Wednesday 15 August 2018

Wild, wild beer

It's colder inside, a welcome escape from the blistering heat. Away from the blazing sun it's dark until your eyes adjust, revealing rows of wooden barrels stretching into the gloom where microorganisms get to work on the wild beer. The damp, dank cold makes the building  feel like a cellar, not a warehouse. A musty smell pervades the atmosphere, invoking thoughts of moist earth, mushroom compost and slowly maturing beer. Brewed on modern plant just across the yard the beer takes on a primitive, more elemental character in the barrel store. The careful controls of the brewhouse are abandoned for the primitive world of yeast and bacteria which slowly transmute the wort into wild beer.

That's it, I can't manage any more. I'm not up to this.

When I visited Wild Beer brewery I bumped into beer writer Adrian Tierney-Jones and talked about beer and beer writing as we avoided the England world cup match. At the moment he's focussing on capturing 'moments' so I thought I have a go at the moment of entering the barrel store, but I'm really not cut out for it. He can do gloriously paragraph break free streams of consciousnesses but for me it's like getting blood out of a stone, and after several hours I'm left with a modest amount of words that wouldn't look out of place as a single paragraph. Certainly not an impressively intimidating block of text that would be difficult to follow. This beer writing isn't easy.

Wild Beer were having an open day/beer festival thing and thanks to the Guild of Beer Writers I'd got free entry and ten pounds worth of beer tokens. Which didn't go very far, but that's just as well as I was driving. They're in the process of building a bigger brewery but currently are brewing three times a day on 30hl kit.

Can't be many 30hl breweries with a centrifuge
We had an excellent tour from a very knowledgeable brewer.

Mash tun and two 30hl copper/whirlpools

They have onsite bottling and canning. The canning equipment is a bit newer so actually has less oxygen pick up than with the bottling.

They also do beer in cask and keg.

There were lots of cyclindroconical fermenters...

...but also wooden vats:

'Clean' and 'wild' beers are currently produced on the same site, though they did have different colour coded hoses to help with avoiding cross contamination. It must be fun getting to make such a diverse range of beers.

There was an impressive selection of (slightly) sour beers available and a mushroom one called 'Breakfast of Champignons' which should surely win an award for the name. Certainly the wild beers were the stars of the show, though I can't help but suspect that the clean ones help keep sales high. It will be interesting to see where they do with the new brewery.


  1. I was a bit suspicious of Wild when they launched; they got a big writeup in B&B's book, and it was only after several pages of hey! and wow! that they let slip that they weren't actually doing anything with wild yeast yet. Fair play to them that they're actually doing it now, and at scale.

    I've tried writing like ATJ myself; it looks like it should be the easiest thing in the world but it's really hard. Ars est celare artem and all that.

    1. I'm still not sure how much the image matches the production.
      I knew I'd have trouble trying to do an ATJ as I'm quite terse when it comes to writing. I really need to work on my going off at a tangent I think.

  2. It was interesting, 2013. What we were interested in was the excitement around a new brewery that had hardly done *anything* at that point (the progression in terms of buzz was Magic Rock > Wild Beer > Cloudwater, as we recall it) but was talking about doing something that felt really new and a bit bonkers.

    There was clearly some serious interest in this idea of wild/sour/barrel-aged among a subset of a subset of beer geeks and, several years on, it's very much become A Thing.

    FWIW, Jess and I aren't mad keen on most Wild Beer Co beers in practice, but rather like the contribution they make to The Scene in terms of variety.

    1. I had some samples of Wild Beer's beers back in the early days and to be honest they were awful. But great branding and an interesting idea. I'd say they've got as far as making good beer, but I don't think I've had anything from them I think is great.