Besides the marketing aspects, what goes into a brewery’s decision to bundle the beers it distributes into a series?
Founders’ Backstage Series promoted exclusivity, taking its most sought-after and boundary-pushing beers and releasing a few per year. These creations pushed the envelope. KBS, CBS, Blushing Monk — these are beers for which you mark your calendar for and clear your schedule.
Other series invoke a brewery’s mission statement, like Anderson Valley’s Mendonesia series. It covers a swath of offerings while reflecting Anderson Valley’s northern California surroundings. Other breweries have narrow-minded series, with approaches centered on specific styles, small batches, or even tie-ins to epic TV shows. With so many takes on so many styles, it’s a marketing department’s lump of clay from which to sculpt a winning collection for the consumer.
The Planet Series takes the brewery’s slogan (Inspired Brewing) quite literally. Founder Larry Bell, influenced by music from Gustav Holst, created the series, which debuted in August 2014 with Mars, a Double IPA. Six other beers followed after Mars, culminating with Neptune, a mystical Stout, in July 2015. Each beer paired with its respective movement in Holst’s orchestral suite, creating a fun look into a brewer’s mind and interests. At the very least, the Planet Series provided an excuse to squirrel away the entire series for a bottle share set to music.
Mars has a finish that is similar to Hopslam’s honey, but with a touch more pine.”
Rather than simply assigning each beer a planet name, Bell’s Planet Series embodied each arrangement of Holst’s composition. Saturn, The Bringer of Old Age, is a barrel aged Barleywine. Neptune, the mystic, packs a litany of spices and ingredients. These made the Planet Series a foundation for experimentation while also adhering to the musical guidelines it set for itself.
Bell’s thought enough of Mars to bring it back for another look. It’s a lovely looking orangish-red, true to its orbital namesake. Be advised to make it a one-time journey to Mars, though, for your own sake. The 10.1% alcohol by volume is well, well hidden. That might inspire another trip to the fridge, but it could also catch up with you quickly.
If you’re fortunate enough to have tasted Bell’s more popular Double IPA, Hopslam, consider this an alternative in the Hopslam offseason. Mars has a finish that is similar to Hopslam’s honey, but with a touch more pine. Also like Hopslam, it’s in triple digit IBUs. The bitterness is evident, but not off-putting for someone adverse to a hop bomb. At about $18 per six pack, it might not be the best value, but it’s well worth acquiring.
As a standalone offering, Mars is a fine addition to any brewery’s calendar. When pieced together with an iconic musical suite, it offers something much deeper. By successfully pairing beer styles to music, Bell’s has scored another hit.