Friday, June 5, 2015

Mein Kiwi: An exploration of flavors through blending saison.

I'm in desperate need of a sparge arm.
Over the last year or so I have made a concerted effort to build my palate for blending as much as possible. Whether it's sourcing Lambic right from Belgium to blend with my own sour beer, blending finished beers in the glass or blending my own beer with that of other home brewers, I've been trying to blend as often as I can. This all in an effort to explore different flavors within beers and how playing with different blending ratios can help bring a beer to an entirely different level, and make myself a better brewer\blender of course. 

My buddy Bill and I recently brewed variations of The Farmer in the Rye independently on our own systems, he used some Nelson Sauvin Hops late in the boil while I used Hallertau Blanc, with the intentions of blending them for a finished product that suits our fancy. My beer was cleanly fermented with Wallonian Farmhouse while his was fermented out entirely with the Tired Hands Emptiness culture. The point here was to have similar yet different finished beers so we could make two separate blends, one to be bottled and graded and one to be kegged and served at an event at Memphis Taproom during Philly Beer Week. If you're unfamiliar with Philly Beer Week, just know that it was the first beer week in the country, still the best, and is the reason your town has an organized beer week. To say we are proud of our beer week is an understatement. 

Playing with those ratios.
Bill and I got together about 10 days before the event to blend and package 10 gallons of Saison. We started by pulling samples of each, tasting and discussing what we liked or didn't like about both beers. Bill's, Emptiness/Nelson Sauvin version,  smelled like a glass of pineapple juice with a really nice Brett expression reminiscent of feet and earth, weird I know but I assure it was good. But his beer was quite thin in body and despite having a 1.004 FG didn't finish as dry as we would have liked. Mine, the clean Wallonian Farmhouse/Hallertau Blanc version, had a nice spice like aroma with some subtle notes of tropical fruit, more delicate and balanced than Bill's but maybe not as unique. The body was so silky and smooth despite the bone dry FG of 1.000, with a very dry bitter finish that bordered on being astringent. Between the amazing Pineapple-y/funk of Bill's and the spicy, dry, silky body aspects of mine we confident we could build both a "fresh" and "age-able" blend from the two. 

We started with a 50:50 blend ratio, using a gram scale and a turkey baster, sampled and took some notes then adjusted based on what we were experiencing. We tried maybe 4-5 different blends for ex. 70:30 Emptiness:Wallonian, 65:35 Wallonian:Emptiness etc., all different and all quite good. What we settled on for the blend for the event was a 60:40 Wallonian:Emptiness ratio, it utilized the body and dry finish of mine (Wallonian) coupled with the amazing brett aromas and Pineapple-y-ness of Bill's to tie it all together. My goal for that blend was to make something very drinkable, light on the brett but enough to add complexity to the fruit and spice notes. I want you to be able to enjoy 2-3 of these on a hot day. Using more of mine brought the body to a perfect level between the two and also restrained the brett aromas ever so slightly and yet the Pineapple was still present. 

We then used the opposite ratio of 60:40 Emptiness:Wallonian where the funk was more prominent and yet the body of the beer didn't suffer much. I felt that with the natural carbonation of bottle conditioning it should help boost the body a bit just enough to keep it from being thin. We used a scale to measure both blends while racking into their own 5 gallon kegs, one for the event and the other we added priming sugar and used the Beer Gun to fill a bunch of 29mm 750ml bottles. 

This is going to be a really fun beer to watch it evolve and change over time. I hope everyone at the event enjoys the fresh keg, but I think Bill and I are very excited for the bottle conditioned version to come of age and get weird under pressure of bottle conditioning. I encourage more people to try blending their beer with beer that someone else brewed, its great to get away from your own wort/finished beer at times and really explore the flavors and nuances to figure out how you can manipulate them to fit your desired finished beer. I have a few things like this plan for the near future with some aged sour/funky/weird beers and other brewers. If you're in Philly for beer week please come check this beer out tomorrow at Memphis Taproom from noon-4pm June 6th 2015, cheers!

Tasting notes to follow.


  1. Once you find the ratio you like using weight, do you then use weight or volume to blend?

    1. I do. I put on keg on a mailing scale capable of reading heavier weights, same one I use to measure grains. Here is a video from Instagram where we are measuring the blend for this beer.