- Mike Riedel
There's nothing worse than sitting your ass on a barstool, looking at the beer menu and finding nothing that you like. Even in some of Salt Lake City's best beer pubs, where you have hundreds of options, that damned hamster wheel in your mind just keeps on spinning with little satisfaction. When I find myself in that funk of indecision, I often look to blending. Beer blending is a bit of a rarity for most people; I guess folks just assume that the beers listed are the only options and leave it at that. That couldn't be further from the truth. No matter if the beer is draft, canned or bottled, your perfect slump-busting beer could be a mad scientist's concoction away.
There are some basic rules that you'll want to follow. First, look for beers with complementary flavors; don't just go all drunken master and see what sticks. Remember: You still have to drink that swill. Let's say you've got a pumpkin beer that you're really not too jazzed about. Combining that with a robust porter (in the ratio of your choosing) can likely create a much more complex and enjoyable beer that's better as a whole than its individual parts.
Next: Pay attention to presentation. It might taste OK, but a beer blend that looks like canal water is going to be less than appetizing. I've thrown together a few examples to help get you started.
The Moose Knuckle: This is one of my favorite blends. Co-concocted with my pal Wendy Hurd, this blend came out of necessity due to our cravings for a Flemish oud bruin (sour brown ale) when none could be had. It's the marriage of a Lindemans Cuvée René and a Moose Drool Brown Ale. We were trying to re-create a beer that has perceived fruitiness plus that wild Belgian tartness. We absolutely succeeded, creating a perfect replica of the style. Our best ratio was two parts Moose, one part Cuvée.
The Blondeberry: I love berries that are just on the edge of being ripe. Golden raspberries are particularly tasty. There aren't many beers with this variety of berry floating around, so this is my best attempt at creating a specific tart ale. For this blend, I went to Kiitos Brewing Co. and used two of their house beers: the blackberry sour ale and the cream ale. The ratio here is lopsided, mixing 85 percent cream ale and only 15 percent blackberry. This way, you balance out the big tartness with a little sweetness. It's the best of both worlds.
The Chocolate Tart: This is a dessert beer disguised as a spring ale. Chocolate-like stouts suffer from being difficult to enjoy in quantity. No matter how much you might love them, you're likely only good for one or two pints. For this dose of bliss, I chose Epic's Brainless Raspberry and got it all funky with Red Rock's nitro oatmeal stout. Not to be outdone there, I stacked them. If you're not sure what stacking is, look to the classic Black and Tan: dark Guinness on top with light ale beneath, completely separated in one glass. This blend is a solid 50/50, taking the perceived chocolate notes from the stout and combining them with tart fruit to create a raspberry cordial clone. It's damned tasty.
These are just a few examples of what you can do with beer blends. Keep good notes, and don't be afraid to experiment with beer styles that might not be in your wheelhouse. As always, cheers!