Friday, April 4, 2008

Blending & Bottling Old Ales

Nine gallons of two old ales were finally bottled, blended, or transfered to another bulk aging vessel. First of all, I'd like to thank Eric Gons (a recent visitor) for sharing his experience with a similar undertaking in old ale blending. I decided to follow his example and brewed a fresh batch of old ale (Fresh Old Ale) to blend with a 14 month old stock ale (Ancient Ale) for bottling.

The Ancient Ale by itself is really fascinating. Its like an aged sherry or tawny port wine (without wood character). It has moderate aromatics of sherry, brett and sourness. I don't really call it an old ale anymore, rather it is more appropriately a "stock" ale. It definitely lost all of its "chewy" malt palette and has thinned out and dried up some. It will be quite enjoyable by itself, but is probably better blended with younger beers of varying styles like old ale, browns, porters or even an imperial IPA. The Ancient Ale's qualities will most likely dominate this blended version. Take a look at the final results, tasting notes and photos of the Blended Old Ale.

The bottling process was long and drawn out. I think it would be easiest to share the process...

Procedure for bottling 2 Old Ales on March 11th, 2008

a. Prepare bucket, bottles, hoses, priming sugar(s) before starting
b. Pre-carbdrop bottles for unmixed portions
c. Bottle 10 bottles of FRESH
d. Rack 1.75 gal FRESH into 3gal carboy
e. Rack rest into bucket, take FG, then add priming sugar (cover)
f. Bottle 10 bottles of OLD, and take FG sample
g. Rack OLD to fill 3gal carboy (1.25 gal)
h. Rack rest of OLD into bucket
i. Bottle (3.8 gal)
j. Start cleaning EVERYTHING!!!
k. Don't mix up bottles/label them

Most of this batch went into 12 ounce bottles because I'll probably want smaller servings, plus they will make the batch last longer with more bottles reserved for extended cellaring. The blended portion for bottling was at a ratio very close to 2-parts Ancient Ale to 1-part Fresh Old Ale. A portion of each was bottled on its own, so it should be interesting to compare all three beers.

As for the 3 gallon blend for additional bulk aging, the ratio is 58% Fresh Old Ale to 42% Ancient Ale. Only a day later did I notice renewed fermentation by the wild yeast strains. It won't age quite as long, and will be dry hopped and oaked towards the end of this period. It will be bottled straight and blended with a different style of beer (northern brown or robust porter or perhaps an imperial IPA).

So far it has been a very rewarding experience, and I'm excited to see how all of these old ales mature and compare. I will be writing about the results in a future post. At this point in time, I just want to say that aging beer this way takes it to a whole new and much higher level in overall quality. It just doesn't taste anything like home brew anymore...more comparable to a fine wine or barrel aged craft beer. I highly recommend extended aging (with or without wild yeasts & lactic bacteria) and blending beer for those who like these styles, and those who have a good deal of patience!


Anonymous said...

You've inspired me to do a bulk age 5 gallon batch. I might try a hop-less version, the way costs are these days.
How do the hop flavors and aromas hold up after that long?

I've been going through quite a few recipes from the Sacred herbal and healing beers. I have been having decent luck with some recipes, (horehound worked quite well. Naturally, all those recipes that called for cane sugars as opposed to malt turned out awful). 5 gallons of chamomile-English-brown should be going on tap within the month. I am still curious to read the tasting notes from your four 1-gallon herbals.

Some time in the next few months, when I get my cellar stocked up again, we should perhaps get together for a bottle swap. Keep it up.



Ted Danyluk said...


Aging beer for a long period of time will definitely soften the total hop profile (first aroma, flavor and then bittering) With a beer that is still fermenting on wild yeasts, the hops fade away significantly. Not necessarily, but in general, two things will make for a better aged beer, alcohol and hop bitterness. So if you are considering no hops, I would recommend that some bittering hops get added.

I would really like to hear more about your herbal beer adventures. Sounds like we may have some ideas in common. I will be getting around to posting my 4-herbal beer results pretty soon, and that goes for a good handful of beers as well.

Are you in Chicago? Definitely would like to hook-up.

Helge said...

I ride for Half Acre and I wanted to ask you a couple questions about homebrew here in Chicago (new to the city)!

Shoot me an email:
hfpedersen at gmail

Unknown said...

Ted - this blog rules. I started brewing again a few months ago after a several year hiatus. I'm trying to organize/host a homebrew party/tasting sometime this summer in Chicago. I've been making some pretty tasty brews with a buddy that I'd like to share and I'd be very interested to try yours.



Ted Danyluk said...

Helge, I look forward to keeping in touch with you, and would be happy to have you along on a brewday soon.

Thanks a lot Eric. I really appreciate hearing your enthusiasm.

I would be more than happy to bring some brews along for that. Please let me know in advance, so I can set more aside.

I was also wanted to celebrate this rewarding hobby by hosting a Chicago Homebrewer's Tasting event. Knowing a couple handful of brewers would definitely make for a pretty large gathering.

Please shoot me an email soon. redted8 at gmail . com