Beer Blending Strategies for Home Brewers

by Brad Smith on January 30, 2018 · 2 comments

This week I take a look at the often overlooked topic of blending two beers either to correct a flawed beer or make a more complex finished beer.

Why Blend Your Beers

The vast majority of beers are made in a straightforward way – you brew a recipe, ferment, age and enjoy it. While this is great when everything in your recipe works perfectly, life is not always perfect.

Many wine makers, by contrast, are master blenders. The “Bordeaux” style, for instance, is crafted from a number of different wines blended after fermentation. Blending the wines produces high quality but also consistency in flavor from year to year.

Blending beer lets you correct minor and even major flaws in a brew, and in some cases also lets you produce a beer that would otherwise be very difficult or time consuming to create using traditional methods. So rather than dumping a brew that did not turn out just right, I encourage you to think outside the box and blend your way to a better beer.

Blending to Correct a Flawed Beer

One of the first applications of blending is to correct a flawed beer. You can do this either by blending in a beer you already have on hand or brewing a beer to specifically address the flaw in your first beer.

Lets look at brewing a beer specifically to blend with a flawed beer. This is easiest to do when the beer has an obvious imbalance such as too much or two little bitterness, a thin or overly heavy body, or an obvious flavor issue such as too much roast flavor. In this case the antidote is obvious – brew a beer that will correct the flaw. If the original is over-hopped, then you under-hop the second beer. If too thin, then make another with the same recipe but too much body. The goal is to generate a beer that, blended with the original, produces a balanced finish.

A second strategy is to brew a “cover-up” beer. This approach can be used to “cover up” flaws in the original beer, and can be used to correct more extreme off-flavors. Usually this means brewing a dark, heavy beer who’s flavors will mask any flaws in the original beer. For example a pale ale with an obvious flaw like DMS (a cooked corn flavor) could easily be corrected if I blend it with a heavy stout to produce a blended porter. You could take a light lager with flaws and make a dark bock beer to produce a dark lager. A light beer that has some souring from an infection could be blended with a heavier sour beer to make an intentionally soured beer to make a sour style.

Blending to Create a Particular Flavor

A third strategy I use for blending beer is joining two beers to create a specific desired flavor. Here we may not be correcting a flaw but instead simply adding a flavor to make an otherwise dull beer interesting. You can blend two beers you already have on hand – such as an Imperial Stout and a Sour, or brew a beer to blend. This can also be done with fruits, flavorings, sours, hop extracts and spices.

For example you could blend a sour beer or directly add lactic acid into an otherwise normal ale to create a sour ale. Add fruit flavoring, or fermented fruits to taste to make your own fruit beer. Add a spiced tea with your favorite spices to taste to spice your beer to the exact level you like. You can use isomerized hop extracts to add hop flavor after your beer is completely done to get a different finish or bitterness level. Add liquors or bourbon to the finished beer to give it a fruit, spiced or even bourbon barrel aged finish without the barrel. Add mead to a beer to create a braggot.

For this approach I find it best to start with a fixed amount of beer, say 100 ml, and then add a measured amount of the flavoring (or flavored beer) until I get the precise flavor balance I want. Once you have the right mixing proportions simply scale it up to the size of the batch you’ve made to get the right balance up front.

So the next time you brew a beer that did not come out perfect, don’t dump it – blend it! Thanks for joining me on the BeerSmith Home Brewing Blog. Be sure to sign up for my newsletter or my podcast (also on itunes…and youtube…and streaming radio station) for more great tips on homebrewing. Also check out the How to Brew Video series I shot with John Palmer if you want to learn more about all grain brewing.

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Mike Skalicky February 3, 2018 at 2:35 pm

Hi Brad

Can the beer be blended after carbonating? I have 2 kegs of beer that I made in a parti-gyle session. Belgian golden strong and Belgian pale ale. The strong beer fermented right out to 12% and was a little to alcoholic when I tasted it before carbonating. If it doesn’t improve after carbonating would you recommend blending? Can I just pop the top of the corny keg and add some of the pale ale with a beer gun?

Thanks!
Mike

Michael Wright February 7, 2018 at 12:09 am

In the spirit of experimental brewing I would say go for it. At worst you’ll have a bit more beer to dump or suffer through. I’m currently working on a nice black and tan blend.

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