When I started this column, I called it Fundamentals because I wanted it to focus on the key elements of beer and brewing.
Initially, I wanted to look at the raw materials themselves, starting with the four key ingredients of water, hops, malted grains and yeast, before delving into adjuncts, from toasted coconut to tonka beans. But my concept of what I consider “fundamental” to modern brewing extends far beyond simply what goes into every keg, cask, bottle and can.
The culture of beer itself and the elements that bind it together are also key to its existence. This is in the back of my mind every time I sit down to write my column. The notion that beer makes you feel happy, content and relaxed, the idea that it can be a social or solitary event… These are all fundamentals within beer. Citra hops ain’t nothing without a good pal to chat with about why they’re so damn delicious.
When you get into beer – and I mean really into it, like you and I am – there can be a tendency to over-analyse the technical side of things. Leaning too hard into this can actually have the effect of removing the joy of drinking a beer. This is not to discourage you from actively learning about the technical side of beer making, of course. What I’m getting at, is that it’s just beer and sometimes it pays to not take it too seriously. (And I say that as someone who makes their living from writing about it.)
When it comes to not taking beer and brewing too seriously, there are breweries like North London’s Pressure Drop, which masterfully combines a sense of fun and irreverence with some seriously tasty brewing chops. This hazy, juicy IPA called Cheese, now in its second iteration, is a wonderful example of this.
Firstly, there’s the label, which recalls the heyday of some seriously wonderful 70s-era supermarket branding. Then there’s the beer itself, which is so fruity and resinous you’d easily be convinced your local dealer has somehow slipped a £30-bag in there. We’re talking cantaloupe melon, grapefruit zest, mango pulp and a whole caboodle more, the flavours stacked on top of each other waiting for you to take another deep slug so they can embrace you, tightly.
Sometimes, when I remember, I write tasting notes in a little notepad while I am reviewing a beer, and for this I just wrote: “fucking incredible”. If hops were sentient, this is what they would want to taste like when presented in a beer. Well done Pressure Drop, not just for this god-tier hazy IPA, but for reminding us, regularly, not to take it too seriously.
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.