The International Rainbow Project began life in 2013 when 7 UK based breweries got together and decided to randomly assign each brewery with a colour of the rainbow, the idea then being that each would brew a beer based on that colour. The project proved popular and in 2014 it was expanded into a collaboration project where each of the 7 UK breweries was paired with a counterpart on mainland Europe. The 2014 collaboration between Buxton Brewery and Omnipollo resulted in what was one of the best rated beers to be released that year, the very drinkable Yellow Belly (including the potentially political packaging!).
This year, the project has gone trans-atlantic with each of the 7 UK breweries being paired with a counterpart in the USA.
A (very) limited number of cases were released in the UK, all of which came with a commemorative branded glass, on Saturday 19th September. The demand for these cases swiftly crashed Siren Craft’s website, and the good people of Eebria advised that they were 50 times oversubscribed on orders. Thankfully, I was lucky enough to get through on Eebria and ordered my case without too much fuss.
The case arrived in a matter of days and I was keen to taste and experience all of the beers and did so over a couple of days. I decided the most logical way to drink these was in order of their allocated colour, from red through to violet.
Cigarro Roja Mágica | Red |
The Magic Rock Brewing & Cigar City Brewing collaboration for the 2015 Rainbow Project is a super hopped red IPA brewed at 6.5%. It pours a juicy red colour, with an off white, pinkish head which dissipates quickly. The nose is full of red fruits, some zesty grapefruit hops and berries. The taste is big hops, a huge blast of citrusy goodness and softening into lightly malted strawberries, raspberries and sweet oranges. Strong hints of west coast IPA on the finish, with that big, brash maltiness with piney hops lingering. A really solid red IPA and a strong collaboration by two very well renowned breweries. A good one to start this project!
Deep Rainbow Valley | Orange |
The Buxton Brewery & Arizona Wilderness collaboration for the 2015 Rainbow Project is a gorse infused soured saison brewed at 8.5%. This pours a light golden colour with almost no head; it looks really flat, but there is a ‘fizz’ on the palate which was unexpected. The nose is orange, gooseberry and (anyone from Scotland will understand this one…) a hint of the aroma of Irn Bru! There are some softer white wine notes too. I’ve never tasted gorse so not sure what that adds to the flavour profile here but the taste is sour orange, some hints of marmalade sweetness but overall it is mostly lip puckering tartness. Not a lot of hops on the nose or in the taste, but bags of tart fruit and a slight yeasty funkiness on the finish. Not a bad beer by any means, but not hugely awe inspiring either. I’ve had better sours, although this is a very interesting beer to try.
Real Time Saison | Yellow |
The Partizan Brewing & Prairie Artisan Ales collaboration for the 2015 Rainbow Project is a saison brewed at 6.5%abv. It pours a cloudy light orange with a thin white head which doesn’t last long. The nose is bananas, sweet citrusy grapefruit and some light hops. The taste is primarily zesty grapefruit, lemon & lime with earthy hops coming through and then a bitter sweet finish. This is a really decent, fruity saison from 2 breweries I haven’t experienced before, and it definitely makes me want to search out more of each brewery’s output!
Key Lime Tau (2π) | Green |
The Hawkshead Brewery & Crooked Stave Artisan Beer collaboration for the 2015 Rainbow Project is a kettle soured, lactose infused golden ale with lime zest and lemongrass brewed at 6.3%abv. It pours a cloudy light orange with a thick, foamy white head. The nose is fresh lemon & lime citrus with hints of fresh hops. The taste is very sweet initially, like lime boiled sweet. There is a fizz on the tongue with lemon citrus notes and it becomes quite tart toward the finish. This is a surprisingly good beer, and definitely one I would have again. A good effort from two breweries I hadn’t sampled before.
Blue Sky Blue Sea | Blue |
The Siren Craft Brew & Surly Brewing Co collaboration for the 2015 Rainbow Project is a seaweed and cloudberry gose brewed at 5%abv. It pours a pale, pinkish yellow with a thin head which goes quickly. The nose is fresh, light, slightly spicy notes, with some earthiness coming through too. The taste is initially sharp, fizzy, sour, salty…all typical gose notes…with a light, tart sweetness on the finish and the berries and light citrus coming through too. This is a really pleasant beer, and easy to drink. Didn’t really expect any less from Siren Craft Brew, and the Surly influence makes this an interesting and tasty beer!
Ajna | Indigo |
The Beavertown & Dogfish Head collaboration for the 2015 Rainbow Project is an oak barrel fermented wild ale brewed at 3.5%abv. It pours light red with almost no head. The nose is that pleasant funkiness typical of wild yeast sour beers, backed up by some light sweet notes of blueberries & raspberries. The taste is sweet, sherbet packed full of red berries and pleasant fruit. I get cranberries, raspberries and strawberries, with a tart souring on the finish. This was one of the rainbow project beers I was most looking forward to as both Beavertown & Dogfish Head are 2 of my favourite breweries, and to be honest it doesn’t disappoint!
Violet Underground | Violet |
The Wild Beer Co & Firestone Walker collaboration for the 2015 Rainbow Project is a wild ale brewed at 5%abv. It pours a pale, cloudy straw yellow with a lot of fizz, like opening a bottle of champagne! The fizzy, foamy head dissipates quickly leaving a mild level of carbonation. The nose is fresh lemon & lime zest, with earthy undertones. The taste is sharp but sweet citrus initially, with notes of green apples, freshly cut grass and some mild yeast toward the finish. It is a really refreshing beer, much like the Wild Beer Co’s own Sleeping Lemons, but with a softer edge. This beer is a lesson in how to make a quintessential sour beer, but with a unique edge; definitely one I would like to have a few more bottles of.
Overall, I don’t think there was a bad beer in the case. They were all interesting in their own way, and given the fact that 6 of the 7 were sour beers of one form or another, further reinforces the current trend for sour beers among many of the top craft breweries. I was slightly disappointed that none of the beers were stouts or porters, but perhaps sour beers are where the breweries feel they can experiment the most.
If I had to rate them in order of my own personal preference, I’d say:-
- Violet Underground
- Cigarro Roja Mágica
- Key Lime Tau (2π)
- Blue Sky Blue Sea
- Real Time Saison
- Deep Rainbow Valley