Colin Anderson, craft brewer and head of product development at the ArtisanAle Brewery, has highlighted the constant pressure he and his team have been under to remain on the cutting edge of the ever-expanding craft beer boom. The veritable explosion of craft beers has meant that dark chocolate, coffee, jaffa cakes, oatmeal, peanut butter, creme eggs and flavoured crisps have all had their moments in the spotlight - and, with lagers masquerading as porters, porters pretending to to be dessert toppings and the Wonka-ish 'roast dinner in a glass', there is a constant search to provide the next 'flavour bomb'.
'When we first looked at the market, fruit decoctions, derivatives and infusions were pretty much played out,' Anderson said. 'The Belgians have ploughed through most of the common ones, and anything remotely citrus is a no-brainer. We then starting using herbs and vegetables, including our award-winning Cavolo Nero IPA 'Kal-El', but still the wheels keep turning.'
In a desperate bid to remain ahead of the game, he had started randomly grabbing items out of his kitchen cupboards in the hope of generate new flavour combinations - ArtisanAle's new Marmite and Tamarind Cloudy Pale Ale and Granola Stout both arose from this approach - but this still did not seem to be enough. Unable to rest on his laurels ('Bay IPA? Been there, got the tee-shirt'), he started to investigate various extreme botanicals, resulting in clashes with the Board over his proposed development of foxglove and hemlock infused sours.
'This was when I was at my lowest ebb - my pursuit of cutting-edge flavour had overtaken me like a mania,' Anderson said. 'Everything I looked at I examined as a potential new taste sensation. Flowers, spices, fabric, furniture, all we're fair game. It's only when I found myself pitching a gingham and waxed pine stout to my horrified team that I realised I needed therapy.'
Ten months on and he back with a vengeance - and a new angle. 'We've had citrussy beers, beers for people who don't like beers, the growth in lambics, gueuze, Mars and faro appealing to a wider audience, but the the largely untouched market is the 'traditional' drinkers in this country: the Bass aficionado, the Timothy Taylor toper, the Harveys guzzler and so on. To this end we will be looking at creating a series of classic beer-flavoured beers to tempt this sector. Exciting times...'