The storm is brewing
‘The bottom of a beer glass is the best lens through which to view the World. There is truth in the way that the numbing of the alcohol adds to the spin of the thick glass bottom.’
This was the first sentence on the first page of the notebook through which George Knight managed his development of a craft beer. It was the beginning of his search for a new generation of Workington Craft Beer that could respond to the new competitor offerings.
Knight was the sort of person who could not stop himself from challenging authority. When Authority is certain and firmly in place, then any challenge to Authority is seen as a disruptive action. Fortunately for Knight, however, when authority finds itself stuck as to exactly what it should do, then the usual death ears suddenly become all ears. This was the opportunity George Knight has been waiting for and he was determined to take hold of it with both his hands.
George Knight was convinced that the failure to respond to the change in the consumer’s taste for Craft Beer was the result of the cautious approach adopted by the Workington Craft Beer Association over the last twenty years. At the very back of one of the cupboards in the dusty beer research library Knight had found a leather-bound book containing the notes of another beer developer from almost fifty years ago. The notes were unstructured, original, nonconforming: and the notes were the origins of the floral beers. These were the forgotten but courageous steps, many of them taken blindly, that eventually stumbled across the new floral fashion that put Workington on the craft beer map.
‘In times of uncertainty the solution is to uncover the point at which certainty reestablishes itself,’ wrote Knight.
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 fairly described as ‘barely to be imagined’. This was a recipe that responded to the unpredictable time of its devising. The brewer had used whatever was available. The theory advanced in the notebook was that, providing the basic underlying rhythm of beer brewing still existed, then the flavour notes and intensity could be left in the hands of a brewing master – or ‘virtuoso’. If the problem behind the floral beers had been a fixation with constraint – with maintaining the heritage of the past – it was clear to George Knight that the answer must be the exact opposite to the imposition of constraint.
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 brewing master had decided upon. Each batch would be a step further onwards from the last. Craft beer would become a journey; and each new production would be a brewing adventure.
There is often a very thin line between a courageous action in the face of a determined adversary, and a mistake.
It was a beer tasting that nobody could forget although many 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 mixtures of herbs that established the base notes of the beer flavour; but then he had embraced the challenging and obscure herbal higher notes with the same freedom of composition as that found in the recipe on the last page of the leather-bound notebook.
Competitor 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.
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 whom I have just stumbled over.’
Ten minutes later, when staring through the bottom of his glass, the same participant added, ‘The real superpower is not the ability to act, it is the ability to see. The slightest action, when targeted with the precision and clarity of Perspicacity, will have far greater effect than any undertaking that relies only on raw power’
Of course, nobody was listening by that time. They really should have been.