Friday, 24 February 2012

Blend is best

This post is prompted by an influx of Southern Tier Gemini in to Leeds - via Beer Ritz of course.

I approached with some trepidation at first...

me: "ooh Gemini..."
Jeff: "hell yeah"
me: "is it fresh though Jeff?
Jeff: "Dunno man, there's no date that's for sure,"
me: "fuck it I can spare £12 on one beer."


Despite the ins and outs of spending quite a sum of money on a single beer (I'm fine with it) it is lucky that it WAS fresh and well... Extremely fucking good. You see I had a bottle last year some time in London and it was really disappointing as it had travelled half the world and then sat in a warehouse Sweden for god knows how long, then ended up as part of a trophy collection in a pub with shit service. Hops totally gone, malt bready, flaccid and boring.

So very glad it is fresh then, not quite as fresh as when I tried it first time around in Brooklyn, on draught, but fresh enough. But fresh isn't todays issue.

I popped back to Reer Ritz and purchased more of this cracking beverage. Hazy orange, heady fruit, greenly herbal, hedgy nose, mouth coating mega complex balance of citric, herbal and bitingly bitter hops and really solid, quite sweet & smooth malt core. The great, great thing about this beer is that it's VERY complex but VERY well balanced. The key? Blending two beers.

Blending in the UK has a bad rep, the initial, and noble history of bar and brewery blended beer starts with Entire gives way to Porter and leads to Stout to a practice undertaken in secret by many breweries in the UK, especially the larger ones. It hit the buffers when scrupulous and unscrupulous landlords started cutting corners and blending slops on the fly to try and increase their margins, usually as a result of monopolistic owners squeezing them very hard. It is also the fault of the terrible Auto Vac.

It seems fairly obvious to me that blending is a good thing, I mean why not? Take some good beers, unique recipes, several ingredients. Then mix them, with other beers, with care which also have several ingredients. Find the best combination. Sell the fucker.

It's a technique employed in the greatest of sour wild beers: Gueuze. A practice used by brewers of Flemish brown ale, fans of Black & Tan, hipsters in Scotland and Denmark (the superlative I Hardcore You) and of course our friends and current inspirations across the pond.

It was quite popular in UK a few generations back but the art has been lost or at least hidden. Look in to some of those winter beers you've been drinking recently, look in to those breweries that only brew four or five beers - there might just be a blend in there. Drink a beer like Gemini or I Hardcore You, Drie Fonteinen or Rodenbach.

We have at present some singularly brilliant beers in the UK, but perhaps we should mix it up some.


  1. Beer Blending? Sounds weird man.... ;)

  2. I'm not so sure I would link beers such as gueuze and flemish oud bruins (which are essentially the product of blending the same beers but of different ages)with the more modern trend of blending two different beers to create a third.

    For me the imperial stout-IPA blend is the one that works best and I'm not sure why no UK brewer has tried this in any serious way. Hopping Frog in the States do it and superb examples have come from the likes of De Molen and Emelisse in the Netherlands.

    Interesting that you refer to our "current inspirations" across the pond. I'm wondering if that is still the case. To be honest there is just as much interesting stuff now being made in the UK and Europe. Some of it does admittedly have a US influence but often with a home grown twist as well.

  3. GD: you are

    John: I know what you're saying the two things are different but I think the concept of trying to achieve a beer with the right balance by blending is essentially what I'm talking about.

    I think the US influence is changing for sure as we develop more experimental brewers who are discovering more and more of our heritage. Things like Black & Tan and Entire are part of that heritage and are probably due for a revival. That's why I've just added them to North's arsenal!

  4. Matt - entirely take your point. I wonder which will be the first UK brewer to give us a decent Black & Tan?

  5. Nice one Matt, an area I know little about other than from GhostDrinker's antics :) Interesting you should mention sour beer blends...have you seen Steve Lamond's post today for #thesession? he writes about a new lambic blending business starting up in Northern Ireland. Worth a look.

    "Find the best combination. Sell the fucker" - love it!

  6. Nothing wrong with blending if it makes good tasting beer. One of the Cairngorm beers on cask is a mix of two - Wildcat and Black Gold. Only tried the Ying in Evil Twin's Ying and Yang - surely that approach could be copied - selling 2 1/2 pints or two bottles to mix as well as 'ready-mixed'.

  7. BB - I have duly emithered alestate to try and get hbold of their gueuze!

    STV - I'm wondering about this now, I reckon that the ready mixed approach that breweries use is kind of missing the point. Black & Tan and Entire I believe were always mixed by bar people. I think the two bottle approach is better as the consumer can do it to their taste. It's more fun!

  8. Interesting stuff, mate - and I agree. BTW - I read that exchange between you and Jeff with your voices in my head, and It's comedy gold. Must admit, not really done much mixing but after reading this and Ghostie's constant experimentation...I like it. Will give it a try...