Beer Sampling

Here sampling is borrowed from its musical sense. It’s been stated of music sampling that it is:

…  the act of taking a portion, or sample, of one sound recording and reusing it as an instrument or a sound recording in a different song or piece.

This, by analogy, is what I do when blending beers. You combine two or more beers to get a new and different whole.

Blending beer has an old commercial history, which is probably where I got the idea, but it has its own justification.

Remember, it is all malt, all hops, and brewers blend malts and hops to make the beers they sell to begin with. If you do it right, you can get an excellent result. If you do it wrong, it won’t be terrible.

F. Scott Fitzgerald said, “there are no second acts in American lives”. What did he know about beer? Bathtub gin – maybe.

It is perfectly correct to buy beers with sampling in mind. I occasionally do this, say, to make a pumpkin porter from a pumpkin ale and a porter.

But usually I blend from open cans or bottles I have. I have them because, I taste so many beers over time that I can’t finish them all after opening. I may open a couple one evening, drink part of both, and save them for another day.

I used to seal them in some way but now I just put them in the fridge, the cans open and bottles with crown cork loosely reattached.

If you wait one day, it’s like drinking regular draft beer in the bar. If you wait two, it’s like drinking a good (English-style) cask ale, only lightly carbonated in other words.

I had the three beers shown, kept in the fridge two nights, or maybe three for one of them. Each was slightly less than half-full.

I blended them about one-third each and then adjusted the pint until I got it right. It’s interesting how small additions change the taste or texture noticeably.

What you see tastes like a good West Coast IPA if served on cask. There is a bitter, lightly blackcurrant finish, a caramel sweetness, and fruity (pineapple?) background. The alcohol by volume is about 6%, perfect for the style.

It reminds me of Ballantine India Pale Ale as brewed before 1981 by S&P/Falstaff at Cranston, R.I. I bought it once on a trip to the dunes of Cape Cod and Provincetown, MA.

Provincetown then looked like an English coastal town or towns around the Caribbean or the Maritimes in Canada. Maybe it still does.

The funny thing is, I remember also buying cans of light American lager, Piels, say. They were thin aluminum cans you could easily crush with a fist. (Hence, by a wending route, the hip term for an approachable craft beer of reasonable strength, “crushable”).

Somehow, I liked those and the IPA equally. I’m not sure what that means.

Note re image: The Ballantine India Pale Ale image was sourced from Dan Hodge’s article on Ballantine at the (excellent) BeerNexus site. The Piels Draft Style image was sourced from this Ebay listing. All intellectual property in the images belongs solely to their lawful owner, as applicable. Images used for educational and historical purposes. All feedback welcomed.


2 thoughts on “Beer Sampling”

  1. To Gary,
    I also mix beers on occasion. I recently bought a Hofbrau Oktoberfest that I thought was mediocre, and ended up mixing it, to good effect, with an anemic Yuengling Oktoberfest, which added the roasted malt note not present in the German beer. In the ’80s I brewed a “dark beer concentrate” that was long on hops and roasted malt. It was intended to be added in 1 or 2 ounce quantities to spice up near beer or regular pale US lager. It worked to some extent, but not enough for me to brew another batch. As you do, I also like the taste of beer with less dissolved CO2. I enjoy growlers after they have been sitting in the refrigerator for up to a week. I am also interested in your work in recalling the tastes of old brands and styles. In the early ’70s in California my roommates and I regularly drank Falstaff Ballantine Ale. We once found a lone six pack of Newark-brewed Ballantine Ale cans. It had a huge rocky head, a hoppy aroma, and a rich flavor with a bitterness that we marveled over.

    • Hi Arnold:

      That’s all excellent information, many thanks. I wish that Newark taste of Ballantine, for all the beers in the range then, could be recreated. Pabst had a great opportunity when it reissued IPA a few years ago but the taste was similar to modern IPA, and used numerous hops only released since 1972 (which is around the time the Newark facility closed). How short-sighted! They had the chance to do something, not just historical but different from the post-Anchor Brewing (Liberty Ale, etc.) profile of IPA, but didn’t go there. Not surprisingly, that IPA redux is now withdrawn from the market.

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