Flanders Blending Session - The Art of Blending Sour Beer

Last Thursday I had a few friends stop by to help with my Flanders Red Ale blending session.  I decided that it was time to get some of my Flanders beer into bottles.  They'll continue to evolve, sour, get funky in the bottle but we need the yeast cake for an upcoming Wine Barrel Sour Beer project that my homebrew club is doing.   With that, and the NHC coming up, I decided that it would be a good time to try and blend together some of what I have to put in bottles.  Here is the process we took and the results!

First Sample: First things first…We sampled all of the beers to be blended to get a base line and to decide on how to blend them.
·     Flanders V.1 (15 months Old) –Aroma of caramel, cherries, brett, and tart acidity.   Thin body, bretty, oaky, a little sweet, acidic, yet lacked an acid “bite”. PH 3.9
·     Flanders V.2 (8 months Young) – Red in color (auburn).  Aroma is more tart smelling but also of caramel, cherries, and brett funk.   Less funk in the aroma.  The flavor has more body and depth, it also has more acidity and dark malt flavors that work well.  PH. 3.6
·     Flanders V.1 (15 months Old with Cherries) : 1.25 lbs Cherries/Gallon -Extremely Cloudy.  Aroma of vanilla(oak), cherry and tart.   Lots going on in the flavor.   Well rounded the start is bretty (funky and cherry flavors) with the middle leaning towards caramel and vanilla.  The cherries seem to pop out more in the end of the flavor but it didn’t taste like extract, or in your face, but more just like fresh cherries (very subtle).   The tart cherries are definitely different then the cherry that the brett gives off.  Very interesting and pleasant.   This has much more body then the other two versions but I expect that to drop once I fine the pectin out with gelatin when I transfer to it’s 4th vessel off the cherries before bottling.  Should be bottle as a separate Kriek beer.  PH 3.7/3.8

***An interesting thing to note was the high PH of the older (1st generation Roeselare blend pitch) compared to the PH of the younger version that was pitched onto the yeast cake of the first version.  Even though it is 7-8 months younger, it’s acidity level is already significantly higher which would confirm the notion that subsequent pitch’s of Wyeast Roeselare blend create increasingly acid beer.  

Blends that we tried
·         Blend 1:  2/3 new to 1/3 old – Lactic acid, a bit of acetic on the end.  Light body and maybe missing a bit of body in the middle.   Cherries, vanilla, oak, tart, sweet, caramel.  The oakyness (vanilla), brett, and cherry from the old version is cut down nicely by the newer unoaked version.  The acidity, body, and caramel malt of the new version help balance it out very nicely.
·     Blend 2:  ½ old to ½ new - More body then the 2/3 –1/3 version but didn’t have the acidity we wanted.
·     Blend 3: ½ new, ¼ old, and ¼ old w. cherries - This we felt had the balance with the start, middle, and finish, but we felt the flavors were muddled a bit.  The other blends were crisp, and this one was very much muddled for some reason.  It tasted really good because the cherry, vanilla complements the beer, but the consensus was that it didn’t work as well as the other blends.  The cherry beer is amazing and unique on it’s own and it should be bottled that way.  

The Final Blend – 6 gallons (24 quarts)
The blend that I ended up going with was a bit different then the 2/3 new, 1/3 old that we'd decided upon.  Andrew had said that the middle lacked depth, which was why we had tried to add some of the cherry version.  When I sipped on Rodenbach Grand Cru (as our baseline) it had a depth of roast, and dark malts that permeated the middle of the sip and brings the entire beer together.   I realized that adding a small portion of my extremely dark roasty 100% brett beer might be exactly what this blend needed.   My blend also was lacking a tiny bit of acid bite that I wanted.  My blend was sitting at a PH of 3.7 and I wanted it a tad bit lower.   I ended up adding 20 ml of 88% lactic acid solution.  This brought the PH down to 3.4/3.5 which is about exactly where I want it to be.  I know that it is cheating a bit, but, I also know that Russian River and many other breweries have extremely old acid beer hanging around for just such occasion to add acidity to a blend.

