Behind the beer: Pandora

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Sometimes, you have to start something without knowing where it’s going to take you - it’s a calculated risk you have to take, in the hope that even if the destination isn’t certain, that the process getting to there will offer knowledge and experience that makes it worthwhile.

That’s what Pandora started as when its story began in 2015 - a risk, a chance for Fyne Ales to try something new, to learn and maybe, we hoped, get an interesting beer out of at the end. Pandora was the first beer created in the spirit of what would become Origins Brewing two years later, which is why it takes its name from the first woman created by the gods in Ancient Greek mythology.

Back in early 2015, after a couple of small-scale experiments with fruit and complex cultures, brewer Andrea Ladas was encouraged to ‘borrowed’ a couple of hundred litres of a strong Belgian saison wort from a bigger brew. The wort was reserved it steel for primary fermentation, before being repitched with a Brettanomyces Bruxellensis culture and blackberries foraged from the bramble bushes that line the Glen Fyne trackway. It was an unexpectedly lively secondary fermentation - Andrea found himself soaked multiple times when checking on the beer. So much was lost from the gushing container that it had to be topped up; with Andrea opting to use doppelbock to give the the microbes plenty to chew on, and to enhance the body of the beer.

After a year in steel the beer was fruity and funky, with a strong minerality from the blackberries and underlying bretty funk, but Andrea felt that there was room for another dimension in flavour. The beer was blended with a lactobacillus-soured wheat beer to revive the cultures, and then transferred into clean(ish) American oak, where it spent a further year before bottling.

The result is a wonderfully complex beer - the mineral, berry sweetness dances along the high notes, with layers of woody, vanilla and almost coconutty oak dominating the body beneath the fruit. The brett character underpins it all - it’s a dank, leathery richness that adds an unmistakable farmhouse character to Pandora.

As brewer Andrea puts it “this beer is an odyssey” both in its flavour, and the story of how it came to be. In a lot of ways, Pandora is the epitome of what Fyne Ales Origins Brewing is all about - foraging, farmhouse, taking risks and learning. Origins Brewing only existed as an idea when Andrea borrowed that small batch of saison wort over two years ago, but through perseverance, experimentation and maybe a bit of luck, we’re incredibly proud to put Pandora on sale next week as part of the project’s first collection.

Pandora will be available from the Fyne Ales website as part of the Origins Brewing Autumn 2017 mixed case from Monday 11 December.

Iain Smith