The second week of December; time for the annual look back at the most memorable new British beers of the year! I say it every year (well, I copy and paste it) but the UK brewing scene seems to get in better shape, producing stunning beers as the imaginations of our brewers continue to make headlines. Over the next five days, I’ll be listing my picks for the best new beers of 2015. As they are roughly in order of release, for the first selection we head all the way back to the very start of the year, for that perfect moment – a beer the like of which I’ve never tasted before, that made me re-consider a whole lot of things…
Wild Beer Co, Somerset
I only ever had this beer once, from a bottle poured as part of a pairing dinner hosted by the then-new Spit/Fire bar in Edinburgh, and featuring the twin delights of Wild Beer Co and chef Tim Anderson. A super-collaboration beer, it was brewed at Wild Beer with Tim and the guys from both Spit/Fire and Blackfriars. In a nutshell (which is hard for a beer like this) Yadōkai is a Sake Inspired Ale produced with flaked rice in the malt bill, and then augmented by yuzu, sea buckthorn and two different types of seaweed, before being fermented out with Wild Beer Co’s Somerset saison yeast. The entire idea was to make it ‘multi-Japanese’ to fit Tim’s culinary passions – and goodness me did they manage it.
On arrival at the table, it looked like a strangely coloured glass of white wine – and from that moment on, all it did was make you ask questions. The first of these is clearly – ‘but is it a beer?’ Intentionally brewed to be flat and served cold, it’s like nothing I’d ever tasted before (and I include sake in that). Sweet and dry at the same time; salty, fruity and tart. Every sensation at once. But it wasn’t overkill – I think the coldness and the deliberate lack of carbonation held everything in check, which was incredibly clever (or lucky, but I’m definitely going with clever).
It’s a fantastic example of how thinking about a beers’ serve can make it work – the coolness gave the saki elements a chance to come out, and as it warmed to room temperature these were replaced with more familiar beer-related flavours such as apple and pear from the yeast, and a touch of tropical fruit. With the dry finish, the final outcome was was although it tasted of saki, it really also reminded me of beer. It was fairly astonishing. Every once in a while you get to try a beer that makes you re-evaluate what you thought you knew about your favourite pastime. And this was very definitely one of those.
For another wrestling with Yadōkai (to similar effect) check out this review from Alcohol and Aphorisms. Head back to the BeerCast tomorrow for the second (in order of release) best new British beer of 2015, which hails from the great brewing city of Manchester. Check back then to find out exactly what it is. Andy and Brett at Wild Beer went on to release yet more stunning beers throughout the course of the year, but it was this release right back at the start that really stood out for me…