the approach taken to create Gueuze, which is an artful blend of 1-, 2-, and 3-year-old lambics.
- Blending portions of each batch of a recipe a.k.a. Single Vintage Blending
Purpose: Maintaining Consistency // Example: Goose Island’s Bourbon County Brand Stout
This blending approach acts as a form of quality control, since even the most controlled batches of a recipe can take on different character when you are working with fresh ingredients. For special annual feature beers, commercial brewers will often set aside a portion of each batch of the recipe for future blending. Each new batch will receive a portion of a former batch to keep the finished beer consistent.
If you choose to do this at home with, for example, your annual spiced holiday stout, you’ll want to take precise notes on how much was blended of one batch into another. If one year’s batch is more bitter than expected or just a bit too spiced, you’ll be able to bring it back into line with previous batches by blending.
Goose Island’s Bourbon County Brand Stout is aged in bourbon barrels (an instance where serious variation can happen). When it comes time to release another batch, the folks at Goose Island draw samples from different barrels to be blended and measured up against the tasting notes and lab analysis of previous batches. This ensures that the stout’s profile year over year is not too varied.
- Blending completely different beer styles to create an original one a.k.a Mixed-Style Blending
Purpose: Create Something New // Examples: Porter’s origin story, Black & Tan
This blending approach is more for the sake of complete creativity. Even porter emerged out of the blending of pale ale, brown ale, and old stale ale! Surely, you’re familiar with the Black and Tan, which is a blend of a stout and a lighter beer, usually a light lager. This blend allows you to enjoy the bold character of a dry stout with the drinkability of a lager.
Serious Eats once offered up some beer blend ideas aside from the Black and Tan. They suggested:
The Smokin Pumpkin: Pumpkin Ale and Rauchbier
Chocolate Berry: Oatmeal Stout and Flanders Red
Candy Apple: Brown Ale and Hard Cider
White IPA: India Pale ale and Wheat Beer
You could easily replicate this with your own homebrews by tasting them and making note of which flavors and aromas could pair well, then carefully measuring out ratios for a blend.
If you were to find a mixture you enjoyed enough to keep on making it, you could also use your notes to create a new recipe. Let’s say that you liked a 1:3 ratio blend of two of your beers. You would take the “1” beer and multiply all ingredients by 25%, then take the “3” beer and multiply all ingredients by 75%. Voila! New beer. If the yeasts used were different, the flavor may not be the same as your finished beer blend, but it’s sure to be very close.
How to Go About Blending
A liquid measuring cup will be your friend for figuring out ratios as you blend. You don’t want to just start pouring, because it won’t allow you to replicate any new beer creation you discover. You want to use parts to determine your ratio for making more of your blend. This will also allow you to make a beer incrementally stronger if you want to keep adding more of one part. Once you find a perfect blend, be sure to take great notes so you can enjoy it again.
Though folks certainly do it, we would not recommend blending beer during fermentation. You want to give your beer a chance to mature to its final flavor profile before you start mixing. Otherwise, your flavors may continue changing after you’ve blended.
Now, get out there and blend! Cheers to you creating entirely new beers and beer styles as you break into the exciting practice of blending.