Should craft beer be considered an artform? A lot of beer these days could perhaps be described as “artisanal”, and some breweries are so confident in what they make – and how they make it – that they also use the term to describe themselves. “Artisanal ales” does have a lovely ring to it, after all.
For a small brewery, doing things the hard way, it makes sense to use the term. Like a lot of other small food industries including cheesemaking or baking, the process of mashing in grains, stewing hops and carefully managing fermentation is indeed artisanal. But when it comes to brewing, the reality is that even for the smallest producers there’s far more to it than that. There’s the engineering part: pumping liquids around a brewhouse, maintaining several industrial-sized steel vessels, and the use of chemicals to keep them spotless. Then there’s the science part: checking healthy cell counts in your yeast, ensuring there’s no spoilage or off flavours from bacteria or other unwanted microflora, and ensuring that target ABV is bob-on.
While the above simplifies the process somewhat, it's the coming together of art, science and engineering that makes beer a craft. Even though the phrase “craft beer” has been recklessly abused by those who see it as a marketing term rather than a process, it’s still effective. It actually means something to people. And yes, of course beer can be an artform. Anything that’s both joyous and delicious deserves to be held in such a regard. Just take this latest collaboration between Mitcham’s Drop Project Brewing and the Tate Modern art gallery as a bona fide example.
Established as recently as August 2019, Drop Project successfully weathered launching a brewery just before a global pandemic struck, which means it can continue to deliver the soft, juicy, crushable beers it has quickly built a reputation upon.
This collaboration with Tate Modern – appropriately named Haze – is a typical example of the kind of beer this brewery produces. North American Azacca, Citra and Mosaic hops are to the fore, imbuing this beer with aromas of cantaloupe and pineapple that translate beautifully into each and every sip. As a twist, Haze also features the addition of yuzu juice, delivering the tangy citrus quality this en vogue fruit has become known for.
While there’s a lot going on in this beer, a pillowy soft body and dry finish prevent any of these flavours becoming overbearing, keeping everything in balance. And at just 4.6%, it’s a hard beer to put down once you start sipping. Best enjoyed straight from the can, after an afternoon spent contemplating if beer really can be considered an artform.
Matthew Curtis is a writer, photographer and editor of Pellicle Magazine. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @totalcurtis and @pelliclemag. Sign up to our All Killer No Filler subscription box and you'll find incredible beers like this one every month, plus more great writing from Matthew and our food writer Claire Bullen.