We don’t know much about the Wild Beer Co. other than what we’ve picked up on Twitter, from their website and from other people’s blog posts, but the very idea of a brewery based in Somerset with the following philosophy blows our minds:
By adding a Wild 5th ingredient or process to our beers we are giving you a truly memorable drinking experience… Some of our beers will be aged in oak to allow the soft vanilla and rich tannins to help mature the beer, others fermented with wild yeast strains to add layers of flavour and complexity to the beer.
We are painfully aware, however, that many new generation breweries fail to live up to their own hype — though we’re not clever enough to entirely resist their allure, big ideas and nice branding aren’t everything — and so, seeing Wild Beer Co’s beer on offer in Bristol, approached with a little caution.
Thankfully, Epic Saison (5%, keg) was a triumph. First, it had that very distinctive yeast character (orange and lemon peel, exotic spices) we know from Dupont and Van Klomp, perhaps with the ‘pear drop’ channel turned up a notch; followed by a surprising, pleasing level of dry, chalky bitterness. After several days of ‘serious’ beer drinking, it was like a hard reset for the palate (© Simon H Johnson), reaching into every corner to shut down the systems before rebooting them. With steel toe-caps.
Beers like this — clean (but not too much so…), intelligently conceived, and distinctive without being silly — go some way to convincing us that homegrown ‘European-style’ beers might one day displace at least some of those weirdly cheap and usually superior imports.
We rather liked Butcombe’s flagship Bristol ‘craft beer’ pub the Colston Yard, by the way: their own Rare Breed, all but poisonous in bottles, tasted great there, and it was fascinating to watch earnest students working their way through bottles of Cantillon in a sort of inverted-macho drinking game.