After five years the Rainbow Project is ending and going out with a bang with their limited boxes of barrel aged beers. Having followed the project for the last three years, I was a little gutted that it was over so soon. The project was first set up by Siren to promote collaboration and creativity of the beers brewed. It’s been really great to see how breweries have thought outside the box with their colour themes to produce some really innovative beers, the most famous being Yellow Belly and Key Lime Tau. The best outcome from the Rainbow Project has to be the new friendships created from the collaborations. Perhaps this is why the project has met a natural conclusion. More breweries than ever are collaborating together to produce special editions as well as beers for events and festivals. Previously I’ve had to plan weekends to go and try the Rainbow Project beers as it seemed like a huge event but this year it seemed more readily available at venues and with mail order cases. There also doesn’t seem to be as much hype this year then it has done in previous years. I’ve always been very excited to hear about the releases as well as who’d paired with who but I didn’t really feel the buzz this year. I’ve seen people comment that they felt this last box was a little too heavy on sour beers. This didn’t bother me as I enjoy sour styles and saisons are good for barrel ageing. However the project could have been more diverse with beer styles and it would have been nice to see an impy stout or two. Despite this I still really enjoyed spending an afternoon with my Rainbow Project box with my highlights being the Rosa Rouge by Wild Beer & Side Project as well as Saison Green by Partizan & New Belgium.
This year I have also tried a few of other limited edition beer boxes, the Northern Powerhouse 2018, Fullers and Friends and the North Sea Bridges. The Northern Powerhouse series, the brain child of Wylam Brewery, was created as a celebration of the North of England. The box championed the region’s independent brewers with the can designs reflecting the landmarks of the towns and cities the beers were produced in. There was a huge buzz when these beers were released and the full boxes were limited to only 6,600 cases so you had to be quick to get your hands on one. Fullers and Friends, on the other hand, were much more available as they were produced on a larger scale at the Griffin Brewery. What made these beers different was seeing one of Britain’s oldest breweries team up with six that are up and coming. The result was a mixture of traditional and modern brewing techniques creating six unique and very drinkable beers.
This year was the launch of the North Sea Bridges Project which was born from the historic trade relations of Scotland and Scandinavia. Dubbed as the next Rainbow Project, this collaboration saw six Scottish and Scandi breweries randomly paired together to learn from each other, forge friendships and produce fun beers. This year the brewing has been done in Scotland and next year will be Scandinavia’s turn to host. I really enjoyed drinking my way through this box and if I had to choose a favourite then I’d go for the Cowberry Heart. It was fruity with a tart finish from the Lingonberries but all the beers from the project tasted amazing so its hard to just pick one!
Although the end of the Rainbow Project is sad I am glad that there are other special limited edition ranges being created. Each of these boxes are a bit like a music album. They are bodies of work where the singles compliment each other to tell a story. These boxes have brought breweries together to from near and far corners of the world as well as help encourage growth of knowledge amongst the brewers. I feel that these collaborative projects are a great platform for lesser known breweries stand out as well as fuelling peoples urges to travel to try new beers. The Rainbow Project was one of the first annual beer events I got excited about and I’m glad it wont be my last.
Yesterday Siren announced that the Rainbow Project isn’t ending. In their latest blog they explain that although they will not be continuing to host the project they have decided to pass the torch onto Left Handed Giant. LHG will be continuing the Rainbow Project with other young breweries (3 years old or less) with a view to create a platform for a new generation. This is really exciting news as I have really enjoyed following the Rainbow Project over the years. I first tried the Rainbow Project at Small Bar Bristol and have continued to follow it since by attending other launch parties as well as buying boxes to drink at home. I look forward to seeing the new Class of 2019!