British Beer, Craft Beer, and Cask Ale
For almost forty years beer on the British Isles has been dominated by the Campaign For Real Ale and their insistence that the best beer is that made with British ingredients and served the British way: unpasteurized, unfiltered, and conditioned in casks. Kegs were for fizzy, boring lager.
But starting in the Early aughts a new wave of brewers and beer drinkers started to rebel against CAMRA and their strict interpretation of what beer should be. Lead by antagonistic brewers like BrewDog and inspired by American craft brewers a new class of British beer emerged. (Just a side note: Sierra Nevada Pale Ale apparently lead many down the path toward hop heaven. That single pale ale gets mentioned at least half a dozen times in 250 pages.)
This new class of breweries is bring pungent American hops, spicy Belgian yeast, and bourbon barrel aging to the isles. They are less interested in how the beer is made and dispensed than whether it tastes good. Kegs, bottles, casks, pint glasses, stemware, cans — they’re using whatever best serves the beer.
Among these new breweries is Wild Beer Co. in Somerset. They specialize in farmhouse ales fermented with — what else? — wild yeast. In Brew Britannia, founder Andrew Cooper says some beer drinkers might say their product “is not really beer,” but they’re fine with that. Wild Beer uses all sorts of ingredients hardcore CAMRA-ites would dismiss. From coffee and chocolate to mint and cucumber or roasted apricots.
Wild Beer’s Iduna Cru is a strong saison fermented with champagne yeast and apple juice. The beer is pale yellow with just enough haze to show it’s wild roots. The bouquet blooms with funky green apples. The palate is dominated by a spicy yeast but the apples sneak up on you in the finish. The aftertaste has fresh cidery dryness. The nine percent alcohol isn’t easily apparent but places the beer squarely in special occasion category.
Brettanomyces can be challenging for the uninitiated, but Wild Beer Co. is clearly positioning themselves outside the mainstream pub. They make beer for fans of wine and cocktails, and in my book, there is nothing wrong with that.