Wild ale

Fundamentals #11: Wild Beer Co. Rooting Around Summer BA Wild Ale

I sincerely hope you made it down to the Beavertown Extravaganza this past weekend. From where I was standing it not only felt like a special event in its own right, but a little like the UK beer scene was levelling up. It was far from a new concept in terms of a modern beer festival but both its size and the depth and breadth of the breweries pouring beer made it feel like the stakes really have been raised.

At the back of the venue my colleagues from Good Beer Hunting and I hosted a series of panel discussions over both days of the festival. One of my personal highlights was hosting Mark Tranter of Burning Sky, Averie Swanson of Jester King and bona fide cider legend Tom Oliver for a discussion about terroir in modern brewing and cider making.

Terroir is a tricky subject to get your head around when you’re talking about beer. The French word, literally meaning “of the earth” when translated, is used in winemaking to describe the sense of place imbued into vines and then grapes, giving wine a unique sense of character derived from where its grown and made. As many winemakers produce their grapes and make their wine in the same place, then aligning it with the concept of terroir is simple enough. However if a brewer is importing hops from the US, using malt from all over the UK and Europe and buying yeast from a lab in Denmark then how is beer able to share the same concept?

The answer is in beer that uses ingredients from the local environment that might be a little less obvious. That could be the wild yeasts and bacteria that inhabit the air itself, or between the grains of an oak barrel. It could be foraged ingredients taken from the land around the brewery.

In Rooting Around Summer, a tartly effervescent barrel aged sour beer from Somerset’s The Wild Beer Company, all are used to imbue a this beer with its own sense of terroir.

There’s a floral honeysuckle meets lavender note on the nose along with a faint scent of freshly zested lemon. To taste there’s a battery acid shock of lemon juice acidity, with a touch of crushed grain, leading to a bright and dry finish. If you love your sours then you will be all over this beer, if you don’t then don’t let the shock of tart flavours put you off as your palate should calibrate itself after a few sips.

Beer might not have its own terroir in the winemaking sense – however a beer like this and many others are certainly taking advantage of natural flora to add a touch of local flavour, which is fundamental to how these beers come into being.

You can find more from beer writer Matthew Curtis at his excellent beer blog Total Ales, Good Beer Hunting and on Twitter @totalcurtis. Pick up a bottle of Rooting Around Summer in store or online while stocks last.