Foeder Adventures in Blending: Petrus Tasting & Blend-off
"Thank you for the revelation" were the words of a happy punter, who had been introduced to the idea of blending beers together to make one super-beer (years of watching Power Rangers had prepared me all too well for this concept). This tasting session, hosted by Phil from Boutique Bar Brands, encouraged all participants to take three different beers brewed by Petrus, and give it the old Tom Cruise. Beer blending has been a casual pastime of ours for a while now, a little single-hop Kernel pale here, a little Calypso there, but these beers are kindred, made to be blended, all with a connection to same funky mothership, the aged pale. A few new faces at the Putney tasting had never tried sour beers before, and had yet to attend a beer tasting, so the challenge to transform a an extra-dirty gibson into a screaming orgasm was to be an even greater challenge.
Before the blending madness begun however, we introduced three beers one by one with a complimentary food pairing. Here's what happened...
Petrus Aged Pale (with a mackerel, beetroot & fennel salad lovingly prepared by Alfie)
We often start beer tastings with a lambic or similar, it helps to engage the beer-nerds, and hush the non-beer nerds who have shown up to get hammered. A foeder-aged pale like this is always going to divide the crowd, and this particular crowd had quite a few naysayers. The beer was championed by Michael Jackson, and has gradually become a must try for sour beer lovers. It has been aged for two years in gigantic oak foeders, these are preferred over smaller barrels so as to avoid taking on flavour from the wood. Instead what develops is the bacteria present in the beer, which gradually feeds, and takes a very firm grip indeed. After two years of cultivation the result is a severely funky beer, where kettle sours provide a superficial layer of tartness, this beer is defined almost entirely by that bacteria-made acidity and, for want of another descriptor, funkiness. We paired the beer up with a smoked mackerel, beetroot and fennel salad, in an attempt to show how sour beers are perfect when confronted with bold flavours. Sweetness, earthiness, and herbal anise were brought together and washed down easily. If anything the flavours from the food needed to be bigger to match the beer, but when the two were combined there were a few sour-cynics who took the first step on the path to conversion. Next up... oooooud.
Petrus Oud Bruin (with Lincolshire Poacher and piccalilli)
Beer number two moves us gently into the world of blending. The beer consists of 33% aged pale, and 67% young brown ale. The food pairing was thought up with my never having tried the beer itself, I had loved the other two, and thought that I had a clear grip on what to expect from this one - that would be a woody brown ale with a citric tang and an eyebrow raising hint of leather. The nose of the beer delivered with a leathery and woody aroma, but it took a few gulps for me to realise that the funky bite I had been expecting had been smoothed over by a subtle layering of fruit, spice and chocolate. The beer is well carbonated, and the result is an incredibly mild, sessionable, brown. Whether or not it should be regarded as unremarkable or un-challenging is a matter of opinion, but in this case a milder cheese may have done the job. Truth be told, there were still some naysayers about.
Petrus Aged Red (with Jamaica Ginger Cake)
Rrrrrround three... this is a beer we have used in a couple of tasting sessions before. It is packed with cherries, with the sweetness of the fruit blending seamlessly with the sweetness of the malt. A touch of sourness comes in from the 15% mother beer blend. There is also a touch of Belgian bubblegum yeastiness to it, not enough to cause any serious psychological regressions though, it remains a beer for just-about grown-ups. This was mine, and Phil's, favourite pairing of the night, a big malt explosion with spice and fruit and fun. It proved popular with the crowd as well and the 750ml bombers were drained in a flash. At 8.5% the offset of this was that the mob were sufficiently well-oiled to get stuck into to Round 4...
Stage 4: Blending Time
Having been introduced to the three beers by Phil, and had them put under scrutiny by the mob, it was time to commence blending. It was in this final section of the tasting that all was forgiven, the sour doubters were brought to see the benefits of a subtle addition of aged pale into kriek to give that extra depth of character; and those (myself included) realised how perfect a beer the bruin is for a summer day pub session, when given a little more oomph from the mother ale. Cecilia's pale-heavy blend used the kriek to give a dash of sweetness and colour, resulting in a deep rose-coloured blend, with the leather flavour of the oud bruin bringing harmony. Some blends were good, some were bad, some were shared, some shamelessly treasured, but the real winner was Phil and the Petrus range, as from now on I will be compelled to buy the three beers as a trio.
A big thank you to Phil and the team at Boutique Bar Brands, and for those of you at home, keep an eye out for Petrus on tap around London, it's a champion beer and we want to see more of it.
Next event: Beatnik Beer & Poetry with Gipsy Hill, Sat August 6th, free