It might seem over the top of hail Garage Project founder Jos Ruffell as a visionary but in the case of Phantasm, a world-leading product he’s developed, there’s no other word for it.

You might not have heard about Phantasm, but it’s already revolutionising brewing in America despite being in existence less than two years.

Here, the only way you can truly experience it is in the limited Garage Project beers where it’s featured: the collaboration with Green Cheek 2+2=5, the amazing 1.7 per cent ABV Fizz Palace and the just-out Phantasm Pilsner (5.8 per cent).

Phantasm Pilsner

Before I explain just how world-leading this product is, we first need to understand thiols.

Simply, thiols are organic compounds that contain sulphur. They are present in varying levels in different varieties hops as well as other plants.

Thiols come in all sorts of chemical configurations. Most create odours reminiscent of rotten eggs or garlic while others produce can pleasant flavours such as those found in coffee or grapefruit. The thiols that brewers most want deliver potent characteristics of tropical fruit, notably passionfruit and pineapple.

Popular hops such as Citra, Simcoe and Mosaic include plenty of thiol precursors, but New Zealand hop varieties such as Nelson Sauvin, Motueka and Southern Cross have overly high levels of thiol precursors, which is why they are so prized.

Ruffell has always been intrigued by these flavour compounds.

“I’ve been thinking about thiols since around 2013. We have high levels of thiols in New Zealand hops and we don’t really know why and that’s always interested me.”

He then learned that Marlborough-grown sauvignon blanc grapes are unique in the world for their high level of thiol precursors.

Ruffell says there are number of factors that make Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc grapes so high in thiol pre-cursors. Some of it has to do with terroir, some with specific UV light in that part of the world, and he understands there is also “a stress response from plant” so machine-harvested grapes have higher levels of thiol precursors than hand-harvested grapes.

“In 2018 I had this concept which eventually became Phantasm,” he explains.


That concept was based on the fact that when you make sauvignon blanc wine there is a lot of leftover organic material, called pomace, or marc. It’s the solid remains after the grapes are pressed: skins, pulp, seeds, and stems.

Ruffell’s intellectual leap was how to get that leftover material and turn it into something that could be used in beer. It was the idea that a “winemaker’s trash is beermaker’s treasure,” he says, figuring very valuable aroma compounds could be going to waste.

“I thought it would be great if we could capture and save them.”

And that’s what Phantasm is: concentrated, powdered wine waste.

After a Covid judder bar, Ruffell launched Phantasm in late 2020. The company, called Phantasm, is not connected to Garage Project and is 90 per cent owned by Ruffell himself.

As Garage Project co-founder Pete Gillespie notes: “Jos can pick trends before anyone even knows there are trends.

“When everyone has got access to pretty much the same ingredients, the same hops, the same techniques how do you differentiate yourself? Everyone is always looking for that new angle so what he’s done with Phantasm is very clever … suddenly there’s all sorts of incredible aromatic components that brewers can use to create flavour.”

Pete Gillespie and Jos Ruffell from Garage Project

In terms of flavour delivery, Ruffell says thiols are so potent the equivalent of “thimble-ful in a swimming pool” is enough to make an impact.

“I joke about it as MSG of beer — add a little bit and it just helps everything really pop.”

At the moment, the brewers getting the benefit of this flavour bomb are in America, and there’s a regulatory reason for that: genetically-modified yeasts.

To get the best out Phantasm, it helps if you can use one of the new genetically-modified yeasts on the market, known as thiolising yeasts.

New Zealand’s strict regulation on genetic modification (and ditto for Australia, Canada and many European nations) means those yeasts are not available here.

“At the moment Phantasm is almost entirely sold into the United States and that’s because they can use genetically-modified yeasts to unlock the best characters of Phantasm,” Ruffell says.

“We’ve kept Phantasm under the radar here and we sell exclusively to America because of those GMO yeasts. We can get pretty good results with non-GMO yeasts but it’s not quite the same.”

Ruffell expects that to change in the future, noting that Omega Yeast’s Cosmic Punch is an example of a yeast that could have been developed through breeding “but they just have a precise, elegant way of doing it” in the lab. (For geeks, what Omega have done is take the IRC7 gene in the Chico yeast strain, where it’s inactive, and inserted it into London III strain and “connected the pathways” to make it active).

Where ever it’s been used in America, the reaction to Phantasm has been incredible.

Brandon Capps, owner and head brewer at New Image Brewing in Colorado said it helps him create the “ultimate realisation of what hazy IPA could be”. 

“Does it taste like citrus? Does it taste like papaya? Maybe overripe nectarine or plum would be the closest description I can find. It’s just this really interesting flavor that tastes like biting into a piece of tropical fruit.”


WeldWerks head brewer Skip Schwartz has made a number of beers with Phantasm which he says creates “amazing notes of passionfruit and pineapple … but also this wild strawberry cotton candy nose. I couldn’t get over it and it was one of the coolest aromas I have ever smelt in an IPA.”

Phantasm is by no means a hop replacement, says Ruffell. Rather, it’s a product that can work alongside hops to enhance the flavor and aroma compounds already in hops.

“I have tried a Phantasm-only beer. It smelled amazing but didn’t have that full character you want. There are synergistic effects between hops and Phantasm.”

Ruffell says Phantasm is best used on the “hot side” of the process, such as in the whirlpool and like many of the fragile aromas in hops, the trick is not just unlocking thiols but making sure you don’t lose them.

“The challenge is keeping them in the beer as they’re very delicate.”

He believes the product will also be of interest to those who make cider and kombucha and that it’s a great product for low- and no-alcohol beverages, as witnessed in Fizz Palace.

“There’s a lot of interest in it around the world. We’re getting calls from breweries everywhere.”