Monday, February 27, 2012

Hit by a Kaleidoscope

I never saw Kaleidoscope coming.
A fleeting photo of a pint of the ellusive Kaleidoscope

It's Beer Friday at Devil's Canyon, the neighborhood bash they hold the last Friday of each month, where they open up the brewery, roll in a food truck, and bring in a band or two, and serve beer. If you're lucky, they'll pour a special, limited release. With SF Beer Week just ending, they had four, count 'em, four special beers brewed for SF Beer Week left over. Having missed most of SF Beer Week due to work and family committments, I was glad to sample some of these beers before they were gone for good.  By far the most impressive of the bunch was Kaleidoscope, and beer that defies conventional description.

Kaleidoscope was the result of a nine brewery collaboration between (take a deep breath) Devil's Canyon, Pacific Brewing Laboratories, Triple Voodoo, HighWater Brewing, Golden Mongoose, Phat Matt's, Two Monkeys, MyBucca, and Red Cup Lager. What's surprising about this collaboration was how all those guys could actually all fit inside a brewery and create something drinkable, smooth, with a restrained complexity.

There's a lot of great collaboration brews out there, but they are almost always these big, strong beers full of heavy flavors. Driven by enthusiasm, and quite possibly ego and one upmanship, brewers in these collaborations have produced many memorable, arresting, and unforgetable brews, but sometimes I wish they would just dial these collaboration beers down a little.   A couple collaborations have been as about subtle and enjoyable as getting popped in the mouth with a sledge hammer.  So had I known Kaleidoscope was a nine-brewery collaboration, I would've figured it being some obscenely high alcohol over-hopped palate shattering mess and avoided it like the plague

But I'm glad I didn't. The spicy pork quesadilla I had with this beer made it a little difficult to fully gather in all Kaleidoscope's flavors, but there were plenty of roasty flavors from the dark malts, a light spiciness that seemed like anise and some subtle aromatic quality I couldn't put my finger on, and a noticeable  but well balanced grassy and earthy hop finish. It was one of the most unique, indescribable and most importantly, tasty brews I've ever had. And only 5% abv, it was arguably sessionable.

How did they actually brew this? According to this press release on Devil's Canyon website:

"Starting with the general framework of an IPA, the group gravitated toward these malt elements: Pale malt, crystal malts, biscuit malt, oatmeal, roasted wheat, rice and a few other surprises were selected.

To make things really interesting, Green and Black Teas were added to the mash.

For the hop additions, an “inventory clean up” approach was undertaken; a little of this, a little of that. The bitterness levels were kept on the lower side to allow the tea and whirlpool additions to come through.

And speaking of whirlpool additions… dried currant and Grain of Paradise were added to play off the unique flavors contributed from the mash. Throw in some English Yeast and the beer was underway."

OK, well that explains what they used to brew it.   How they worked together maintaining the skill, restraint and most likely humility required to prevent this beer from turning into a horrible monstrosity is a secret they'll probably keep to themselves.

A bunch of brewers, throwing a whole lot of ingredients together and producing something smooth, drinkable, complex but restrained and balanced isn't just impressive. It's miraculous.


  1. ohhhhh Kaleidescope! So great! Thanks for writing about it! I had the fortune of enjoying one on Valentine's lucky!

  2. Very nice article, thank you for posting!