Tag Archives: Wild Beer Co

Best New Beers of 2015…Wild Beer Co Yadōkai

Yadokai

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…



Yadōkai (13%)
Wild Beer Co, Somerset
(bottle/keg, January)

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…

Breweries to watch out for in 2014

Last year, right at the beginning of January, I posted a list of breweries to watch out for in 2013. Looking back, the overall pick to take that next step (Cromarty Brewing Co) had a terrific year, and pretty much all of the other choices also produced fantastic beer. Despite the pressures of the recession and the increasingly contested market, the British brewing scene continues to be in good health – and for that, we have to thank the men and women making our beer; for their skill, commitment and imagination. Here, then, is a list of UK breweries who I think will move to that next level over the course of 2014…

SCOTLAND

WBrosLogo

Williams Bros – There can’t be a brewery in Scotland with a more exciting 2014 ahead than the brotherhood from Alloa. Following the announcement back in August of a £1m expansion (the ramifications of which I discussed back then), two months later it was revealed they were going halfsies on a new ‘craft’ brewery in Glasgow with the C&C Group (i.e. Tennent’s). Stand by for an exclusive BeerCast report on that particular chestnut very soon, but with so much going on, Williams Bros have to be the Scottish brewery to keep an eye on this year.

 

 

TempestLogo

Tempest – The Borders’ finest were my overall pick to break out in 2012, and they certainly delivered some fantastic beers, cementing themselves in the Scottish brewing scene. The reason I’m tipping them again for 2014 is that, finally, it seems as if the light is at the end of the tunnel for their long-awaited expansion plan. There’s still (at least) one issue to be resolved, but once everything is squared away, the old dairy can be mothballed and Gavin and the gang can spread their wings and really aim for the top. Given the instant success of their barrel-ageing programme (see: Old Parochial), Tempest aren’t far off being there already.

 

 

AlechemyLogo

Alechemy – This Spring will see the second anniversary of Dr James Davies founding the Alechemy brewery, and it arrives in the middle of a very important year for the Livingston outfit. Following the steady building of the brewery, within the last few months all kinds of things have changed, with multiple hirings, new kit, a re-brand, a barrel-ageing programme, and an entire second line of up-to-the-minute beer styles. 2014 has to be the year where all of this pays off, and the long-awaited bottling line is surely a huge step in the right direction.

 

 

ArranLogo

Arran – I’ve had my differences with Arran Brewery MD Gerald Michaluk in the past (or to be exact, he had differences with me), but yet again this coming year seems to be one that could define his brewery. After the 2012 meta-expansion plan was torpedoed by the Government, Arran have left the Isle of Skye brewery at the altar and will look to open a second mainland brewery instead (at St Fillans on Loch Earn), and then a third at the Rosebank distillery in Falkirk. Share offers, distilleries, bars, bottling – it’s all in there too. Who will stand in his way this time?

 

 

Print

Innis & Gunn – My outside bet for this year are everyone’s favourite chippers, Innis & Gunn. Loved by many as a gateway to interesting beer, derided by others for not having their own brewery, I think 2014 could be pivotal for Edinburgh/Glasgow’s finest. If you could lay money down on the brewing industry, I might well put a modest each-way sum on Innis & Gunn taking the plunge this year, and breaking free of the Wellpark’s comforting, lager-filled umbilical. So far, I&G have built a hugely successful empire through contract-brewing; surely now is the time for them to stand up and actually become the brewery they, and others, think they should be.

 

 

StAndrewsLogo

St Andrews – I’m listing the St Andrews Brewery here, but I may as well have added their near neighbours Eden Brewing as well – both are in the starting blocks for a fairly big 2014. Eden are expanding their Guardbridge site, increasing brewkit and exploring markets for their products (and also, again, looking at different forms of booze). St Andrews, for their part, have won a Sainsbury’s deal, and have just opened a brewery tap in the centre of the town (having leapfrogged Eden from Glenrothes), and are poised to complement it with a bespoke facility, located right within the centre of this increasingly sought-after beer market.

 

 

PilotLogo

Pilot Beer – Finally for Scotland, keep an eye on the most recently-arrived producers in this list. Having flipped the covers back on their branding, the first Pilot beers are just starting to hit the bar counters. That said, things are very much in the testing phase at the moment, however, and Matt and Pat are girding their loins for an official launch sometime in the spring. Watch out for how they get on; as two Heriot-Watt graduates bringing beer-making back to Leith, Pilot certainly have huge potential.

 

 

ENGLAND

GreeneKingLogo

Greene King – Yes, Greene King. This (fairly safe) bet comes purely on the back of December’s announcement of a £750,000 microbrewery expansion for the East Anglian powerhouse. Having spent a six-figure preliminary fee merely on scouting the project, GK are clearly placing a significant percentage of their eggs in the ‘craft’ basket. Other big regionals have dabbled first, of course, but how the St Edmund brewhouse fares will surely determine whether ‘craft’ is able to become as ‘mainstream’ as Greene King believe.

