The Rainbow Project was created in 2013 by Siren Craft Brewing. In the first year, 7 UK breweries were each given a colour of the rainbow and had to come up with a beer based on the colour they were allocated.
In 2014, it happened again. Only this time, 7 UK breweries were paired with 7 European breweries to collaborate on a beer themed on the colour they were assigned. The same thing happened again in 2015 but the Europeans were replaced with Americans and this year it’s the turn of 7 breweries from New Zealand to dream up the colourful concoctions with 7 UK counterparts.
The case of beer retails at £35 and comes with a bottle of each beer, tasting notes and a Rainbow Project glass. I managed to snag one from Honest Brew – shout out to them for being mega helpful and efficient in refunding me after I accidentally ordered two boxes after getting over excited at the checkout page and jabbing the order button like a fat handed twat.
Read on for information on each collaboration (taken direct from the booklet), my expectations from each beer and the reality after I’ve drank each bottle. It’ll be a bit like that scene in 500 Days of Summer. Except with beer. And less crushing. (Hopefully.)
In Roy G. Biv’s order:
(Note: I will update this post after I’ve tried each beer with a picture and my review)
Beavertown / Parrotdog – Universal Mild – Adambier 10.5%
What the booklet says: Originating in Dortmund, it’s no longer brewed commercially there. Digging in the history of the style, we found that it was a 10% dark beer aged in wood for a long time (a year or more). It was slightly smoky, hoppy and top fermented.
Our version is a deep burnished red in colour. Rich, soft, bitter and subtly smoky from the addition of peated malt then barrel aged for 2 months in fresh Marsala barrels giving an unctuous, plummy roundness to the finished beer.
Expectations: I’ve never had an Adambier before so I’m quite looking forward to this. The tasting notes make it sound like something I’m very much going to enjoy and as Beavertown are one of my favourite breweries, I can see this going down an absolute dream.
Reality: First from the box and we are off to a flyer. It smells very sweet, like molasses and has a subtle hint of smoke coming through the toffee and caramel aroma.
The first thing that hit me as I took my first sip was the Marsala – it is the prominent flavour here. For a 10.5% beer, it’s not heavy at all and tastes very sweet – like a dessert wine with a bit more body to it. The flavours come through more and more as it warms from the being out of the fridge. The label says ‘universal sour’ but I’m not tasting any sourness at all and I think it’s all the better for it.
Off to a good start!
My rating: 4/5
Burning Sky / Liberty Brewery – Descent into the Maelstrom – Eclectic, Borderless Beer 6.66%
What the booklet says: This beer is an amalgamation of our brewing styles, taking Orange as the starting point, resulting in a fairly eclectic borderless beer without category. Oranges are not the only fruit (in this beer). Pilsner and wheat malts started the process off, soon to be joined by Amarillo, Moteuka, and Nelson Sauvin hops and fermented by the Ardennes yeast strain.
The young beer was then aged in freshly emptied white Burgundy barrels to accentuate and compliment the New Zealand hop varieties. Finally the beer was finished in tank with orange zest, pink grapefruit and a big healthy dry hop addition of Nelson Sauvin’s and Motueka.
Expectations: This sounds fantastic. A big fruity beer with a shed load of hops? I’m very down for this.
Reality: Hmm, a bit of a disappointment this one. It smells great, the belgian yeast is very evident and you can smell the fruit but the taste is a little lacking. The aftertaste is all grapefruit (read: bitter) and it’s all a little flat – there is no hop punch to round it off. There are vague hints of the white wine coming through from the barrels but only a touch. It may have tasted better fresher but it’s only a month or so old so the flavours shouldn’t have died out this quickly.
My rating: 2.25/5
Magic Rock / Fork Brewing – The Upside Down – Kettle-Soured, Tropical Fruit-Witbier 6%
What the booklet says: We were delighted to be drawn with Fork Brewing of Wellington headed up by our friend Kelly Ryan (ex Thornbridge / Fyne Ales), Nick met with Kelly and CBC and a plan was hatched to deliver as much fruity, spicy, hoppy, mouth filling (and reminiscently yellow) pleasure as possible.
