#HBBAdvent Beer 17: Wild Beer Rooting Around - Autumn (Somerset)

Wild Beer says: Rooting Around - Autumn seeks to harness the flavour of Autumn with the use of a fig tree. Toasty, roasted and nutty malt flavours perfectly capture the darker nights and crisp chill in the air. Fig fruits work perfectly with this malty backbone however toasted fig leaves are the star ingredient here. They impart a lightly toasted coconut character which marries with the fig fruits and contrasts the tannic bite of the fig wood.

We say: If you, by some odd chance, happen to have Tom Waits’ Hard Ground poetry book, this is the time to get it out. The combination of poems of dismay and Michael O’Brian’s desolate photographs pair well with this easy-drinking brown ale. Having arrived home completely drenched by the December rain, the bleak portraits of often overlooked Americans put my situation in perspective. The message in the poems about the hard ground many struggling Americans have to journey, like this beer, doesn’t have to be shocking to be delightful.

Although it almost seems absurd to draw an analogy between a beer and the dreary photographs and poems in Hard Ground, the brown ale style can easily be overlooked. In a time where the craze for hop-bombs and chocolate-pie-stouts appears neverending, there is often no place for a light brown ale like this. Nevertheless, we have selected you a fitting autumn edition brown ale with figs, and it’s a damn tasty one as well. - Joris

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.

#HBBAdvent Beer 21: Tiny Rebel Frambuzi Raspberry Sour Framboise (Wales) / Wild Beer Sleeping Lemons Gose (Somerset)

Tiny Rebel says: Our first ever sour beer! We have a soft spot for sours, and we love the rich, tangy flavours of Framboise. Packed to the brim with the plumpest, juiciest little raspberries we could get our hands on. We've fired them into this kettle soured little vigilante like a drive-by in the fruit aisle. Splat, splat, splat!

Wild Beer says: Gose, is a traditional German-style sour wheat beer, usually brewed with coriander and salt. Once nearly extinct, this very refreshing style is making a comeback and we thought it would provide the perfect backbone to this wonderfully complex summer beer. A fabulous citrus accompaniment to fish dishes, or it could act as a sour lemon pickle to Moroccan food.

We say: Who says sours are just for summer? No one, that's who. Both of these beers went absolutely gangbusters at ours over the summer months, so we were delighted to see them pop up on the autumn beer lists too. And what better way to thumb your nose at the official first day of winter than by popping the lid on a fruity summery beverage? Cheers! - Jen

Each night, we'll reveal the day's hand-picked beer from our Big Beery Advent Calendar. Feel free to comment below or have your say on Twitter or Instagram (#HBBAdvent). Tiny Rebel Frambuzi is now sold out,  alas, but you can get your hands on Wild Beer Sleeping Lemons' big brother, Sleeping Lemons Export, in store or via our online shop.

The Beer Lover’s Table: Spicy Cheeseburgers and Wild Beer Co Epic Saison

It’s barbecue season, baby – and if you know what’s what, you’ll be making burgers faster than you can slam them into your face. It’s what summer’s all about.

A well-executed burger needs to achieve a few things. It needs juiciness, with a tender, pink middle. It needs a bun that doesn’t disintegrate in the wake of that juiciness. It needs ooze – cheese and, in this case, caramelised onions. It needs a bit of greenery and freshness.

But most importantly, it needs balance: of salt, of umami, of sweetness, of acid. Cheese addresses the first concern, beef the second; caramelised onions are beautifully sweet, and as for the acid? Skip the pickles and reach for the hot sauce.

In this case, I’ve opted for not one, but two different forms of chilli (this is a Hop Burns and Black column, after all). The first is sambal oelek: a chunky, Southeast Asian-hailing garlic and chilli sauce. It’s complex, tangy, and has a whiff of the fermented about it, thanks to the prawn paste that usually features. The second chilli sauce is trusty old Sriracha, which hasn’t let me down yet. Together, they add vinegar and heat, acid and funk – and play a big role in making this burger utterly moreish.

Many people would instinctively reach towards a pale ale or IPA when serving cheeseburgers, and they’re not wrong: hops are as effective at cutting through fat as pickles and onions are. But in this case, we’re making spicy burgers – and unless you’re one of those die-hard chilli heads who wants to up the ante, stay away from hops, which tend to emphasise heat.

Instead, reach for the saison – Wild Beer Co’s Epic Saison, to be specific. This is one of the most food-friendly beers I’ve yet encountered: dry, effervescent, with the tiniest hint of tang, it’s a golden-hued, refreshing, yeasty wonder. Sorachi Ace hops are distinct – and do their work to temper greasy food – without hijacking the thing. And at 5%, it can stand up to a burger but is still rather sessionable; an important consideration in high barbecue season. Now: don’t you have some burgers to go make?

Spicy Cheeseburgers
Serves 4

For the beer-braised onions:
2 red onions, finely sliced
1 tbs butter
1 tbs olive oil
Sea salt
½ tsp sugar
Wild Beer Co. Epic Saison

For the burgers:
500g 15% beef mince
1 ½ tbs Dijon mustard
1 tsp sea salt
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
½ tsp ground cumin
½ tsp ground coriander
4 thick slices taleggio, rind removed
4 sesame-seed brioche buns
Sambal oelek, to taste
Sriracha, to taste

First, crack on with the beer-braised onions: these need about half an hour to caramelise, so you’ll want to get that out of the way first. In a small skillet, melt the butter along with the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onions and sprinkle over the sea salt, which will help them caramelise faster.

The trick to making caramelised onions – aside from patience – is to cook them over low heat, stirring frequently. You don’t want the onions to brown quickly from the hot pan; rather, you want the browning to come from the very slow caramelisation of natural sugars within the onions. Cook for close to half an hour, or until the onions have changed colour and have a sticky, jam-like consistency. Then, pour over a splash of beer – enough to moisten the onions and have them floating in a bit of liquid – and cook, stirring frequently, over high heat until the liquid has been mostly evaporated. The onions should look almost stewed. Add sugar to balance out any residual bitterness, remove from the heat, and set aside.

In a large bowl, add the beef, mustard, salt, pepper, cumin, and coriander. With your hands, mix until all ingredients are well incorporated (the mixture should be fragrant with Dijon). Separate and gently flatten into four patties. Heat a nonstick skillet over high heat until hot and add the patties. For medium-rare, cook for two to two-and- a-half minutes per side; after the first side has cooked and you’ve flipped the burgers, top with taleggio while in the skillet so the cheese gets good and melty.

While the burgers are cooking, slice and toast your brioche buns, cut sides down, in a dry skillet until lightly browned.

To assemble, add a good layer of rocket to the bottom half of your bun. Top with the cheese-covered burger patty. On top of the cheese, add a generous layer of the caramelised onions before finishing off with both chilli sauces, until it’s spiced to your preference. Demolish.

Claire M. Bullen is a professional food and travel writer, a beerhound and all-around lover of tasty things. When she's not cracking open a cold one, she's probably cooking up roasted lamb with hummus. Or chicken laksa. Or pumpkin bread. You can follow her at @clairembullen. And why not grab Wild Beer Co Epic Saison at our online shop?