 

 

BeavertownLogo

Beavertown – The flood of microbreweries in Hackey has lessened (a little) of late, but one that has recently moved in the other direction are Beavertown. Having relocated a couple of miles eastwards to Fish Island, Logan and his crew have even more of a local community to become a part of. Beavertown are so utterly of the moment that non-‘craft’ beer drinkers may never have heard of them; but there isn’t a British brewery around now that gets more flavour into their beers, or does it with more inventiveness. Beavertown are set for a breakout year.

 

 

WildBeerLogo

Wild Beer Co – Somerset may be a considerable distance from Edinburgh, but the beers from Wild Beer Co seem to be almost omnipresent here. That’s a testament, in part, to how much of a beer town Edinburgh has become, of course – but also it’s down to the work ethic and experimentation of the Wild Beer team. There’s no shortage of ingenuity at work down in Westcombe; this can be seen both in the number of collaborations they enter into with the brewing industry, and their recently-awarded status of best new business in Somerset. Clearly, the word is out.

 

 

AlphaStateLogo

Alpha State – I’m going to be honest here, other than the name of the man behind the operation, I know absolutely nothing about Alpha State. And yet, this is one of the great things about drinking beer; turning up at a bar one night, taking a punt on something called Alpha State Citronvand, and being hugely rewarded. Jonathan Queally is making some spellbinding beer – alongside the Citronvand, Neapolitan and Sorachi Red IPA formed as good a trio from the same producer as I tried in 2013. I can only imagine the kinds of beers that will emanate from Alpha State this year – but I’ll be keeping an eye out, that’s for sure.

 

 

BadSeedLogo

Bad Seed – I know I’ve mentioned Bad Seed quite a bit recently, but their debut beers were as good a launch line-up as I can remember. Hailing from rural North Yorkshire, their decision to make beers they liked rather than beers that would fit the local scene was hugely brave; as they start to get more widely noticed, that decision should hopefully pay off handsomely for them. Look for the word to spread wider in 2014, as Bad Seed’s bottles make it to thirstier parts, and they take steps down two very popular modern-day beer roads, those marked ‘kegging’ and ‘collaboration’.

 

 

BuxtonLogo

Buxton – Only a couple of weeks ago I picked Buxton as my brewery of the year for 2013, so they really had to be in this list. The main reason is that as I write, the Peak District resounds to the clang of hammers and the soft Irish cursing of Colin Stronge. Once the new Buxton brewery is fully online, and their capacity increased accordingly, look for all of the reasons why they were so good last year to be multiplied by a similar factor. If everything transfers to the new facility (and I’ve no reason to doubt it won’t), Buxton could be on the brink of something very special.





I’ll be revisiting this list later in the year to see how the breweries are getting on, and whether tipping them for greatness was the right way to go or not. Which breweries do you think will have a great twelve months?

Best new beers of 2013…Fyne/Wild Cool as a Cucumber

Cucumber2

The next in the lineup of best new British beers of 2013 (in order of release) was the beery equivalent of that upbeat disco track that DJ’s claim becomes ‘the song of the summer’ (if that still happens, it’s been a while since I listened to ‘the charts’). Basically, it came out of nowhere to become the perfect warm-weather cooler…



Cool as a Cucumber (2.9%)
Fyne Ales, Argyll / Wild Beer Co, Somerset (collaboration)
(cask, keg, bottle, June)

Not since the arrival of Bloody ‘Ell, Beavertown’s blood orange IPA, had I been more intrigued at the pouring of a beer. That one turned out not to be the expected dark ruby, although it was seriously nice stuff. So, would a cucumber beer actually be green? Racking my brains, I think I’ve had only one actual, bona fide green beer before; Bourganel Bière a la Verveine du Velay, a French liqueur-inspired mouthwash-clone we tried a year and a half ago. Would Cool as a Cucumber come out a similar hue? And would it do as suggested, and lower the heat levels in the (at the time) sticky, sweltering city?

Well, no and yes. It was certainly cool, but orange, not green (in the end, probably a good thing). What was even better about it was that it was the perfect alignment of context – something I always, always go on about. Try something that jars with where you are, or what mood you’re in, and it’s already behind, playing catch-up. The moment I first got hold of the collaboration from Fyne Ales and Wild Beer Co was possibly the best drinking moment (if I can get a little pseudy) of 2013. A massively warm day, long tacky bus ride from work, and parched tongue meeting the cool, quiet Bow Bar, and a chilled keg pour of cucumber beer. Not quite Ice Cold in Alex, but you get the idea.

A saison brewed with mint (in the boil), and then 93 chopped, peeled and de-seeded cucumbers (in the fermenter), Brettanomyces was then added to tart things up a little. On a blistering afternoon, downed in fast, tooth-numbing swallows, it revived me instantly. The only comparison I can make would be to quickly eat a chilled cucumber salad. There wasn’t a huge amount of mint, but the cucumber was hugely noticeable at the front, leading to a slight yeasty edge as the saison elements came out on the aftertaste. I talked on Monday about “Ooh, wow” beers – Fyne and Wild’s Cool as a Cucumber was the Wow beer of 2013.



