Sour, and Funky Mead Making Part III : Blending

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If you missed Part one, it can be found here. Part two is on adding fruit, it can be found here.



Blending

So, last time we left off with different strategies for adding fruit to your sour meads. But what happens when your batch loses its complexity, becoming one dimensional? Maybe it's too sour, or just a bit too horsey. If you have several batches going, you'll be able to blend them together, which will add that complexity you're looking for back in. This is an easy, and fun process. Plus, you get to drink your sour meads! If that isn't fun, then what is?
It's helpful to know what you are looking to do before you begin, but not necessary. If you have a batch that is out of this world sour, you can keep that batch to add into ones that maybe didn't hit the tart mark you wanted. You could also just be looking to improve a batch that does taste fine on its own (they say the sum is greater than its parts right?). The ideal is to have many meads to blend so that you can churn out amazing finished products all the time. Obviously, not everyone (myself included) have a pseudo-barrel room, but even just a few one gallon carboys to blend with can yield excellent results.
Getting Set Up
Depending on how many different meads you have to blend with (more than two? Grab a pad), you may want a pen and paper for note taking. It can be hard to remember which blends were best after five tastings. If you have a very tart batch that you're just blending down, you probably don't need a pad, but it doesn't hurt either. Next thing is tasting glasses. Have 3 or 4 so you can blend, taste, and take notes without having to re-blend every time.
Pull a sample from your batches large enough for continued blending so that you don't need to keep continuously pulling from your bulk container. I don't use pipette, so I fill a beer bottle half way for each one I'll be blending. If you do have pipette, find a container that's easier to draw from, a wine glass might work fine. I usually measure out one ounce samples (to total volume of the blend) in a shot glass.
Make a System
Let's face it, not everyone can say right off the bat, "You know what this needs? 10% more brett C. character." I certainly can't. You can probably however say "This batch is too acidic. I do have a few batches that might add what I'm looking for.". Grab those for your blend. Make yourself a system to go by when tasting. Try going in preset increments to start. Something like thirds or quarters.
EX: Glass one is 1/3 of batch A, 1/3 of B and 1/3 of C, or 1/3 of A and 2/3 B,
Glass two is 2./3 Batch A, and 1/3 of batch C.

This will give you a great jumping off point for your blends. As you can see, the more things you are blending, the more combinations there are. Starting off with a large amount of meads to blend can be daunting, and time consuming. As you taste, you may realize that one or two batches aren't really contributing to a great product, feel free to remove them moving forward (maybe they'll blend better with something else down the road).
If you feel that you've gotten a really good blend, but want to take it even further; now is the time to break into smaller increments and out of your system. After a round or two, you know what each batch is adding as it blends in and you can add smaller increments (pipets with ml markings would be good for this part). You can stop at whatever level you want and blend the batches together appropriately.
Leftovers
So you just decided to blend ? of a batch, and ? of another, and just a bit of a really tart batch. That's going to leave you with some pretty empty fermenters. There are a couple things you can do with the leftovers. If they are good on their own, and finished aging, you can just bottle them up. Or you can move them to smaller fermenters if they need more time on their own.
If the remaining amount is too small for another fermenter, you can blend them together in order to take up a whole fermenter, and throw it on fruit if it needs it. This may not turn out an amazing stand-alone example, but it does add another weapon to your blending arsenal.
Conclusion
Making sour meads can be unpredictable. They can come out too sour, too funky, or just have some strange fermentation flavors. Maybe that fruit that was added is taking too much of center stage. It's important to have the ability to blend in the back of your mind, because these meads are delicate and don't have anything to hide behind, which can make some off flavors unpalatable. The last thing you want to do is dump something just because it couldn't stand alone, and just needed some balance (I'm not counting those batches that actually do need to be dumped). You have a lot of options when blending, and you may end up getting 2 different great blends out of one blending session. While you are really focused on flavor profiles, you may spot something that adding this fruit or that spice to can greatly improve.
Take a minute to think about some of the great sour beer producers of the world. They all take blending very seriously to create both consistency as well as an outstanding finished product. This is something that homebrewers can also take advantage of even without a 2,000 square foot barrel room. Just a few carboys and you're already giving yourself the opportunity to further improve your meads from batch to batch.
 
You may want to note that unless your pasteurize both meads, after blending it will continue to sour, and possibly ferment to dryness unintentionally if different yeasts are blended...
 
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