This post comes from Matt, the Beer Baron. He can be found on Twitter @geekcanuck
It used to be that when I thought of the word hybrid, I'd think of orchids or drought-resistant corn or even a liger. Then I spent the last decade of my life stuck behind the soul-crushing commuter appliance that is the Toyota Prius and the word “hybrid” made me think less of awe-inspiring felines and more of the legalities of slapping someone at a stop light. Thankfully, the good folks at my city's newest and smallest craft brewery are working hard to make me think of “hybrid” as a good thing again.
Although London Brewing Co-Op doesn't yet have their brew pub or retail store, their beers are regularly available at The Root Cellar organic cafe and on occasion at Milos’ Craft Beer Emporium. While I missed their first pop-up store – which was the first chance to be able to buy bottles to take home – I didn't miss the second one and got to bring home two lovely craft beers I believe are good examples of hybrids.
Just as a liger is a hybrid of a lion and a tiger (and a Prius is a hybrid of a car and self-loathing), a hybrid craft beer is a mix of two traditional styles of beer.
Traditionally, dark ales have a sweet caramel and malt flavour and – depending whether it is an English or American style dark ale – only a modest amount of hops, usually ending up somewhere between 20 and 40 on the IBU (International Bittering Units) scale. Without getting super nerdy about it [editor’s note: too late], an IBU rating gives you some indication of the level of bitterness from the hops. For example, a non-beer like Coors Light might be a 10, sweet and malty beers like porters and stouts might come in around 30, intense and robust imperial stouts can start at 50 and easily go higher and hoppier IPAs might come in around 75.
London Brewing Co-Op’s Dark Matter stands at 66 IBUs, which is right into IPA territory. So, the end result is something that starts off with the malty, sweet caramel notes you’d expect from a dark ale but then transitions to the brighter and bitter hops notes that linger after a sip. While I do love dark ales, they aren't always balanced and too much sweetness means they can become a bit cloying when you try to drink more than one – which isn't the case with Dark Matter.
While Dark Matter is a hybrid between a dark ale and an American ale or IPA, Postout is... umm... unique and kind of weird in a wonderful way. It is full bodied and clocks in at 5.9%, so it is much more lush and chocolately than something like a dry Irish stout, but it doesn't quite reach the intensity of an imperial stout. At 76 IBU, it is more like an American-style stout that just happens to be hiding the level of hops you might find in an even bolder imperial stout.
For the sake of comparison, Bell’s Hopslam is wildly hoppy – and near universally loved by hop heads –and it is 70 IBU. While Hopslam wears it citrus and pine hoppiness loudly and proudly, Postout is much more subtle and balanced, hiding its hops under layers of bittersweet chocolate and malt.
While I still hope London Brewing Co-Op goes all in and makes a really wicked imperial stout someday, their hybrids are certainly more alluring and delightful than any Prius and the brewery is a welcome addition to the London craft beer scene.