Monday, July 11, 2011

Blending Oude Tart

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.



8 comments:

Matt said...

I love Oude Tart. Glad to hear its re-release is getting closer!

Jeffrey Crane said...

I see in the background that you have a pale beer. Is this your strong acid beer (fermented only with lacto) that you use to up the acidity or is this used for a different reason?

The Bruery said...

Good eyes Jeffrey! That is, in fact, a particularly sour batch of our base lambic-style beer. We blend a very small amount in with the sour red ale barrels to get the final complexity of Oude Tart.

Jeffrey Crane said...

Very cool, thanks for the info. One other question, what is done with the remaining beer that doesn't get blended? Are multiple barrels poured together then aged longer? Is more wort added to top up these barrels? ...
If you need someone to take it off your hands, I'd be happy to.
Can't wait for the release.

The Bruery said...

Some beer is saved for later batches of oude tart, some beer is saved and blended for other beers (Melange 1, for instance, is a blende of Oude Tart and Black Tuesday), and in the rare occurrence that a barrel has gone completely bad, it gets dumped and we cry, but that is a very rare occurrence here and we hope to keep it that way.

Bill Hemphill said...

Question for you. One advantage that wine blenders have going for them is that they don't have the extra step of carbonating or bottle conditioning the wine when they are done.

I've found that between finished but flat beer and carbonated beer, the flavor differences can be profound. How do you account for the flavor differences carbonation will bring with such careful blending?

Thanks!

The Bruery said...

@Bill, you are dead on with that dilemma that brewers must deal with when blending beer. Carbonation can change the flavor of a beer quite a bit, or at least bring certain flavors out more. Really, this just comes down to experience, there is no other way around it. It's similar to tasting wort or tasting uncarbonated beer out of a fermenter, eventually you simply get a grasp of what your beer is going to taste like once it is carbonated. Really wish there was something more technical we could say, but it all just comes down to trial and error.

Kamesen said...

Original Oude Tart is quite possibly my favorite sour even standing next to some of the best out there.