In Search of the Perfect Blended Brew

Once upon a time, blending beer was a process mostly used by soulless macrobrewers striving for a forgettable drink that would offend no one. But Imbibe reports in its November/December issue that the practice is taking on a new luster as artisanal brewers adopt it in their quest for the scientifically perfect beer (story is not available online).

European brewers made blending beer part of the flavor creation process for hundreds of years, most notably the lambics from Belgium’s Senne Valley near Brussels as well as sour ales from Flanders. Now American breweries are building flavors in a way that most of us associate with winemaking.

Part voodoo, part alchemy, part chemistry, and part inspired guesswork, blending unlocks new potentials for beers that combine a harsh but exciting edge with a drinkable mildness, uniting the potential of both and adding a level of depth often beyond the reach of any single brew.

And though the process is still new to American brewers, some familiar names (Russian River Brewing, Brewery Ommegang) are playing with blending; the piece mostly follows Firestone Walker and its brewmaster, Matthew Brynildson. It also helpfully suggests nine blended beers to try, for those more interested in sipping their beer than reading about it.

And if you can resist buying the Ommegang Three Philosophers, you’re a stronger person than I:

A dark, strong Belgian-inspired ale—sometimes called a Quad—is blended with a cherry lambic brewed for Ommegang in Belgium by Frank Boon. Rich and smooth at one moment, tart the next; dry dark fruits, then ripe red fruits.

Damn!

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