Wild Beer Co., Somerset, Solera - 4.3%; £3.15, 33cl
The Wild Beer Co recently appeared from the depths of Somerset (Shepton Mallet to be precise) amid promises of flavour-forward, unique beers different to the escalating series of hop-bombs brewed by their craft-brewing peers.
Making changes to other parts of the process, and using unconventional ingredients in unconventional ways, has seen them make good on this promise: apple-infused saisons, spelt beers, and oaked old ales are de rigueur for this brewery, not the domain of expensive limited edition brews.
Solera is a child of this latter process, influenced by and named for the process of aging and fractional blending by which each batch is made: barrels of aged beer are blended with the new product to create a consistent flavour, with fresh beer rejuvenating the older stocks. The aim is to create a unique beer that has the complexity of aged beer with the delicacy of fresh beer remaining intact.
Pouring a cloudy, deep amber, the nose offers lemons, cloves, damp wood and a hint of bubblegum. The flavour begins with a sharp lemon acidity, suggestive of older, soured ale, backed with a sharp sap and dry wood flavour. The body is fairly thick and yet the beer remains dry on the palate, with a refreshing astringent finish broken up by strong carbonation. Undeniably complex, this is certainly a unique beer with a character all of its own.
Recommended by Michael Bates, Trembling Madness, Stonegate, York
Mittenwald, DE – Jager Dunkel 5.2 %, 500ml, £3.15
WHILE our German friends are done donning their dirndls and lounging in their lederhosen for another year, I thought it only appropriate we considered a beer from a German brewery new to us at the Trembling Madness.
Mittenwald is a Bavarian brewery that insists on using only local ingredients – malt from the surrounding farmlands, and the finest hops from Hallertau, infusing each into crisp spring water rich with minerals that give the beer an unmatched delicacy and crispness. The brewer also lays claim to the title of “highest private brewery in Germany”, although the effect of that on the finished product is questionable; it’s a nice piece of trivia, regardless.
This week’s beer is from the brewery’s core range, and is their dunkel, ‘Jager’. A wonderful chestnut beer with bright copper highlights, the head is a flash-in-the-pan of butterscotch foam that quickly disappears. The aroma is rich liquorice and butterscotch, with a waft of raw barley providing the background for delicate banana and walnut phenolics.
Rich and smooth, Jager is moderate-to-full bodied with a zesty, bright carbonation that enhances its drinkability, helped along by a crisp, refreshing finish. Malt leads here; toffee apple with a hint of hazelnuts gives way to a sudden onrush of crisp lemon-zest and herbaceous noble-hops in the finish. Truly the best of both worlds, this dunkel is substantial, complex, and eminently drinkable – a wonderful autumnal beer.
• Recommended by Michael Bates, Trembling Madness, 48 Stonegate, York, YO1 8AS @tremblingmad
Odell Brewing Co. 90 Shilling Ale - £2.85; 355ml; 5.8%
Odell Brewing Company is a family owned microbrewery operating in Fort Collins, Colorado, since the late 1980s.
Having started small, with just two beers in the range, theirs is an archetypical example of America’s craft beer revival in action. The company now operates a 45,000 barrel plant (a typical UK micro is around 15, to give a sense of scale), and distributes its beers around the world.
Despite their success, the brewery remains grounded in its focus upon ethical and sustainable trading, and the company’s founders remain active in its daily running.
Their original two beers, Easy Street Wheat, and 90 Shilling ale, remain within their core range – the latter is to this day, their flagship ale. While many UK breweries currently take their cues from the US, this ale’s recipe comes from a time where the opposite was the case: Doug Odell formulated the recipe in an attempt to produce a light, drinkable version of a Scotch ale, and he did so with resounding success.
Pouring a deep chestnut with ruby highlights, underneath a rich fudgey head, this ale positively glows in the glass. The aroma is complex and spicy, layering the grassy noble-hop aromas of continental lagers with damp straw and a touch of lemon.
Medium bodied in the mouth, gingerbread and hazelnut sweetness give way to dry woodiness and a liquorice sourness before finishing with a flourish of herbal aromatics.
The finish is at once a touch sour and salty, backed up with a scattering of peppercorns that leave a complex bitterness running across the palate.
Both drinkable and worthy of contemplation, it’s no surprise this beer paved the way for Odell’s future success.
Recommended by Michael Bates, Trembling Madness, 48 Stonegate, York, YO1 8AS
Tiny Rebel - Full Nelson: £2.55; 330ml; 4.8%
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