In beer, blending is a true art form. If you’ve ever tasted a great geuze from say 3 Fonteinen or Tilquin, or perhaps even a fantastic Flanders red from Rodenbach, then you’re tasting a beer that’s greater than the sum of its parts.
More and more breweries are investing in oak aging to further the beer experience they can offer their customers. This could involve getting used barrels from wineries or distilleries, or in some cases it could involve the use of larger oak containers called foeders. To make sure the beer that comes out of that oak tastes great, they too will have to master the fundamental art of blending.
If you ever get the chance to walk amongst the foeders at a brewery such as Rodenbach or New Belgium in the US, you should jump at the chance as it’s a pretty magical experience. If you’re lucky you might even get the opportunity to sample some unblended beer from the wood itself. This might help enlighten you as to how challenging blending the perfect beer from various components can be. The key to becoming a master blender is to be perfectly in tune with your palate, so as to achieve the perfect balance of acidity, flavour and drinkability.
To become ready for blending, beer needs time and this collaboration between London’s The Kernel and Jester King of Austin, Texas is no different. The original beer, a humble Table Beer with Citra, was brewed in April 2015. This beer was dry hopped the very same month before spending a year maturing in a steel tank with mixed cultures of yeast and bacteria taken from both The Kernel’s and Jester King’s stocks. In addition to this, some of the beer was aged in brand new – or virgin – oak barrels for 18 months. This beer was then blended back with 50% of the beer aged in steel before being refermented and allowed to mature further in the bottle.
The final blend of this beer is a living, breathing product and its character will continue to evolve in the bottle for years to come. According to the folks from The Kernel, the character from Jester King’s voracious house Brett strain dominated when the beer was packaged. However, this appeared to have calmed down in the bottle I opened, with notes of ripe berry fruit accompanied by strong flavours of vanilla from the oak, leading an incredibly dry and tannic finish.
This is an exceptional beer which blurs the boundaries between beer and wine - and that should come as no surprise considering the pedigree of its makers.
The fundamentals of beer are anything that makes up the sum of a beer’s parts. You can find more from beer writer Matthew Curtis at his excellent beer blog Total Ales, Good Beer Hunting and on Twitter @totalcurtis. We have a few bottles of the incredible Kernel/Jester King Farmhouse Table Barred Aged Blend in store or online while stocks last.