Blending Beers

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A gueuze is the only major beer style that must be produced by blending, but there are many other blends you could try.

Very few homebrewers produce blended beers. Unlike winemakers, we are used to formulating the recipe, brewing the batch, and drinking the beer as is. However, there are several opportunities for brewers to make a blend from two beers and have all three beers — the two original beers and the blended beer — fit within established style guidelines. And of course, if you’re willing to throw out the style guidelines, there’s no limit to the types of beers you can create. Here are some of the more conservative blends a homebrewer could try. He or she could brew two 5.0-gallon (19-L) batches and end up with 3.3 gallons (12.5 L) of three different beers.

Scottish 60/-, 70/-, and 80/-

The most obvious candidates here are Scottish 60, 70, and 80 shilling ales. The BJCP doesn’t even provide different descriptions for each — there all explicitly just bigger or smaller versions of the same thing. If you brewed a Scottish 60/- with an OG of 1.034 and 15 IBU and blended it 1:1 with Scottish 80/- at 1.044 and 25 IBU, you would yield a Scottish 70/- at 1.039 and 20 IBU. All three of the beers would be within the style guidelines. And, instead of having 10 gallons (38 L) split between two different Scottish ales, you’d have 10 gallons (38 L) split between three different Scottish ales. A 1:1 blend resulting in equal volumes of beer would take one-third the volume of the two brewed beers — 1.7 gallons (6.3 L) in the case of 5-gallon (19-L) batches — and blend these together. Of course, you could also make other blends that weren’t 1:1, or use more or less of the two brewed beers. (Here’s our recipe for Scottish 70/- ale, for an example of how these beers are usually formulated.)

 

Ordinary Bitter, Best Bitter, and ESB

Ordinary bitter, best bitter, and ESB is another trio that could easily be brewed as two “bookend” beers with a blended beer in the middle. If you formulated your ordinary bitter and ESB with middle-of-the-road numbers, your best bitter would fit within style guidelines in most cases. You could decide to go with the same bittering and aroma hops for each of the brewed beers, or you could hop them with different varieties and have a different aroma in all three beers. Likewise you could vary the crystal malts, and perhaps even add some dark malt to one of the brews, to produce three different colored beers. For example, you could use crystal malt (60 °L), with a pinch of chocolate malt for color, in the ordinary bitter, but use only crystal malt (40 ° L) in the ESB — making the best bitter intermediate in color, and with the flavor of both crystal 40 and 60. You could even add a small amount of biscuit malt to one of your brewed beers, so you had varying amounts of biscuit flavor in your trio. (Here’s our recipes for ordinary bitter and best bitter.)

 

American IPA, American Pale Ale, and American Amber

American IPA is a favorite among homebrewers. Compared to American-style pale ale (APA), IPA is a stronger beer that uses less crystal malt and more hops. In contrast, American amber ales typically use more crystal malt and less hops then an APA. You can easily blend an IPA and an amber ale to make a pale ale.

For example, you could brew 5.0 gallons (19 L) of an IPA with an OG of 1.060 and 60 IBU, using 0.50 lbs. (230 g) of crystal malt (30° L). You could then brew 5.0 gallons (19 L) of an amber ale with an OG of 1.050 and 30 IBUs, using 1.5 lbs. (680 g) of crystal malts, perhaps a blend of crystal 40 and crystal 60. A 1:1 blend of these beers would yield three beers, each within the style guidelines. You could use more aggressive American hops in the IPA and more neutral hops in the American amber to produce and more balanced, middle-of-the-road American pale ale.

(Here’s our recipes for pale ale, amber ale, and IPA.)

 

Anything Amber and Anything Dark Makes a Brown Ale

There, I’ve said it. (We even have a brown ale recipe on our site.)

 

Blending Within Any Style

Blending beers within any style is also a possibility. For example, consider dry stouts. Among dry stouts there are at least a couple types. There’s the more roasty and bitter Guinness-style dry stout and the slightly milder Murphy’s-like stout. (Here’s a recipe for that.) A blend of two dry stouts with different characters could produce an interesting intermediate beer. In the same vein, a blend of an aggressive robust porter and a mellower, chocolatey brown porter could yield good results. (Robust porter and brown porter? Yes, we have recipes for those.)

 

Blending the Same Exact Beer — Aged and Fresh

Most beers do not age gracefully with extended cellaring. The oxidized notes of a stale beer are usually not welcome. However, some big beers age well, and oxidized character in them has a Port or Sherry like feel to it, not the usual cardboard like flavors in stale beer. If you enjoy brewing barleywines or old ales, you might consider lending some aged beer with fresh beer. A dash of Port or Sherry in a beer with a fresh malt character and still-vibrant hops could be a winner. (And of course, don’t forget that gueuze is a blend of the same beer at different ages.)

 

And The Rest

If you’re willing to experiment, the sky is the limit with regards to the amount of possible combinations. Some possible blends to consider would be blending a sour to beer with a non-sour beer. This could work well if one or both of the beers had fruit in them. (You would need to be wary of refermentation in the blended beer, however. Perhaps you could blend it for party a couple days ahead of time, and hope to kick the keg at the festivities.) You can also try blending beer with mead, cider, perry, or wine. You could even blend beers with fruit juice, although again you would have to be wary of refermentation. In fact, you can even blend beers with water. Been there. Done that. Wrote an article for Beer and Wine Journal about it — “Expand Your Output.”

 

How to Blend

How to blend the beers depends on whether you plan to bottle or kick them. If you plan to bottle of beer, just make the blend in the bottling bucket when the two brewed beers already to be bottled. If you keg your beer, keg the two brewed beers and blend the third in a keg later. (Turn the CO2 pressure down and run the beer into the blending keg slowly, to prevent excess foaming.)

 

Related articles

Blending a Gueuze

Expand Your Output (I: Theory) 

Expand Your Output (II: Practice)

Comments

  1. David G Napier, NZ says:

    I blend in two situations, bottle by bottle, to rescue my mistakes. Firstly where the bottle contents have little or no carbonation but the beer is ok. Hopefully the next one is carbonated and I pour 50:50 to the glass. Otherwise its open commercial beers of similar type and do the same, ie 50:50.For both!
    The second is where I have gone well over(or under) the mark with hop bitterness and I dilute with blander beers.( Or top up with hoppier beer where necessary.)
    If you don’t have another beer to save the day, or its too vile, recap the bottle and take along to your club to illustrate your next presentation on beer faults. Just don’t take too many or you’ll lose credibility.

  2. I also blend to rescue flavors that are too strong. Some of my sour beers are too intense and it is simply fun to blend them while standing at my kegerator and mixing either 2 different sour beers (maybe one that has too much lacto with one with too much brett), or just add let’s say an oatmeal stout and an intense sour beer in various ratios. Recently I bottled a blend that allowed me to free up 2 kegs to carbonate fresh sour beers. I called it “Funk #49”. Or sometimes I have a very smoky beer and I want to lessen the flavor with maybe a saison. Or add some hops from an IPA into a schwarzbier. It’s limitless….and fun!

  3. I have a lot of gushing hefeweizen in bottles. I was thinking of trying to turn them into a sour, any thoughts?

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