Speciality beers.

With the latest IndyManBeerCon only hours away, I was listening to the @BeerOClockShow interview with Claudia from the Indyman team about the collaboration beers that were being brewed for the event and drinking the Ilkley Brewery/Melissa Cole collab Siberia got me thinking…..

Every beer festival I’ve ever attended has had new beers at the event, many are special one off beers.  The CAMRA Newcastle Beer festival holds a competition each year where many local brewers launch new beers to compete for champion beer, which is highly covetted.  The winning beer is usually the first to sell out.  Beer festivals up and down the country have become a hot bed of collaboration beers and one off beers that are highly unlikely to be repeated.  I think this is a great driver for innovation in the industry and the development of the whole craft beer movement (which only exists thanks to that innovation).  These beers tend to push boundaries and take brewers outside their comfort zones into experimental horizons.  It also helps an annual festival if its not simply serving up the same beers year on year, no matter how great those beers are variety is the spice of life!

The one thing that nags at my mind here though is a tweet by @MagicRockRich, which simply said “Hate how tickers try a beer once when its new, then move on to the next, drives me up the wall.  So much of brewing is perfecting recipes”.  Whilst this was aimed at those drinkers who drink to get their untapped badges and unique check ins, I also see that the message here is that beers evolve.  Take Magic Rock’s own Unhuman Cannonball as a classic example of this.  The 2014 version was distinctly different to the 2013 version, and all those little subtle changes were driven by the brewer perfecting his recipe/technique and each and every time he brews that beer it will edge closer to the beer that the brewer wants it to be.  No beer will ever be at its best the first time its brewed.  Did people prefer the 2014 version or the 2013?  I suspect the brewer feels the 2014 version is the better beer (‘better’ being closer to the beer that he wants it to be).  And I’ve no doubt it will evolve again, the 2015 version will be different, the differences may be even more subtle but there will be differences. 

The most important ingredient, the one you won’t see listed in any recipe book, is the brewers experience, and in a period where many breweries are only a handful of years old, 12 months between annual releases represents a huge increase in experience for the brewer.  Apply that growing experience to the regularly brewed beers such as standard Cannonball (asif that beer could ever be called standard!) and you can see how a great beer at inception, has become the truly world class IPA that we have today. There are a great number of examples of this, I highlight the Magic Rock beers simply to tie in with Rich’s comments but all breweries are the same, they are all improving through learning, and are learning through brewing, and are still brewing through the success of their previous batches of beers, which are ever improving!  Win = win = win = win.

So enjoy the new beers with their innovative freshness, but also take time to enjoy and appreciate the maturity of the former ‘new’ beers.  They may well just be approaching their prime!

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