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Blending beer: At the brewery; at the bar

Leinenkugel MixThe Chicago Tribune just ran a story on what the author calls blending beers, but might more accurately be described as mixing beer cocktails.

In my mind brewers blend before beer is bottled. That’s a subject I wrote about for the current (November-December) Imbibe magazine. Customers also blend, but I prefer using the word mix in order to differentiate the two.

And, per usual, I might not know I am talking about. Discussions about favorite blends have broken out on several e-mail lists since the Tribune story appeared, with the favored word being “blends.” Jacob Leinekugel Brewing is promoting the idea, though bless their hearts without calling it blending, with a new “What’s your mix?” campaign. The brewery invites drinkers to come up with their own mixes, and its website features videos of the brothers Leinenkugel and their favorites.

I considered including beer cocktails in my story for Imbibe, but I used up my quota of words before getting to that. Since I discussed the idea with several brewers you get a few outtakes that didn’t make it into print.

“They are unintentional blends,” Tomme Arthur of Lost Abbey said without being literal. “We work on the components individually and think about how they might come together.”

A drinker in a bar — and working on a mix where you can ask a bartender for 90% of this and 10% of that leaves a lot less extra beer sitting around than when you start with bottles &#151 begins with what is available.

“They are trying to create something different, something new,” said Firestone Walker Fine Ales brewmaster Matt Brynildson. “We have an opportunity to dial it in, but the concept is the same.”

Firestone blends most of its beers, even Humboldt Nectar IPA. My story focuses on Firestone 10, the anniversary beer released a year ago. That beer tasted somewhat different sitting in pitchers during a large group session that helped set the final blend than after it went into bottles. “Most of it was integration,” Brynildson said.

Firestone 10 is long gone, now fetching silly prices on eBay and at a few liquor stores in the Paso Robles area. Firestone 11 is in the works, an entirely new blend. Details soon (I hope).

7 Responses to Blending beer: At the brewery; at the bar

  1. Jeff November 6, 2007 at 10:35 am #

    A related issue is these hop devices that you run your beer through (essentially a cylinder full of hop cones) to give it a little boost before it hits your glass. Although I like the can-do approach, it’s sort of like handing out paintbrushes and gallons of Lidden to people as they walk into the Louvre.

  2. SteveH November 6, 2007 at 11:23 am #

    “…it’s sort of like handing out paintbrushes and gallons of Lidden to people as they walk into the Louvre.”

    Not unless it was the artist(s) who wished it so — after all, the “Randalizer” wasn’t invented by the bartender, it was invented by the beer-maker (Dogfish Head, IIRC) to infuse their own beer.

  3. Swordboarder November 6, 2007 at 11:45 am #

    Firestone 11 is in bottles right now, not set for release quite yet though.

  4. Stan Hieronymus November 6, 2007 at 12:17 pm #

    How many bottles of this year’s vintage will you be hoarding?

  5. Swordboarder November 6, 2007 at 5:24 pm #

    Hard to say. It will depend on if it’s $15 or $20.

    You never said, were you interested in trading something for a bottle of Firestone 10? I wouldn’t feel right it i thought you would sell it. But I’m fairly certain you would enjoy it, which is why I’m considering a trade.

  6. Stan Hieronymus November 7, 2007 at 7:03 am #

    Thanks for the offer. I thought about it a while. You certainly wouldn’t have to worry about me selling it. My problem would be ever opening it. It would end up sitting next to the 1968 Thomas Hardy. When do you find the occasion to open one of those?

    So I guess I’m content with the memory of when I had the 10 last.

    I figure that you’ll let an 11 get a little age on it and open it side-by-side with a 10? That will be interesting.

  7. Swordboarder November 7, 2007 at 10:53 am #

    I never wait for an occasion.

    I’m young, but if I learned anything from talking to people in high school it was that if I hadn’t waited for the perfect time to ask out girls and missed it, I probably would have dated in high school.

    Sometimes you have to take the moment when you get it. I will find a Tuesday night when it is lightly raining, look into the fire and quietly enjoy a bottle.

    Strike while the iron is hot.

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