The beer starts with a complex malt bill featuring our usual Golden Promise base malt but also a large proportion of Wheat, Rye and Oats. It’s then kettle soured to a PH of 3.6 using a pure lactic strain. Coriander and Tumeric were added into the boil to add zest, spices and colour and Citra and Equinox hops added to the whirlpool to add tropical flavours to the body of the beer.
The beer was then wholly fermented with ‘Brett Trois’ a recently re-classified Saccharomyces strain originally thought to be Brettanomyces and “used traditionally for wild yeast-like fermentations, producing a slightly tart beer with delicate characteristics of mango and pineapple”. During (and post) fermentation the beer was then dry hopped with more Citra and Equinox as well as Mosaic and Simcoe to deliver a deeply tropical hop aroma and flavour augmented by the addition of both passionfruit and mango juice.
Expectations: Thankfully nothing to do with the other Upside Down – no Demogorgons were used in the brewing of this beer. I did spot the dreaded C word (coriander) which is nearly as frightening but hopefully the other flavours can mask it.
Reality: First of all, I have to say that, like all Magic Rock beer, I absolutely love the can art for this beer. Secondly, I’m happy that I can’t really detect too much coriander here. The beer itself smells pretty horrific so I was pleasantly surprised that it tastes pretty good. The fruity mango aftertaste really lifts the beer and masks the 6% ABV.
I often struggle a little with witbiers as a style and find most of them to taste very similar so I’m glad this one doesn’t. The kettle souring gives it a nice tang and makes it taste quite refreshing and zesty. Overall, not bad.
My rating: 3/5
Hawkshead / Yeastie Boys – Kia Moana Gose – NZ hops and green gooseberry Gose 6%
What the booklet says: We drew the colour green again!!! And that inspired thoughts of the sea surrounding both island nations. We sourced the finest oysters from Loch Fyne, native green lipped mussels from New Zealand and Himalayan rock salt, lightly hopped with Nelson Sauvin and Motueka all brought together by a big late addition of green gooseberries. Sit back and enjoy the colour green.
Expectations: I’m not a big sour beer fan but a well balanced gose can be very enjoyable. It sounds like it may be a little too salty for me but hopefully the gooseberries can take the edge off a little.
Reality: I did noooo like this. It tastes like sour seawater. It’s not overly sour which is good but the saltiness is too overpowering – I almost wish it was more sour to detract from the salt. Sadly, there’s very little gooseberry coming through here which I was hoping might help. Not a fan.
My rating: 1.75/5
Wild Beer Co / 8 Wired – Black & Blue – Raw + Charred + Barrel-Aged Sour 5%
What the booklet says: Raw sour ale brewed with green, black and white peppercorns in the mash, no hops, no boil, wild cultures fermented and aged in re-charred bourbon barrels for 6 months. Ideas flew back and forth across the equator centered around the colour Blue: using e numbers, icebergs, berries, potatoes, even a dye used in brewing which turns your pee blue (sadly poisonous…)! But in the end we went far more abstract and took the classic French black & blue steak as our inspiration.
Thus was born Black & Blue – a raw ale, un-hopped and un-boiled, fermented and aged in re-toasted bourbon casks for an extra charred flavour alongside brisk acidity from fermentation with our house cultures in barrels for over 6 months. Every good steak needs a sauce to go with it so we introduced white, green and black peppercorns into the mash to accompany our raw ale.
Expectations: This is the beer I am most unsure of. It sounds like it could be super sour which is not really my thing. Willing to give it a go of course but tempering expectations here.
