I'd ask "when does the student become the master" but it's not really that sort of question here, more rather; when does the student become capable enough to produce something to a similar standard as the predecessor, and modify it to make it his own creation?
Tonight I sample two unique creations which come from under the same roof. One from a well known brewer who we shall call Hardknott Dave, and another from a 'sleeping bag placed round the same campfire' whom we shall call Hardknott Alex.
It's Hardknott Dave's Rhetoric vs soon to be Alex's 1248 brewery Fitzroy IPA!
It's pretty obvious to say that anyone who trains under a certain brewer is going to take experience, expertise and a certain flavour profile of said brewer. After all, I've heard many a person say - oh yeah, you can tell so and so made this...
It can't ever really be as cut and dry as that though when a brewer learns under another and then moves onto his own thing. I know Magic Rock Stu worked for Kelham Island for a while but I personally don't see any comparisons between Pale Rider and High Wire. Sure, Stuart may have learned how to make great beer at Kelham, just as he did at quite a few places, but it's the cumulation of a vast learning experience which he takes forward and mixes with his own thought process which he uses to make something unique to him.
Fitzroy IPA is a 7.2% US IPA hopped to hell with Apollo, Citra and Cascade, and boy does it show! A sucker punch of caramel, mango, honey and grapefruit wafts across on the lively carbonation. A beautiful body only plays havoc to the fact you know you need more of this beer before you put it down. Drying. Bitter. Such a huge fruity knockout effect though, it reminds you of the first time you tried a fruit salad after your first big night out with the folks thinking your were so grown up. A beer which is remarkably different to beers that Hardknott Dave has produced, but you still get the slightest.... faintest hint of his voice creeping in the background, just to remind you, that at one point in the past, Alex worked at the Hardknott Brewery. It's not a bad thing.
The following beer is only differentiated by a small white label stating this is bottle number 16 of 24 and is 'Rhetoric' - a Quasi-Bombastic Beer!
As a kid did you ever get penny sweets? Did you ever get those aniseed balls and those candy necklaces? Well if you got a fresh batch of those, stuffed them in a paper bag and secreted them away at home for after dinner, then this is what you'd get if it was ever liquified and put in a glass.
It's 10.2%, there's no getting away from that... It's a quad, true. But it's a quad from the Lake District, it's different, it's ashamedly unique, but at the same time it's ever so slightly familiar. It's a riot for the senses and a roller-coaster for the tastebuds. Is it the best beer Dave's ever made? Well no... that's my personal tastes though (I loved his first ever Aether and always will), but that's not the point - this is still a great beer. Dare to run the gauntlet of deep warming alcohol and east world spices and you won't end up disappointed. I got his beer for free, in fact I got both these beers for free, and I couldn't be more grateful - tonight has been somewhat of an eye-opener.
It turns out that even if you think you know a brewery, and can almost expect what a beer they produce will taste like, just remember... more often than not, hopefully they'll surprise you.