Riviere-Rouge: Cote de Norde - Flanders Style Red Ale

·        Flanders (8 months) - 16 quarts   = 66.6%
·        Flanders (15 months) - 7 quarts   = 29.2%
·        Bongo Brett (1 month) - 1 quart  =  4.2%
·        + 20 ml Lactic Acid
·        3.4-3.5 ph

Bottling time –
I carbonated this to 2.45 volumes of Co2 with 4.73 ounces of corn sugar with the beer at 61 degrees.  Depending on how "still" the beers are this may end up slightly lower then 2.45 volumes, even as low as 2 volumes of Co2. 

I'm extremely excited to have 6 gallons of this bottled!  I imagine opening a bottle of this 2-3 year from now and being extremely happy!

The Bonus Round:
Don and I both did Brett L/ Brett C experiments.  He did 100% Brett, and I did Brett Saison’s with Wyeast French Saison 3711.

·     100% Brett L- Musty aroma, very clean tasting, a bit thin in the middle, and some funky brett on the end.
·     Saison Brett L – Funky cheesy aroma mixed with some fruit.  Flavors is very phenolic and fruity with loads of citrus in the middle.  Finish’s really dry. 
·     100% Brett C – Very clean aroma, flavors is very similar to the brett lambicus but and the end is slightly fruity and citrusy.  Very, very clean.  Could easily use this yeast for an IPA.
·     Saison Brett C –Extremely fruity in the nose.  Hits you with tons of pineapple in the middle.  Very dry.

Good Lookin Out:
I wanted to give a shoot out to Chip Walton, Don Osborn, Andrew Nesbitt, and Kevin Swenson for helping out with the blending.   Don had the original idea to blend 2/3 new and 1/3 old.   It was Andrew that mentioned that the middle of that blend was missing some body and prompted us to add some of the cherry portion.  We didn’t use that version but it was his insight that got me to thinking of adding a small portion of Bonga Brett to help out with the middle.  Chip and Kevin helped out as well.  Chip was by far the most organized labeling all of his glasses and not drinking all of the blends right away so he could go back to them, which was helpful.  Kevin coined the term Funky Cunt accidentally while drunkardly stumbling through his words.


  1. Sounds like a great blending session and they are always so eye-opening.

    One thing I have been talking about lately is a better description for "bretty". I have been struggling with alternative words, but think it would really help to describe for people new to the style. Just curious if you have had any luck describing them differently.

  2. Haha....I guess (in my mind)there's two ways to think about it. There's the FRUITY brett, like the pineapple and citrus you get from Brett C. (Brett A.?), and some Brett B., and there's the Cherry fruit you get from certain varieties of Brett B and other brett's that I haven't used. Then, there's the FUNKY brett descriptors like Cheesy, wet hay, wet dog, horse blanket, barnyard, grassy, diaper.... that are actually really good descriptors but sound absolutely disgusting. From you're experience do you get the Fruity, and Funky Brett's in general or is there also a SPICY FLORAL brett component that I'm missing.

    It would be really cool if someone came up with a really good aroma and flavor description of the main Brett strains. I can think of a half dozen ways to stress Brett to get different results. Sounds like the Brettanomyces Project v.2 (aroma and flavor components of bretta)!

    One thing is for sure from our tasting of the 100% bretts and the Saison Bretts. Bretta plays of Belgian phenols very nicely! I know you recommend using a Belgian Sacc strain when using Bretta.

  3. I guess my problem has always been the "Funky" flavors you suggest, for some reason I don't get those flavors - they do not make a connection for me. I think I'll have more people unfamiliar with beer descriptions to describe what they taste. I actually do this quite often and it helps me in my descriptions.

    I am planning to do a big Brett Only experiment this summer. I just need to start collecting different strains. So I'll work on getting something together. I might need your help if you're interested, if you have some Brett strains you'd be willing to donate, then I'll send you some bottles to help with the taste test. And let me know if you know if anyone else interested.

    I have noticed the same with Belgian phenols.


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