January 25, 2015

Oh Yeah! A blended beer of rye porter and old ale

Early in 2014 I posted recipes for two beers I specifically brewed with the intent of blending. These beers were Blacula, a rye porter, and Old King Clancy, an old ale. Blacula was brewed in very early March this year and aged on some Canadian whisky that had itself aged on some oak. Old King Clancy was brewed mid-January and aged on Maker's Mark that also had aged on oak. Both liquors went into the beer with an overwhelming oaky flavor and so much tannin it almost hurt your tongue to taste it. I wanted these liquors to simulate barrel aging (and I have planned to talk about my collection of liquors and wines on oak for some time but I want to bottle and taste a few beers using the collection before announcing it a failure or success). Originally I had planned on aging these beers for a year or so before blending but I needed the fermentor space with all the small batches of beers going right now and the portion of the lambic solera I peeled off for later blending. The bottles will age for a couple months before tasting so overall the beer will be about a year old before I crack them open.

My concept for this blended beer would be to create a malty beer with all of the smooth malt notes of an old ale, with subtle sherry-like oxidation, with the more assertive flavors of a rye porter to create a beer that cannot exist on its own as a single beer. The darker malts in a porter have an anti-oxidant effect that prevents those nice fruity oxidation notes in an aged barleywine or old ale. So by combining the beers I can get the best of both worlds. Both of these beers are malt bombs and adding whisky would only bring in more malt flavors. The spicy rye character really helps cut some of that sweetness. So although the beer is undeniably sweet, it isn't meant to be cloying.

To blend the beer I first tasted each component and then worked out a blend. Only having a gallon of each beer meant I had little room to pull samples so I did most of the blending work in my head rather than pouring and mixing samples. Old King Clancy had a candy sweet flavor with a subtle bourbon note. The oats helped keep the beer from being too thin. Blacula had all the great flavors of an aged porter with chocolate, coffee, cocoa, and some nice fruity flavors. The rye was apparent in flavor and mouthfeel. The whisky was subtle but present. I mixed equal portions of each and liked the blend at an even ratio that as I thought through the balance of flavors I couldn't think of a blend I preferred. The 50/50 split tasted exactly like what I envisioned back at the beginning of the year. So I went ahead and bottled all the precious beer I could lift from the fermentors. Ultimately I ended up with a blend that was approximately 55% Blacula 45% Old King Clancy.

When I tasted a sample off the bottling bucket my first thought was, "OH YEAH!" like the Kool-Aid Man so that became the name of the beer. Plus the Kool-Aid Man is awesome.

I try to be honestly critical of my beers but I'm really happy with where this is right now. It is a really thick beer so I'm interested to see how carbonation will treat the mouthfeel. It's the first beer I've brewed that I would call chewy. I'm stoked to see how it turns out after it melds for a couple months in the bottle. I find some aging is necessary when blending beers to really get the flavors to come together and marry into a single flavor profile.

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