The Terroir of Funk

Funk Brewing Double Citrus Imperial IPA 8% ABV

Wine has this word that is associated with it frequently: Terroir.

It is a French word and when associated with wine it means: How a particular region’s climate, soils and aspect (terrain) affect the taste of wine. Some regions are said to have more ‘terroir’ than others.

This can present itself in lots of different ways I am told. From less acidic soil to cooler temps at a higher elevation, or the wind coming from out at sea. All are natural factors that result in a cumulative impact on the wine and how it presents to the imbiber.

Craft beer has considered terroir with such things as grain, hops, and water. But that never really felt right. Not much grain comes from the immediate region of most American brewers, hops are limited in where they can be grown with great results, and brewers are fiddling with water chemistry all the time.

So what could give beer its terroir? It’s the brewery and the brewer themselves. Who and where your beer is made matters. Brewing allows for an endless series of tinkering which makes subtle or dramatic changes. Those choices should be the expression of intent and provide the terroir of the beer. The where it is made and by who matters.

Turning towards the beer review portion of this post. This evening at the encouragement of Norm from Funk Brewing I purchased a couple four-packs of Double Citrus. For a number of years this was a big release for Funk. I anticipated it and would seek it out. When it dropped recently, I shrugged and kind of forgot about it.

That was because the last time I had it, I did not care for the big 8% double IPA. To be frank… I thought it had gone downhill. Badly.

I get the impression I was not alone in that assessment. Others asked for Funk to “go back to the old recipe” or to “make it like you used to.”

In this case, that meant bringing it back in-house as it had been brewed on contract.

Contract brewing is something I have talked about on the podcast and it has never sat right with me. If you are not brewing your beer, then it is not craft and it is not yours. Contract brewing has been explained to be as a “necessary evil” to aid expansion for brewers that cannot scale up or as something “no one gives a shit about that…” Neither of those is true.

It does not need to be a necessary evil and people do give a shit about if even if they do not know it.

Double Citrus is a prime example. Bringing the brewing back in-house on Funk equipment by Scott and not someone brewing what Scott and Funk told them to brew made a huge difference. The beer has returned to form. It is forward with an rousing hoppiness, sweet middle from the honey, and a balance of citrus, pine, and those fun tropical notes that got washed out in prior releases.

Most importantly… no hop burn. The contract brewing stuff has a hop burn finish with vegetable matter. The contracted stuff was not cared for. That is the only assumption I can be left with.

Which is unfortunate. In a craft beer world that has been trained on FOMO and an never ending list of “new” beers, having a flagship and sought after seasonal product should be the goal of all great brew houses.

But take heart… in this case Funk has reversed course. It has returned to form in Double Citrus and is worth checking out.

That brings us back to terroir. What is the terroir of Funk? In this case, it could be as simple as the care of a brewer doing his best work. Putting out beer that they are proud of because it is an expression of their nuanced decisions, hard work, and intent. Since when has the intent of a contract brewer ever been something to consider? I would argue, it is not considered because, by definition, it cannot exist. Contract brewers are mercenaries, brewing this beer before they brew the next beer designed by someone else with some other name on the label.

Post Script:

Norm from Funk reached out and asked me to consider checking Double Citrus out and talking about it. He gave me some background on the changes but did not contribute to the opinions expressed above; like always those are just mine.

I paid for the beer reviewed here today.

Modern Times is looking to sell or for an investor to bail them out of crippling debt. As a friend of the show said: “I hate to say this, but … just go under.” Pretty much summed it up for me.

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