The IPA Rainbow Project
It was a great idea. Seven of the best breweries in the country, each brewing an IPA. But not just any IPA. It had to be based on one of the colours of the rainbow. Very conceptual and, at least to me, very exciting. The man behind this novel idea was Ryan Witter-Merithew, head brewer at Siren Craft Brewery. The idea was that they would brew their beers in secret and then present them all on the same night at Brodie’s King William IV in Leytonstone, much to the rapture of the local beer geeks. At least that was the idea. We went along to the event to find out what they had brewed up.
Seeing what breweries were involved in this project would make any dedicated beer fan break out in frantic fist pumping. Ryan had engaged Kernel, Partizan, Magic Rock, Brodie’s, Buxton and Hawkshead to put on their thinking hats (and beards) and brew a colour-inspired IPA. Some of the colours lent themselves to more obvious ideas, like orange and yellow, while some breweries were stuck making IPAs based on violet and indigo. Ryan’s ambition was that the brewers would take to the challenge with artistic fervour and dream up inspiring concepts that would result in some interesting beers.
When we got to King William IV, which is firmly towards the top of our Best Boozer In London list, we ordered a half of each of the IPAs to taste them without knowing which was which. The task was to see if we could identify what colour they were inspired by. One quick glance and it was obvious which one was Brodie’s. His colour was green. He’d made a green beer. It looked dangerous. It turned out to be dangerous as well, as it was a previously brewed triple IPA with added food dye. I can only guess he’d been too busy to make something special. Despite this shortcut the beer wasn’t great either, too harsh and mulchy, with the greenness doing nothing to improve it. The next one we spotted, this time with our mouths, was Partizan’s Orange IPA, made with dried orange peel. Although a really obvious idea the beer was great – refreshing and hoppy, with a nice, slightly bitter, orange aftertaste.
After these two first ones it became much more difficult to guess. We located Hawkshead’s Violet IPA. Mainly because it smelled and tasted like the classic cornershop sweet Parma Violets. Some of our group actually thought this was the best of the lot. After that it was pure guesswork and we had to look at our cheat sheet to see what we were drinking. One that really stood out for me was Buxton’s Yellow IPA. It was made with lemons, which made it zingy, yet it was balanced and extremely moreish. Magic Rock’s Blue IPA was made with blueberries and tasted fine but was let down by having a rather farty whiff about it. Kernel’s Indigo IPA was one of their standard IPAs with added fruit juice. Which was exactly what it tasted like, a good IPA with fruit juice (or berries) in it.
Siren’s Red IPA was impossible to guess. The reason being Ryan’s conceptual approach. It had an almost banana like flavour, so my guess was that it would make hardcore IPA fans get so angry they would see red. I was wrong. It was much more highbrow than that. Red being a sinful colour his concept was ‘original sin’ and the garden of eden. It was made with Duvel yeast – Duvel being Dutch for devil. That’s where the banana flavour came from. He also added apple juice. Apple, devil, garden of eden, get it? Good thing he didn’t add any snake to it. This was the level of thinking that Ryan was hoping the other brewers would bring to the table, which obviously they didn’t. However, most of the beers were pretty darn good and I think these kind of projects should be encouraged.
One massive letdown was that the event was unsuccessful, to put it mildly. Where the hell were the beer geeks? Were they afraid to venture into Leytonstone on a Saturday evening? More likely the event was almost deserted due to being massively undersold and having almost no publicity around it. Which is a shame. I for one think this was a good initiative. Ryan has a history of doing collaboration and different strange projects, and I love the fact that he’s trying to get the British brew scene together to do some interesting stuff. He’s already talking about next year’s project, with the concept this time around being ‘star signs’. He was also talking about getting more international brewers involved, seeing as a few of the British ones didn’t really take it seriously.
All in all I would say it was a good initiative half heartedly executed. Some of the brews were really interesting and I’m glad I got to taste them. Here’s to hoping that next time it’ll be a much bigger and better event. Cheers.