Back in June of 2014, I brewed my first sour beer. I was going for the lambic style and even though I couldn’t really call it a lambic cuz I was brewing at my house and not in particular region of Belgium, I had good intentions that I could brew a few of these beers so I could bring them together and have a gueuze. After a long wait, that day came and we brought a video camera. Take a look at how we came up with our own sour beer blending process to bring together three years of beers.
The Long Journey of Sour Beer Blending
What can I tell you – you have to have patience and a plan to get to this point. Part of the plan is to have the equipment and space to store beer for years. I had to acquire multiple five gallon carboys that I could transfer beers and hold beers when they were done fermenting (after one year).
Purchasing these carboys were important because they needed to be separate from my other brewing activities. Not only because they would be out of rotation for years but also because they were going to be used for sour beers and I didn’t want them contaminating my non-sour brewing.
I have a utility closet in my basement that made for a good place to store (and hide) these beers. The temperature stayed fairly constant throughout the day – it did warm with the seasons but not that much – and it helped me to keep them out of sight and mind. If you don’t practice patience, you will be messing with them way too often or too soon. Keep them away.
The Blending Process
The first step in our process was to taste a commercial gueuze. Sadly, I think the bottle I grabbed had been on the shelf for too long because it tasted skunky. We gathered as much intel as we could from it but it was hard based on the issues the beer had.
The second step in our process was to taste each of the three beers and understand what they were all about and what we liked and didn’t like about them. We were looking for sourness, funkiness, and any other qualities that we thought would help us to plan what the mix of the beers should be. Some of the thoughts I had were as follows
- 3 year old – well balanced flavor – not too sour – not offensive – nice complexity
- 2 year old – strong sour flavor – maybe a bit acetic – could be used in a small dose
- 1 year old – a more sour version of the 3 year old beer – has some barnyard notes
Once we got our notes together, we gave blending them a try. We chose a unit of measure (a part), which in our case was a teaspoon, and started to bring the beers together. We tried a 2 parts of the 3 year old, 2 parts of the 1 year old, and 1 part of the 2 year old blend first. This blend brought too much of the 2 years strong flavor to the front.
The next blend brought the 2 year part down and it worked for us. We blended 4 parts of the 3 year old, 4 parts of the 1 year old, and 1 part of the 2 year old and it tasted great.
When it came to translating that to the blend at a larger scale, I worked with half gallons.
I used 4 half gallons or 2 gallons of the three and one year old sour beers and blended that with a half gallon of the two year old beers. Once I had this quantity together, I added priming sugar and bottled the beer in thick champagne bottles, topped with a cork and cage.
Now we wait again as the beer ages some more. It’s been a rewarding experience even if it has taken a long time.