Try calling something you make Champagne (that isn’t) for example, and you’ll soon find yourself getting a politely worded letter from the Institut National de l’Origine et de la Qualité. Thanks to the appellation granted upon this particular genre of wine in 1927, designed to combat what its producers saw as fraud, only wines grown and produced in this region are allowed the designation.
But this kind of appellation doesn’t really exist in beer. Bar a couple of notable exceptions like lambic and geuze (although even these don’t have quite the same protection as certain wines), when it comes to brewing, a name or style is a definition to be smashed; bent to the brewer’s will. Can you imagine if porter could only be produced in London, or IPA in Burton-upon-Trent? This might feel like madness, but this is exactly what French winemakers have done to protect their own products.
In deciding to give up this power, brewers have perhaps given up the opportunity to open doors in the way wine has over the past few decades – to being respected by the world's top chefs and almost universally acknowledged as the “best” pairing with food. However, it’s also yielded the opportunity to play around with what these styles mean, even as far as exploring the idea that beer styles don’t exist at all.
For me, though, style is just as important as innovation when it comes to beer. In fact, I’d argue the latter wouldn’t exist without the former. I also think that the idea of styles in beer is now, on occasion, being stretched too far. IPA is a great example, because most hazy, juicy versions of this style are not true India Pale Ales. But this three-letter acronym helps inform the consumer, in a roundabout way, what that beer should taste like: intensely hoppy.
You might be thinking what all of this has to do with today’s beer, a fruited kettle sour called The Big Fruit Heist from Reading’s excellent Double-Barrelled Brewery. Well, two other beer styles that are defined rather loosely these days are Berliner weisse and gose. These tart, lightly sour German wheat beers have been taken to extremes in recent times, loaded to the eyeballs with fruit, a million miles away from the origins of the style that – supposedly – inspired them.
Refreshingly – for me at least – is that Double-Barrelled haven’t leaned on these definitions to describe this profoundly delicious beer. It’s loaded with mango and passionfruit puree, to the point where, actually, it’s not that much like a beer at all. It’s more like your weekend breakfast juice; a naughty mimosa. But it's not called a gose or Berliner weisse. It’s simply described in the way that it is made, as a
kettle sour, and I deeply respect that choice. Something to think about while you enjoy this beer, and I highly recommend that you do.
Matthew Curtis is a writer, photographer and editor of Pellicle Magazine. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @totalcurtis and @pelliclemag. Double Barrelled's The Big Fruit Heist was so popular that the only way to get it from us now is to sign up to our All Killer No Filler subscription box, where you'll find incredible beers and more great writing from Matt and our food writer Claire Bullen...