“The bottom of a beer glass is the best lens through which to view the World.”
This was the first sentence on the first page of the notebook through which George Knight managed his development of his notorious mixes of craft beer.
Knight was the sort of person who could not stop himself from challenging and changing whatever already existed. The worst thing that a craft beer could do, was to exist. The best thing that a craft beer could do was to come into existence. It was a view of the world that cast stones in every direction. It was a view that was not popular amongst those who had ever been within striking distance of George Knight’s thrown stones.
Knight suffered from a ruinous impatience with everything that already was. His career had been cut short in every brewery in which his brand of research had been exercised. He challenged everything. He challenged everything because, according to the pages of George Knight’s notebook, there was nothing that was more in need of challenge than any botch of authority.
When Authority is certain and firmly in place, any challenge to authority is seen as a disruptive action. Fortunately for George Knight the opposite is also true. When Authority finds itself stuck as to exactly what to do next, then deaf ears suddenly become all ears.
This was the opportunity George Knight had been waiting for and he quickly determined, and indeed was determined, to take hold of it with both hands.
At the very back of one of the old cupboards, after nearly a day of searching, on the top shelf of his beer research library, Knight found a leather-bound book containing his notes from twenty five years before. The notes were unstructured, original, nonconforming. It was these notes, his notes, that were the origins of the first floral beers.
He sat down on a cushion at one end of the sticky carpet and scanned through the long abandoned notebook.
Yes, he thought to himself. These are the forgotten but courageous steps, many of them taken blindly, that eventually stumbled across the new floral flavours that put Workington on the craft beer map.
He paused for a moment, staring out of one of the dusty windows. Then he picked up this year’s notebook and scribbled a note on an empty page that read, “In times of uncertainty, the solution is to find the point at which certainty reestablishes itself.”
Knight, it was long forgotten, had been at the very centre of the invention of floral beer. It had been long forgotten because, true to his nature, once created the floral beer had committed that ultimate sin of existing. Knight had moved on, as night follows day and day follows night.
He turned again to his notebook of twenty-five-lost-years ago. On the last page of the old leather-bound notebook was a quite distinctive recipe, brewed with a mix of herb flavouring that was obscure and described, at the time, by the most rancid member of the Craft Beer Association as ‘barely to be imagined’.
‘Here is a recipe powerful enough to see certainty reestablished’, thought Knight.
The problem was that floral beers had been the flavour of that time. The very concept of floral came from the Members’ fixation with constraint – with maintaining the heritage of some supposed, flavourful past.
It was clear to George Knight that the answer must be the opposite of constraint. If system and process and heritage and control had brought the Workington world of craft beer to this sad position, then freedom from constraint was the obvious answer. Take the shackles from the hands of the Master Brewer. Let every brew create its own new flavour.
This was the moment when Fusion Beer was created. Fusion Beer was brewed to a general theme, but with a freedom of mixture and process that left much latitude in the hands of the virtuoso brewer. The quality manual would be consigned to the dustbin. Each production of craft beer would have a flavour derived from a mix of herbs that the Brew Master chose at the last moment. Each batch would then be a step away from the last batch. Craft beer would become a journey; and each new production would be a brewing adventure.
Everything that existed would be supplanted with every new production run. Every new production run would carry the flavour of that moment.
It was just a month later when the first casks of Fusion Beer were delivered to the tasting committee of the Workington Craft Beer Association,
It was a beer tasting that nobody would forget, although many still struggle to remember.
In Fusion Beer, George Knight had been true to his opening statement. The bottom of a beer glass is the best lens through which to view the World.
He had composed a mixture of herbs that established the base notes of the beer flavour; but then he had embraced the challenging, and added obscure herbal higher notes with the complete freedom of their composition handed to the Brew Master.
At that time the competitors’ craft beers carried brand names reflecting no more than their marketing; such as Bone Shaker, Founders and Trophy.
Fusion beers were produced with names that reflected the power of their herbal mixtures, as chosen by the ever-more creative Brew Masters.
There was ‘See Through’ Fusion Beer and ‘Forget it’ Fusion Beer. There was ‘Language Leveller’, there was ‘Wrap Up’ and there was the refreshing, rose-tinted ‘Perspicacity’ Fusion Beer.
In response to a first sip of ‘Perspicacity’ one beer-tasting participant commented, ‘It is the taste of an angel that has just tripped over me.’
Ten minutes later, when staring through the bottom of his glass, the same participant added, ‘Real power is not to be found in your ability to act, it is to be found in your ability to see. I can see things now, that I should have seen long before now. It is most, most unsettling being able to see so much through the bottom of a beer glass.’
‘Well’, he then said throwing the spent beer glass to the floor, ‘it is too late now.’
At that time, late in that long evening of beer tasting, nobody was listening. The Members of the Working Craft Beer Society, the few that remained that is, all agreed on this one point.
‘Nobody was listening and somebody really should have been.’