Remember the last time you ordered a cocktail? Remember watching the bartender pouring different spirits together, stirring it up and – hopefully – tasting it to make sure it was right before serving?
Well imagine a similar process going on behind the scenes when it comes to the beer you drink. Maybe not in a cocktail shaker with ice cubes and a long twirley spoon, but nonetheless, someone tasting from various barrels, making notes, trying out different mixes and finally deciding on a winner.
Many of us are more used to the idea of blends when it comes to whiskeys, as many of the more popular brands on the market are clearly labelled as such (though the more you get into whiskey, you eventually find out that single malt whiskeys are also a blend of sorts, but that’s another story). Or wine for that matter, of which some of the best are blended.
Fermentation is a natural and therefore sometimes unpredictable process. Blending gives the producer of whatever fermented beverage the chance to balance the flavors and achieve not only a higher complexity of flavor, but also a consistency and recognizable house character. Enter the Lambic blender.
A long time ago in Belgium, it was standard for beer cafés to make their own blends of Lambic. They would buy large quantities of Lambic beer from various breweries and blend them up in-house to their own specifications. Not involved in the brewing process, these blenders would express their own creativity through the balancing of the vast array of flavors offered by the crazy world of spontaneous fermentation.
Although unfortunately most of those blenders and cafés aren’t still around today, a handful of dedicated people in the beer world are keeping this tradition alive and well. During this week’s Mikkeller Beer Week, not only will you have a chance to meet some of these people, you’ll get a shot at seeing if you have what it takes to be a master blender yourself.
Mikkel Borg Bjergsø (Mikkeller), Raf Soef (Bokkereyder), Yves Panneels (The Geuze Soceity) and Ehren Schmidt (Baghaven) will be judging the first Great Mikkeller Blending Competition on Tuesday, May 8th. Participants – either solo or in teams of 2 – will each get a total of 2 liters of hand-picked Lambic straight from 4 different breweries and an hour to submit their blend. The winning blend will be bottled and conditioned right here in Copenhagen where it will be ready to pop at next year’s MBCC, which the winning team will be attending with 2 free Pink Tickets.
And join the event