The beers – L’Amara, a saison inspired by an Amaro Highball; La Brillante, a sherry-cask-aged pilsner inspired by the Champagne Cocktail; and the vermouth-inclined L’Intensa barley wine – were served for the first time in the UK earlier this week at Tayēr + Elementary, the bar recently opened in Old Street by multi-award-winning former Artesian barman Alex Kratena and business partner Monica Berg.
Open Gate, which collaborated with Harbour on a steak pairing menu at Hawksmoor last year, wants to change perceptions of where and how beer can be served. ‘I want to offer beer to people in situations where they would not normally drink beer,’ says Peter Simpson, Open Gate head brewer. ‘It’s about showing that beer is not just for drinking in volume.’
L’Amara (5.9% abv) is earthy, dry and gently bitter, while La Brillante (5.6% abv) has a balance of dryness and almost buttery richness. L’Intensa (8.2% abv) – despite its name – is fairly restrained, with gentle notes of thyme and rosemary. ‘They’re very much beers,’ says Partizan owner Andy Smith. ‘We’re not trying to replicate cocktails, but we are inspired by the flavours in them.’
The project came about after Partizan was approached by Distill Ventures, an ‘independent drinks accelerator’ that has Guinness’ owners Diageo as its only funding partner. Smith, who has produced beers inspired by cocktails in the past, decided he wanted to make aperitifs.
The project has included multiple meetings in London and Dublin, he says, and a trip to Italy to learn more about vermouth. Two of the beers were brewed in Dublin, with one – L’Amara – being made at Partizan’s Raymouth Road brewery.
‘I'm a big fan of spirits, so it did feel like a very natural thing to do,’ says Smith. ‘It was an opportunity to work with people outside of our normal world. We don't want to be a brewery that's in this echo chamber of New England IPAs, where everybody's brewing the same thing.’
Partizan also benefited from Kratena’s experience. ‘Alex came in to the brewery and did some cocktail training with us, behind the bar,’ Smith says. ‘He came in at 10am and left at two o’clock in the afternoon, and we just went through all the aperitivo things.’
The beers will be available at Tayēr + Elementary for the next two weeks, with more being distributed elsewhere afterwards. ‘We’ve made 2,000 litres of each,’ says Smith. Simpson says Open Gate has two more collaborations underway at the moment, but neither are with British breweries. Watch this space.