“Beer does not make itself properly by itself. It takes an element of mystery and of things that no one can understand.”
– Fritz Maytag
You’ll find this quote from the “godfather” of modern craft brewing, Fritz Maytag, throughout the building that houses one of North Carolina’s newer breweries, Mystery Brewing. It’s with good reason – invention, innovation and playing with beer seems to be the raison d’etre of an outfit that prides itself on producing quality, seasonal-only beers that have been a hit around here. This weekend I spent a couple hours soaking up some suds and knowledge as part of a brewery “tour.”
I use the “tour” moniker because really it was simply CEO and head brewer (and author) Erik Lars Myers presenting to a crowd of about 100 people in front of their seven-barrel system. But that’s OK, it ended up being one of the better brewery experiences because Erik was so candid and available. He spent his time first talking to our group, then showing off some storage space and chatting with anyone who wanted to say hello or ask about the brewing process.
… and what a cool process it is. One of the aspects I love about Mystery is its consistently evolving lineup of brews, which change each season and feature everything from a black saison to a smoked rye stout. The lack of true flagship beers means that Erik and assistant brewer Chris Shields get to play, something Erik did as a homebrewer for 13 years making upward of 1,000 batches:
Naturally, I also enjoyed the beer. Erik pointed out during his talk that because people don’t focus on drinking only one beer anymore, it offers up inspiration to create the ragtag list of brews above. He said it’s now about being a “portfolio drinker” because “people want something exciting and new” all the time … which I think it particularly accurate for a beer nerd such as myself. While at the tour, I got samples of some Mystery beers – including Papa Bois, which I’ve espoused over before.
I loved their Pickwick, an English mild ale that’s perfectly and accurately sessionable at 3.5 percent ABV and offers a slightly malty flavor with a hint of caramel. I also found this season’s IPA, Lockwood’s Retreat, to be pretty unique. It has 80 IBUs that you can’t really catch outside the smell of citrus-forward American hops. It’s because the smell is balanced out by another caramel, malty flavor that gives the IPA a strong base that won’t kill your taste buds, making it a rare hoppy beer you can drink multiple glasses of without losing your sense of taste.
The downside of this brewery? Outside of beer festivals, you’ll only find their brews here in North Carolina. However, this at least gives a reason to visit Mystery’s home base of Hillsborough or any of the other NC cities where Mystery is served.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention perhaps the coolest fact about Mystery Brewing – it was the first Kickstarter-funded brewery. This just goes to show the passion people have (especially around here in North Carolina) for their craft beer, let alone an inventive brewery that keeps offering new aromas and flavors to enjoy.
Check out lots more info on Mystery at their website.