Blending At Home









Blending of beers is an area which has gained interest in recent years, All About Beer has an article on it in the current issue, and many breweries are barrel-aging and blending. It’s just the return of very old practices, both as practiced by brewers but also pub-goers who would mix beers to their taste. Famously that is how porter got its start.

Anyone can do this at home but as I’ve mentioned in an earlier posting, blending raises all kinds of hackles, even amongst the Faculty so to speak. This is silly really, for many reasons which I’ll detail in a future post. But here I just want to point out that, following some simple steps used by many brewers historically and still employed here and there in Belgium and England, I came up with a beer that (IMO) is easily the equal of, say Liefmans Goudenband or one of Rodenbach’s beers. These are renowned beers from Belgium which have a lactic or sourish edge from both yeast selection but also careful blending from different stocks and ages of the beer.

AAB magazine very usefully explains the recent commercial expansion of these older blending techniques in the States, as well as development of “house” techniques to blend – and why not, that’s what innovation and change are all about.

I had some Chimay Blue Cap, the Trappist ale icon which I must say in the last 15 years or so seems reduced from its prior self as all the Chimay line seem to me. The beer is characterized by a huge, typically Belgian corky/raisiny taste – mostly from the yeast surely – and the rest seems rather subdued (malt, hops). I poured about 10 ounces in a wine bottle and part of a bottle of McEwan’s Scotch Ale. Really I wanted to dilute down the big yeast hit of the Chimay while keeping in the same colour and ABV territory. I left it there (cupboard, room temperature) for some months, closed with a bourbon stopper cork.

It came out a touch too lactic I thought, so I poured in some Terrestrial Brown Ale, a malty-hoppy brown ale which is an occasional release from Wellington Brewery in Guelph, ON. Laid it down for a couple of months more. The Terrestrial is about 6.5% ABV – close enough to the Chimay. It has more hops than the others, or more I can taste, so I thought its use would be salutary.

Now it is actually much as it was when I first opened it as continued fermentation has dried it down again but there is a malty body – malty but not sweet – that is very pleasant.  The Chimay yeast is so big you can still taste it, chalky and spicy-like, but it’s balanced by these other characteristics with some of the Terrestrial’s hops in evidence. There is no “barnyard” brettanomyces (wild yeast) taste – a good thing IMO, somehow the original yeasts have elbowed out any air-borne interlopers.

In a way, I think I can see if I aged the Chimay telle quelle for 5 years or 10, it might taste like this, but anyway the blending is really good. It would be a great beer to accompany a good meal.

I can also use it to cut with a rich mild brown ale, say the Terrestrial again, or almost any rich hoppy beer, 1:3 or 1:1.  This is so easy I’m amazed more people don’t try it at home. Or if any of you do, pray tell us of the results.