Erik Myers had a storytelling problem.
Since 2012, his Hillsborough brewery, the preternaturally idiosyncratic Mystery, had struggled to put a variety pack into retail outlets. Each season, Mystery rotates its beers, offering a fleet of four new flagships every three months. Though that philosophy has quickly made Mystery one of the state's most quixotic and interesting breweries, it hasn't lent itself to a beer variety pack. Not only do those sell well, Myers says, but they allow a business to share its narrative and outlook.
Finally, as the brewery's fourth birthday approached, Myers figured it out: Mystery could package four Belgian beers of increasing strength and sweetness in 16-ounce cans—a "singel," dubbel, tripel, and newfangled quadrupel, all made with yeast sourced from Belgium's Westmalle Abbey. Together, they would show the place's versatility, edge, and comfort with classics. And with gorgeous labels drawn by Durham artist Jamie B. Wolcott, illustrating the literary characters that lend many Mystery beers their names, the set also showcased the brewer's artistic bent.
"It's the best idea to create stories using beer," says Myers. "Being able to tell the story of the brewery through the beers, the art, the references—it was a confluence of too many cool things. We couldn't pass it up."
And neither should the beer enthusiast: The Novella Series, as it's called, stretches across the brewery's history; the tripel, or Mousqueton, came from the eighth batch of beer Mystery made with its current system. The beers sprawl across the ABV range, with the biscuity and crisp Sancho starting the series at 4.9 percent and slow-sipping Eurydice topping out at 11.4. You can move through the pack in a straight, inebriating line or skip between styles, so as to consider how the length of the process enhances or distorts certain elements of flavor. The Eurydice boasts the full profile of a barleywine, while the dubbel nimbly navigates a balance of power and pleasantry.
By nature, Mystery is a restless brewery, a restless concept. The Novella Series helps string four years of scenes together.
"I really like the ability to give someone a little journey with a four-pack. I'd love to explore it in different ways—four different hops in the same beer, or the same recipe with four different years," Myers says. "If we can get people to try all those things at once, it's really exciting."
This article appeared in print with the headline "Fuzzy Math"