A common reason for entrepreneurial beer enthusiasts to start up a brewery is “to provide decent beer for the local community”. And while this altruistic statement may mask burning ambition for brewing superstardom, there’s a large degree of practicality to beginning in such a humble manner. It takes a lot of effort to run a brewery and no one makes it big quickly – getting a good reputation among the locals first is a vital building block for growth and expansion.
For those of us who don’t live in a new brewery’s patch, getting hold of the beers can be challenging. Which explains the popularity of beer clubs and mixed case delivery boxes. In my monthly box I’ve been amazed by the quantity of beers I’ve received that I haven’t previously tasted, and even more surprised that almost half of them come from breweries I haven’t even heard of.
Last month, however, there was a familiar face among the gleaming glass bottles. A beery favourite born just 9 miles down the road from me in Evercreech, Somerset, that I’ve enjoyed on numerous occasions. But there’s no disappointment that Wild Beer Co’s Epic Saison was taking the place of a potential new discovery – every time I get my hands on one of their beers it feels like a treat.
Wild Beer Co are a very different kind of brewery. The sense is that their local community is less the reason for brewing than the desire to experiment. They experiment with yeasts – from those floating wild in an orchard or yeasts designed for sourdough. They experiment with hops and barrel ageing. And they use strange ingredients. Cucumber, mint, gooseberry, rhubarb, chocolate, spices… and plenty of other things you wouldn’t normally see tucked in a brewer’s knapsack.
Many breweries get things wildy wrong when they stray from the basic hop and barley lined path, but Wild Beer Co have an astonishingly high hit rate. I’m sure we’ll be blogging about some of their more outrageous offerings in future ‘beer of the week’ columns, but now I’ve got one from their classic stable to wrap my chops around.
Epic Saison is styled on traditional Belgian farmhouse beers, where natural yeasts demolish all traces of sweetness to deliver crisp, dry, spicy beers. Wild Beer Co give their West Country version an American make over with some fruity Sorachi Ace hops, delivering a citrus spark and a touch of the tropics to the Belgian beer landscape. It’s a refreshingly frisky beer, tangy and spicy and easy to drink. And like all of Wild Beer Co’s output, it’s a flavour that is uniquely theirs.
I’m lucky that I don’t have to rely on beer clubs or delivery services to get my fix of Wild Beer Co booze, but for those who aren’t within striking distance, tracking some down will be well worth the effort.
Note: Since writing this I noticed that Marks & Spencer has added a saison to its own label range of craft beers. ‘Sorachi Saison’ has been brewed by Adnams and, as you will have guessed, also uses Sorachi Ace hops. My local M&S has also started stocking Epic Saison, so I’ve loaded up on both for a comparison. Sorachi Saison is a decent beer with a touch more instant bitterness than Epic Saison and less Belgian mystery. Very decent, but I’ll be sticking with Wild Beer Co’s offering.
Brewery: Wild Beer Co, Evercreech, Somerset
Beer name: Epic Saison
Hops used: Sorachi Ace
My regular monthly beer box comes from The Other Brew