Flying in the face of tradition...

During the 1980s and early 90s there was an expression in the wine world which almost resembled a catchphrase to describe a new sense of dynamism within the industry - the 'Flying Winemaker'.

Young guns such as Hugh Ryman were transforming the dull earthy flavours of Southern France, and Peter Bright was performing flavour miracles within Portugal, attempting to remove the 'rustic' and leaving more 'charm' in their alcoholic bruisers! 

Ironically the counter  argument to their work was that while they were bringing New World flavours to such regions, they were also eroding centuries of stylistic tradition - after all there was a ready sale for these wines already - did they need their attention  or reforming skills?

It was a case of for better or worse, depending on your viewpoint. Ultimately the consumer would decide with their purse, and Internationally, New World flavours held greater appeal, and the Air Miles started to clock up!

I was intrigued recently then when I came across a new beer from Sweden that was made by 'Flying Beermaker' Jessica Heidrich - St. Eriks India Pale Ale. Here was something a little unusual...

What struck me at first was the packaging which incorporated an original embossed bell bottle shape...with echoes of Dom Perignon or 'Grande Marque' Champagne perhaps - my expectations were rising!

The simple but stylish wrap around label too had an air of tradition about it which intrigued, and although information was sparse the use of Centennial and Amarillo hops inferred a US leaning in terms of style. Things indeed looked promising, and all would be revealed on opening!  

The initial hop aroma was clean with lemon grass and a hint of lime zest. Unlike the US style the hops were a touch more restrained, the big bold hoppy aromas of the West Coast were not the call of the day here, but the intent was clear to mimic the style in general.

But it was on the palate that you begun to wonder quite what direction the beer was trying to take.

The body was firm, but the underlying flavour was a malt base which was dry and assertive, that lacked body and an inviting biscuity/grainy warmth. The expectant hop flavours that normally follow on from the aroma with the US style were absent, and it was this lack of fruit character that was mystifying.

There was a hop bitterness on the finish, which was direct and uncompromising, but this was purely adding astringency to the beer.

The beer seemed to have one foot in the New World, and one in the Old, but committing to neither.

It was perplexing as to what the beer was trying to achieve, and it was this lack of direction that left you struggling to find it's commercial appeal.

With so much thought having gone into the design the beer was ultimately let down by the contents within (something you normally associate with the larger brewing concerns). 

It was a case of style over content - and content really should have won out... 


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