Blending anything can be tough. Blending work and life is often difficult. Finding that work/life balance is key to having a happy life, both in the work field and at home. With beer, it’s maybe not as complicated of a process or as important of a task, but it doesn’t mean it isn’t difficult. Getting the proper balance may need to be so precise that a 5% difference can go from tasting like vomit to tasting like heaven. Many master blenders have had years upon years upon decades of trial and error. It can take a week, if not more, to find that perfect balance in a blended beer.
Within the blended beer world, there are many different variations. They can range from sickly sweet to cough-inducing dry, deep and roasty to light and fruity, or even straw in color to darker than the soul of the Grim Reaper. Despite the many different forms that a blended beer can take, one thing remains true and connects them all, balance. Without balance the beer is lost, the artful craft of blending is vanished and can leave a bad taste in your mouth (pun intended). I suggest starting with any of the beers below, depending on your own personal tastes and preferences in a beer. Heck, who knows, maybe this will help you find that balance in your life. Probably not, but maybe.
And Now, the Brews
|Boulevard Brewing | Bourbon Barrel Quad | Whiskey Barrel-Aged Belgian-Style Dark Strong Ale|
|Loosely based on Boulevard’s The Sixth Glass, this Quadrupel is aged in an array of bourbon barrels for a varying amount of time (up to three years) with cherries added to make up for the “angel’s share”. The “angel’s share” refers to the liquid lost due to evaporation in the aging process. The barrels are sampled periodically and finally blended to achieve the optimal flavor profile. These blending sessions can be a pretty insane process. Sometimes over 100 different samples of different variations of blends are created and tasted against each other or against a control of the previous release to maintain consistency. It can be a long process that can completely and quickly fatigue your taste buds. For Boulevard and Bourbon Barrel Quad, more specifically, the resulting liquid smells of strong bourbon, caramel, vanilla, cherries, dark fruit, wood, and the traditional Belgian yeast that a Quadrupel is known for. This alluring aroma leads to complex flavors of bourbon, vanilla, oak, burnt cherries, cloves, caramel, toffee, prunes, brown sugar, and other dark fruits. With a heat level of 11.2%, the depth of flavor here is awesome. One of the best things Boulevard has done here is the packaging, though. With a simple 4 pack, you’re no longer forced to drink an entire 750 ml bottle by yourself or your friends. Go ahead, be selfish. It’s 100% worth it.|
|4 pk Bottles | 11.2% ABV | 26 IBUs|
|Fair State Brewing Co-op | FSB | Barrel-Aged Imperial Stout|
|aged in both 45th Parallel Bourbon and Rye barrels, while the Old Ale base was aged in similar barrels, but with Brettanomyces added to give it a little twist. Both bases aged for almost two years until it was decided by the Fair State team that it was ready to make it’s debut to the world. The final blend of the two bases came out to be 90% RIS and 10% Old Ale. Reminiscent in color to the chocolate syrup you’d pour over breakfast cereal in the morning. (What, you don’t put chocolate syrup on your cereal? You’re the weird one!) Whoftings bring fourth notes of dark chocolate, oak, whiskey, raisin, vanilla, toffee, and roasted barley. Balanced yet convoluted at the same time. The palate brings similar characteristics of which the bourbon notes match with sweet grains and rich flavors of vanilla, burnt sugars, raisins, and roasted coffee. All of this covers up the alcohol pretty well, but the warmth that hits that back of your throat is still there. The more it ages, the more of the Brettanomyces becomes more evident and will show as a completely different beer. Snag a couple bottles to taste how the Brett develops. Can’t find any of the 2017? Not to worry, come December, Fair State will be releasing this year’s version, but don’t expect it to taste like this one because, much like the story of that fish that you “almost” caught, it’s always a little bit different.|
|750 ml | 9% ABV | 60 IBUs|
|Deschutes Brewing | The Ages | Gueuze-Inspired Ale|
|Okay, I have something I need to admit… Deschutes’ The Ages isn’t aged in Bourbon barrels… It is aged in a barrel, though, just not a whiskey barrel. More than likely, it was aged in new oak or a neutral barrel, but it was blended just like the rest of the beers in today’s blog. Regardless, The Ages is a Gueuze-like concoction consisting of different blends of 100% oak aged liquid of various ages, typically young vs. old, to an ideal balance of the sour vinegar of an older sour ale and a fruit forward and spice driven young sour ale. In a beer where the balance is key, as there are no huge dominant flavors to hide behind like there is in the beers above, it can be incredibly difficult to do well. It takes practice and an expert hand. The hands that developed this beer have created a nose of tart Meyer lemon, apple, yeast, coriander, sweet malts, funk, and oak. This all gives way to a dry crisp tartness reminiscent to lemongrass, buttery oak (much like a Chardonnay), pepper, coriander, yeast, and funky tartness. This is an exceptional version of an Americanized Gueuze. One of the coolest things about Gueuze-style beers is the longevity of the liquid. Typically, a quality Gueuze can age up to 10 years. This is also why buying more than one of these is strongly encouraged. It’s incredibly interesting to taste how a beer develops over the years, especially 10 years’ worth of aging. In the same way that your life will change in 10 years’ time, so will your beer’s. Kids or grandkids, buying a house, moving, new jobs, and then there is you, you’ll probably get some gray hairs or lose your hair altogether, or something like that.|
|500 ml | 8% ABV | 14 IBUs|