Rainbow Project 2018 – the end of an era

The Rainbow Project began in 2013 when Ryan Witter-Merithew was head brewer at Siren Craft Brew. I’ve written about it a few times before, as I’ve had some of the recent boxes. This year sees it come to an end, and it’s going out with a barrel aged bang. Let’s look through this year’s selection, which is very sour/saison heavy. Fine by me but that did put a few people off. I still remember that awful online buying experience from 2016 when HonestBrew challenged the #craftbeerhour crew to “come at us beer lovers” and everyone promptly nailed their web site, with things taking at least an hour to get orders through, payments not going through and other nightmares.

I still don’t use HonestBrew after this experience, and the only times I have used them since have been to order the subsequent 2 Rainbow Project boxes. This will probably be my last purchasing experience. At least it was an easy one, done at leisure in the pub last Saturday evening whilst waiting for dinner to arrive.

However, they still managed to spoil it by not sending me any dispatch information, so I had to DM them on Twitter on Thursday to find out what where it was.

Anyway, on with the final 7 beers…

Colour: Red
Breweries: Wild Beer Co x Side Project
Name: Rosa Rouge
Style: Sour Saison with Pomegranate & Rose Petals
ABV: 5%

A sour saison with pomegranate and rose petals, Rosa Rouge pairs the wild yeasts of Missouri with Somerset beasties for a co-fermented, barrel aged sour saison. Side Project and Wild Beer Co have incorporated the colour red with additions of pomegranate and rose petals. A funky mixture of microbes in burgundy wine barrels lends a tart acidity and farmhouse slant while the fragrant rose and pomegranate play with the woody tannins.

Colour: Orange
Breweries: Burning Sky x 3 Floyds
Name: Out From The Void
Style: Barrel-aged Barley Wine
ABV: 11%

Burning Sky’s second collaboration with Indiana beer legends Three Floyds comes in the form of a barrel aged barley wine. Fermented with Burning Sky’s house ale yeast and a Brettanomyces strain, the beer was then aged in sauternes wine barrels with vanilla pods and cacao nibs to give a decadent chocolate orange flavour. A truly luxurious and uncompromising swan song to Burning Sky’s brief but highly memorable contribution to The Rainbow Project.

Colour: Yellow
Breweries: Hawkshead x Modern Times
Name: Yellow
Style: Mixed Culture Barrel-aged Saison with Apricots
ABV: 5.3%

A mixed culture barrel aged saison with apricots brewed in San Diego. Fermented with Modern Times’ house wild yeast and a wildly foraged yeast found on loganberries (a blackberry and raspberry hybrid) this transatlantic collaboration was then rested in red wine barrels before going through a secondary fermentation on over 3 lbs/gallon of Southern California apricots. Yellow pours a pale starlit shade of gold with a light white head. It has the aroma of sunripe apricot skin and a balancing tartness and bright fruitiness round out the sensory experience.

Colour: Green
Breweries: Partizan x New Belgium
Name: Phoenix
Style: Wood Aged Saison with Aged Hops
ABV: 5%

A continuation of last year’s theme of destruction and regrowth, Phoenix is a “green” inspired wood aged saison that takes full advantage of the unique character of aged hops. Partizan’s aim was to showcase the flavours drawn from older hops and the barrel in the purest way possible, deciding against spirit barrels and mixed cultures in an effort to bring the nuanced flavours to the fore and retain a “greeness” to the beer. A simple yet bold counterpoint to this year’s releases.

Colour: Blue
Breweries: Beavertown
Name: Lapis Lazuli
Style: Sour Ale inspired by Ancient Egypt
ABV: 8.2%

A sour ale inspired by ancient Egypt. Beavertown drew inspiration from natural winemaking to produce an amphora and barrel aged beer. Beavertown pieced together a complex grist including Teff grains (a historic North African grain) as well as barley and wheat. For a fruit addition they used Pinot Noir grape must from Forty Hall vineyards in North London. The beer was then fermented with a sour mix featuring a range of wild yeasts and bacteria, simulating the cultures which would have been prevalent in pre-20th century beer production. The beer was then aged in amphora and red wine barrels on pinot noir grape skins for eight months.

Colour: Indigo
Breweries: Magic Rock x Casita Cervecería
Name: Papillon
Style: Barrel-aged Sour Ale with Blueberry, Apricot and Pea Flowers
ABV: 7.5%

Magic Rock’s Indigo release comes in the form of a barrel aged sour ale with blueberry, apricot and butterfly pea flowers. The foundation of this finale comes in the form of beautiful French oak barrels. The freshly emptied barrels came from different Châteaus nestling against the “Garonne” river in Bordeaux. The white wine was made from varietals of Sauvignon Blanc and Sémillon (2013 and 2014 vintages). Atop of the base beer fermented in the barrels with a mixed wild yeast culture butterfly pea flowers were used to introduce the colour indigo. To augment the colour and add a fruity depth, blueberry and apricot concentrate were added. The blueberry a fitting link to Magic Rock’s first Rainbow Project beer in 2013: a blueberry IPA they called “Beauregarde”.

Colour: Violet
Breweries: Siren x Sante Adairius
Name: Equilibrium
Style: Red Wine Barrel-Fermented Saison Blend
ABV: 5.8%

Equilibrium is a red wine barrel fermented saison. This year Siren wanted to create a concept to link up with their previous release, the “blue” themed Santo del Frio. The theme for Santo del Frio was tied to cold, Siren even used cryogenically frozen hops! In order to get to violet, they blended that beer with something hot. A red-inspired, warm-pitched, red wine barrel fermented saison. The finished beer is Equilibrium – violet. It displays flavour-packed character from across the spectrum, while crucially, being a complex but incredibly easy drinking saison.

Goodbye Rainbow Project, I look forward to drinking you for the last time.

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