Talking Head’s Remain In Light could be Brian Short’s soundtrack. A cacophony of noises that are strange to the ear at first listen, but quickly melt into a unique sound that makes you realise that there is so much new to be experienced.
Like Talking Heads, Short started off studying art specifically sculpture. He then shifted focus to art history, ‘my focus was European Art History, specifically Spanish 20th century. My major research focused on Guadí.’
Antoni Gaudí was a Catalan architect whose work transcended Modernism, he had an individual style. Gaudí had an intense attention to detail and also founded new techniques in the treatment of materials. He took inspiration from naturally existing structures in nature such as the human skeleton and the caves of Mallorca. Basically he built really cool stuff that no one had tried before.
At the age of five Short wanted to be a comedian, ‘I just thought Jerry Seinfeld was hilarious. My Mom still has a picture I drew detailing me performing on stage in front of an audience,’ he laughs with embarrassment. It seems unconsciously Short has always been drawn to the artistic pioneer and it it seems apt that his storyline is echoing what he’s always sought out.
‘I spent some of my childhood in London but Atlanta is where I’m from.’ Atlanta, the home of Coca Cola and a city that is twinned with Newcastle in the United Kingdom, you may wonder what the commonality is there, well it’s 4-methylimidazole (4-MEI). 4-MEI is a caramel colouring in Coca Cola and Newcastle Brown Ale and due to cancer concerns both companies have reviewed their recipes to either reduce it or get rid of it.
Whilst in college he worked in kitchens and that’s how he got into beer. ‘These restaurants had massive beer selections and it just piqued my interest. My goal then became to work in a brewery in Amsterdam after graduation.’
‘Beer making is about creating something delicious. I always try to create a sense of place with brewing, whether it’s a place I’ve been or people that I’ve met.’ A parallel could be drawn between Short and the character Jean-Baptiste Grenouille of Perfume, not the murdering part, but the fervent pursuit of finding new flavours and building a new taste experience from one strand of flavour. ‘If you taste only what you get in Ireland beer wise you will be stifled.’ Short travels frequently trying new beers and food and noting it all in his flavour notepad, ‘I was in Sweden and there was a place that had these delicious cardamom pastries, the flavour was so intense and I wanted to replicate it for beer. I start with a flavour and try to build a beer around it, a lot of people start with the finished beer but I like to build to that.’
I was in Sweden and there was a place that had these delicious cardamom pastries, the flavour was so intense and I wanted to replicate it for beer. I start with a flavour and try to build a beer around it, a lot of people start with the finished beer but I like to build to that.
Brown Paper Bag Project
Although Short enjoyed studying history, he knew he didn’t want an academic lifestyle. He wanted the physicality of sculpture and kitchen work coupled with exploring tastes so brewing beer seemed the perfect fit for him. After his stint in Amsterdam he moved to Dublin, he has been here four years now. Brown Paper Bag Project started in 2013.
Short believes that there is a need for a city centre brewery in Dublin, ‘Dublin is crying out for a city centre hub of brewing, there used to be twenty odd breweries around the city.’
‘To buy and set up a brewery involves a lot of hurdles but we didn’t have the patience for that. Kindly Eight Degrees Brewing in Cork let us use their brewery. We started off with a 7.5% strong Belgium ale, at the time in Ireland it was considered very strange.’ The world of different is always what has inspired him so the brewery kept in that direction.
‘Part of our identity is lack of identity. We don’t have a set range, we do one offs and that was part of the idea. We wanted to reject the concept of standard beers.’ His drive to discover new alchemy is very like the Catalonian restaurant El Celler de Can Roca, they use crazy cooking techniques such as using liquid nitrogen to freeze calamari or basing desserts on perfumes like Calvin Klein’s Eternity.
There are your basic trio of beers, stout, blonde ale and lager. Brown Paper Bag Project wanted to create something that did not fit into those three styles, it wanted to be the David Byrne of hops, yeast and water. ‘Our first couple of beers were difficult to define into stylistic categories which has been a a worthwhile struggle. Take stout for example, people make stout for a reason because they sell and obviously people enjoy them as do I, but I want to demonstrate what beers can be, the entire spectrum such as sour beers. That is our goal.’
It could be asserted that Short is adding to the pretentiousness that some associate with that awful term craft beer. ‘I take beer very seriously but that’s my job to do so. All beer is, is a medium to bring people together, it’s fun. As a producer it’s my job to put all the thought in so that the customer can enjoy. It’s just like someone eating at a restaurant, they don’t need to know the exact detail of how something was made and how it got to that point. Most people don’t care about the nerdy stuff but I do.’
‘I read an article in the Irish Times about irresponsible drinking and they had an image of Eight Degrees Brewing and that annoyed them and a lot of craft beer makers. Eight Degrees Brewing wrote to them and said how we are all about the quality over the quantity. Craft beer is an expensive product so by it’s nature it’s all about the taste experience.‘
They don’t have the same money muscle to promote their product so their tactics are local such as beer tastings with food. They rely on the care and dedication they put into sourcing ingredients to make new flavours to transcend to the drinkers of their beer. Do the huge breweries do the same? There is a game called the Shit Beer Challenge. You take four mainstream beers such as Budweiser, Coors Light, Heineken and Carlsberg and you do a blind taste test on them. A Coors Light executive could not even pick out his own beer which is unsurprising. The beers are brewed to be homogeneous in taste, their beers are made of bland ingredients called their marketing and advertising.
Short is only twenty-six but his words betray the superiority of someone that has confidence to know his next step. Everything he does is to experiment with the established. The only time he ever faltered from his current career was when he flew a plane whilst his wife sky-dived out of it, ‘I went up in a rickety old plane and watched my wife, an avid sky-diver, jump out and then the pilot let me fly the plane which was simultaneously terrifying and exciting. I wanted to be a pilot for about 15 minutes.’ Short gets more adventure through the hunt and creation of flavours then he ever would with a flight map.