Blending Beer for Complexity, Consistency & Fun

Written by Ryan Walker on May 31, 2019

Breweries have been blending beers for centuries. It is believed to be the most effective way to achieve consistency in complex beer styles such as sour and barrel aged beers. Many large-scale breweries even blend their more “standard” beers to have a more consistent product from batch to batch. Off Color’s Troublesome is a year-round beer and is actually a blend of two different beers. The main portion of the beer is a standard wheat beer w/ coriander (even described by their brewers as “boring on it’s own”). That beer is then blended with a second beer fermented with Lactobacillus. When the Lactobacillus beer is blended into the wheat beer, they are able to produce a much more complex, delicious, easy drinking Gose in a relatively controlled fashion.

Blending can also be used to save a bad batch in some cases. If you’ve brewed a beer that didn’t turn out exactly how you had hoped, blending may be the answer to save that batch from going down the drain. Figuring out what to blend it with and what proportions to use is the tricky part. The best way to figure these things out is to taste. Pull samples of each beer, get a couple of glasses with ounce or mL markings on them, and blend the beers in specific amounts. If you find a blend that works, simply scale that proportion up to fit the full batch size. For example, 1 ounce of this beer works well with 4 ounces of this beer. So you would then blend one gallon of the first beer into 4 gallons of the second beer.

Just a cool picture of some nice, bright Saison being transferred.

Blending is said to be it’s own “art” set apart from brewing. There are several “Blenderies” out there that do not even brew their own beer. They simply purchase wort from other breweries and then blend it in certain proportions to create their own beer. Hanssens Artisanaal in Belgium is a great example of a blender like this. They are the oldest existing blender in the world, and their beers are very highly regarded. I suggest trying any of their beers, but their “Oude Geuze” is a great place to start.

For my first adventure in blending, I decided to mix some old sour beer into some fresh Saison. I’ve had a 3 gallon carboy full of sour beer that I brewed back in May of 2015. It has been sitting neglected in a dark corner of my apartment for a long time (it even went through a move with me), so I figured it was time to do something with it. I’ve been tasting it throughout the years, and it is quite good on it’s own, but I felt some would find it a little too sour. Blending sounded like the perfect solution.

I did a lot of thinking and reading, and decided to go with a 25% Sour, 75% Saison blend. To be honest, I did not sit down and do a blending test with marked glasses. I decided to just go for it. I knew I wanted to only use the sour beer 1 gallon at a time so that the leftovers would fit nicely into 1 gallon jugs to be used in a future blend. I had 3 gallons of fresh Saison that was ready to bottle, and figured a nice even 25/75 blend made a lot of sense.

Transferring the Saison portion into the bottling bucket which already had the sour beer and priming solution in it.

For bottling, I prepared my priming solution like normal, only this time to prime 4 gallons of beer as opposed to my usual 3 gallons. Once everything was sanitized, I poured the priming solution into the bucket. Next, the 1 gallon of sour beer went in. I immediately racked the remaining 2 gallons of sour to 1 gallon jugs and capped them with a nice, tight-sealing cap (poly-seal) and set them back in the dark corner. The 3 gallons of Saison was then racked in with the priming solution and sour beer. I made sure to create a gentle swirl with the end of the siphon hose to ensure a nice mix of the sour, saison and priming solution.

About 2 gallons of leftover sour beer to be blended into something else in the near future.

Another reason I decided to go with this blend was that the yeast in the fresh Saison would be more than ready to chew those priming sugars in the bottle to create carbonation. If I had bottled the sour on it’s own, it is more than likely that the yeast in it would not be viable enough to create carbonation. If bottling a sour beer with a good amount of age on it, it’s a good idea to add fresh yeast at bottling. A rehydrated pack of CBC dry yeast has worked wonderfully for me in the past when bottling very old or high alcohol beers.

I have now had this beer in bottles for a little under 2 weeks and I couldn’t help myself but to try a bottle. The carbonation is definitely there, so I know that Saison yeast was definitely still working. The sour beer is definitely noticeable even at 25% of the batch, but much more restrained than if it were not blended, obviously. I have found that my Saisons hit their peak at about 2-3 months in the bottle, so I’m holding off my final judgment until then. At this point in time, the beer is tasting promising. I look forward to blending some more beers like this during the Summer, and I recommend you give it a shot yourself!