The fifth selection (out of six) of the best new British beers of 2013 will be revealed tomorrow, head back then to discover what that particular beer was. Guardian drinks writer Fiona Beckett deservedly made Cool as a Cucumber her Beer of the Week back in early August; let’s hope the next collaboration between Fyne Ales and Wild Beer Co will be just as well received.

England v Scotland – the live beer challenge

Versus7

Last week, for the first time in fourteen years, England and Scotland met on the football field. To commemorate the welcome return of the home international, we thought it only right to emulate the occasion in the only way we know how – by drinking beer (and in an orderly, pre-defined, yet rapid manner). Not quite crates of Fosters in Trafalgar Square, but four English beers pitched against the very best rivals from our home turf, north of the border.

It was down to me to select the Scottish beers, and BeerCast Paul was delegated to pick up four from England. As we both originally hail from south of the border, for balance we invited BeerCaster Stu along, a ukulele-playing Scotland fan from Zambia (no, really). As for the beers, there were no rules other than one for each of the vague styles of ‘golden’, ‘amber’, ‘IPA’ and ‘dark’ – with identities revealed at the end of each round.

Would the beer score emulate the football result…?

Versus6

First Half, Round 1 (Golden) Fyne Ales Jarl v Dark Star Sunburst

As Stu lays out a passable ‘Flower of Scotland’ on the ukulele, the night ahead seems even longer. Yet, thankfully, the beers arrive and the first matchup begins. Although they both look invitingly golden, each with a mere suggestion of haze, the flavours are very different. One is noticeably sharper, with more lemon and grapefruit, whereas the other is milder and peachy. Even if I hadn’t seen them poured, I’d have picked which was which in a moment, so it comes down to personal preference. As Stuart concludes “the peachy one is more mellow, it’s smoother – I prefer that to the bitter one”. As the voting comes in, England take the first round, with a 2-1 victory.

Eng 1 Sco 0 [Dark Star Sunburst]

Versus5

First Half, Round 2 (Amber) Luckie Scotoberfest v Harbour Amber

In real life, the football is turning into an old-fashioned ding-dong encounter, with goals flying in at each end – punctuated by throaty yelps from the room with the telly in. Pouring in the kitchen, I only saw about half the game, but the delivery man from Sitara Spice timed perfectly with the second round of beers, right before half-time. For England, Cornwall’s Harbour Brewery, facing off against the pride of Fife, Luckie Ales. I selected Scotoberfest as the German influence could have helped the Scotland team in case of a penalty shootout, but it wasn’t needed as a) friendlies don’t go to penalties, and b) the Harbour had unfortunately picked up an infection. So three votes for Luckie.

Eng 1 Sco 1 [Harbour Amber o.g.]

Versus2

Second Half, Round 1 (IPA) Stewart Radical Road v Wild Beer Madness IPA

With the half-time beer scores tied, curry finished, and England leading 2-1 in the actual football, both second halves started. It was certainly all to play for. Recovering from the disappointment of the infection-related amber round, the English team (i.e. Paul) fielded a hugely strong hand in Wild Beer Co’s Madness IPA. Up against it, Stewart Brewing’s Radical Road – two big-hitting, hop-forward IPA’s. It was hugely close – the Madness was fantastic, sweet, sticky and resinous, with a huge rich fruitiness to it. The Radical Road tasted like a liquidised Fruit Salad. It really could have gone either way, but in the end all three votes went to the same beer – the one from Stewart Brewing. Scotland take the lead (but not in the football).

Eng 1 Sco 2 [Stewart Radical Road]

Versus3

Second Half, Round 2 (Dark) Tempest Old Parochial v Camden/Odell Versus Baltic Porter

Could England come back to force a draw, as they took the lead in real life? The heavyweights were rolled out at the end – for Scotland, Kelso’s finest Tempest Brewing Co and their 10% barrel-aged Imperial Scotch Ale, Old Parochial (or ‘Old PArochil’ as I typed, the emotion clearly getting to me). For England, Camden’s 7% Baltic porter brewed with Odell – cries of ‘Ringer!’ silenced on the lips as the flavours of both came out. Stunning stuff, the latter was hugely roasty, with chocolate, coffee and a fabulous balance, whereas the former positively thrummed with soft, rounded whisky, caramel and umami. Again, voting was tight, but there were nods of acceptance as Scotland that prevailed once more, with a 2-1 vote.

Eng 1 Sco 3 [Tempest Old Parochial]

So, there you have it. Scotland lose the football 3-2, but win the beer match 3-1. Gordon Strachan and the boys can draw some comfort in that, I think. Rather amusingly, the national team’s next game is against Belgium – they couldn’t…could they?