Blending beer is an art.
There are certain breweries in Belgium that are world renowned for the beers, often being sited as the best of their style in the world that don't actually brew their own beer. One large example is 3 Fonteinen brewery outside of Brussels. They were founded back in the late 1800's as what they called a "guezery" or a brewery that specialized in blending multiple lambic beers from other breweries into the gueze style beer that they would bottle and sell.
Here at The Bruery we obviously spend most of our days brewing our own beer, but we send a lot of that beer away to rest in barrels. Some of those beers have been aging since our very first months of brewing 3 years ago, while others are of course much younger. Oude Tart, our gold medal winning (GABF & World Beer Cup) Flemish-style red ale is no different.
Today we brought out samples of several different batches of this beer that has been aging away in oak barrels. Some of the barrels have instilled a heavy oak quality, some a real funk, some a clean acidity, some a roasty quality, some a more wine-like quality, and many other different enjoyable flavors. The key to a well crafted oak aged ale, however, is blending properly to get just enough of each characteristic that will make the beer great.
We make several test blends with different percentages of each barrel of beer, constantly tasting and discussing the qualities that we like, dislike and want more or less of. New blends are made, all of the percentages being carefully tracked so that they can later be scaled back up to a full batch number for the final product.
It's a very fun process, no doubt, but it is definitely tough to keep your palate tuned into the flavors. And of course, we had a bottle of our first batch of Oude Tart, the one that got all the awards, sitting on the side for us to compare flavors. Beers brewed with bacterias and oak are very hard to replicate year after year since so much is left to nature. Hopefully we've created a blend for Oude Tart that will compare or outdo the original batch that we all loved so much when it was released back in 2009. We think it will.