I recently reviewed ‘Madness IPA’ from the Wild Beer Company here at The Brewclub, but rather stupidly omitted to include any background information about the brewery itself.
My Bad – but one I plan to address now:
The Wild Beer Company is based in Somerset, which is sort of in the south west of England, but not as far south west as say, Devon or Cornwall. If you look at the map of the UK, you see that bit pointing south-west at the bottom? Well that’s basically Devon & Cornwall – ‘the west country’ – and Somerset is the next county east from those two.
It’s an area that’s frankly better known for cider than beer.
That’s enough geography for now, there’s a tiny bit more coming, but bear with me. The Wild Beer Company was founded by Brett Ellis (a Californian) and Andrew Cooper, both of whom had worked at the Bristol Brewing Company (Bristol is kinda at the eastern end of that stretch of water above Devon and Cornwall).
The story goes that Andrew and Brett were at the GBBF (Great British Beer Festival) in August 2010 and enjoyed a bottle of La Roja by the Jolly Pumpkin brewery and Brett commented that it was a shame no breweries in the UK made beers like that.
A week later Andrew gave Brett a bottle of Gales Prize Old Ale (a well respected and frankly hard to find Old English Ale) to try, and the idea for a Wild Beer was born.
They left the Bristol Brew Company to explore, as the name suggests ‘wild beers’ – so we’re talking sour beers, saisons, wild yeasts, stuff like that.
Their mission statement is pretty emphatic “At The Wild Beer Co we want to produce Wild Beers that are different! We must re-write the rules, excite your taste buds and wildly challenge your perceptions of beer. We believe beer can be better and want to inspire people to drink beer differently.”
“The idea was to brew a dark beer with wild yeasts and then barrel-age it. What followed was a series of conversations that led to us to thinking about brewing lots of beers that were barrel-aged and used wild yeasts the Wild Beer Co. seeds had been sown.”
The first batch of Modus Operandi, the beer that came from that first idea, was brewed at Arbor Ales (a Bristol Microbrewery) in June 2012; four months later, brewing began at the Wild Beer brewery in Somerset. The brewery shares premises with a bakery and an artisan dairy.
I admit that sour ales and saisons are not normally to my taste, but I spotted Wild Beers at a food & drink festival in London and, well, I’m a sucker for a gift pack of interesting brews.
So let’s see how their flagship brew stacks up.
They describe Modus Operandi as ‘a study in patience… barrel aged and using a variety of yeasts’. Brewed using wild yeasts and then aged for ninety days in both red wine and bourbon barrels – then blended.’
As such it’s a ‘transformation of an old English ale into a beer that is Wildly different‘.
It pours a very deep burgundy colour, the head is modest, a creamy mushroom colour.
The nose is sour, vineous and complex, reminiscent of an old Belgian ale, Rodenbach perhaps.
Beneath that sour attack there are rich over-ripe fruits, plums and cherries, underpinned by dark, sweet malts.
Sweet and sour, it’s wonderfully complex, every sip reveals a different facet to this brew, yep, this would stand up against a Rodenbach.
We are truly living in a new golden age of brewing. While I tried rather more two and three star brews in 2015 than I would have liked, 2016 is revealing more and more outstanding brews from exciting new brewers.
In much the same way that Thornbridge struck gold with their first brew ‘mystery blonde’ – which they later renamed ‘Jaipur’, Wild Beer Co. achieved what they set out to with this brew. Like Thornbridge they’ve clearly gone on to brew excellent beers, and I’ll be looking out for their stag’s head logo whenever I visit my local brewmonger.