Reality: It’s now April (I originally wrote this post in September) and I’d like to think my palate has changed a little since then. I’m definitely much more open to sour beers in general but wouldn’t say they are my favourite style. Six months ago, I would’ve hated this. Now though, I don’t hate it and I can appreciate what they were going for but it’s still not for me. It pours an orange/brown and smells very pungent. The taste is very much SOUR and then there’s an woodiness from the barrel and slight spice from peppercorns that lingers afterwords. Not as bad as the one before but still one that I don’t think is aimed at me.
My rating: 2.5/5
Siren Craft Brew / Garage Project – Blacklight Banana – Imperial Stout 9.2%
What the booklet says: For this year’s Rainbow Project collaboration with Garage Project we drew the colour indigo. After much research on both sides the idea that excited us all most was that of the Blacklight Banana. Ripe bananas uniquely glow bright indigo under bright UV lights, with researchers putting it down to the unique way that bananas break down chlorophyll as they ripen. But why? One possible theory is that it makes the bananas visible as a food source to animals that see in the UV range, like bats.
In designing the beer we included 200kg on Molasses, the viscous by-product of refining sugar cane or sugar beets into sugar. Next up: Bananas. We brought in some 100kg of fresh bananas, then blow-torched them by hand to produce a well-rounded, caramelised banana flavour in the beer, which we think tastes true to the fruit (in early tests we’d used a traditional German wheat yeast strain which gave a sweet, candy-like banana flavour, so we ended up blending it with our house Vermont strain to tone that effect down). These are helped along by 100kg on fresh banana puree! As a final touch we included some bourbon barrel aged coffee, which we’ve had in barrels since early last year.
Expectations: I absolutely love an Imperial Stout and this sounds incredible. I’ve not had a stout with banana in before so I’m intrigued with how it’ll work. Probably the one I’m most excited to try.
Reality: Imperial Stouts are my jam so I was pumped for this. As with the previous beer, I am drinking this months later (it’s now May) so you’d expect a stout such as this to develop over time and taste richer and more complex. I have to say, I’m a little disappointed with this. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still a cracking beer and I’m happily drinking it but I expected a little more. At first, I was very disappointed with it but as it’s warmed up a little, the banana has begun to come through and I can taste the sweetness whereas on first sip it was a little generic.
Saying that, it’s still one of my favourites from the box.
My rating: 3.5/5
Partizan Brewing – Royal Ale – Barley Wine 8.5%
What the booklet says: Violet is often associated as the colour of nobility so we looked at a few royal or coronation ales from 1953 which were quite varied but essentially barley wine-esque for the most part. To add an extra degree of nobility we boosted the sugar content with some Riesling grape juice, Riesling being a grape associated with noble rot.
Unfortunately, Panhead were unable to brew with us or be involved in the project this year due to a lack of time on their part, believed to be mainly due to their recent acquisition by a larger brewery/drinks brand.
Expectations: It’s a shame the collaboration didn’t work out for this beer but it still sounds decent. I like a barley wine now and then, so hopefully this ends up tasting as rich as the description.
Reality: I am drinking this almost a year after I got the box. Partly due to forgetfulness but partly because a barley wine only gets better with age. Imagine my disappointment when this is bang average.
I expected a luxurious, decadent winey experience but instead, it’s a bit like the house wine at your local Italian restaurant. It has no carbonation at all and if it weren’t for the colour then I’d think I was drinking white wine.
It’s not an awful drink but I think I’d built it up in my head to be much more than what it is. Maybe the lack of collaboration partner affected proceedings, who knows? A slightly disappointing end to the box.
My rating: 3/5
Looking back over the ratings I gave these beers it looks like I didn’t really enjoy this box but don’t let the ratings fool you – I really enjoyed getting to try a wide range of styles over the last year. I think some of the sours would probably rate higher if I had them now due to my sour appreciation increasing. The Rainbow Project 2017 launches in little over a weeks time of writing this summary and I’ll definitely be putting an order in to see what colourful collaborations come out this year!