|Andrew Cooper and Brett Ellis at Wild Beer Co, |
come back in the autumn and the place will be rocking
Picked up at a small rural station, Castle Cary, where Glastonbury gloamers have their own Dunkirk every June. Down the lanes we go, the warm sandstone of the area glossed onto the houses, hedges, high, hiding, totally appropriate it seems given the name of the brewery I’ve come to see: Wild Beer. In the car sit the brewery’s founders Andrew Cooper and Brett Ellis (he’s the brewer and from California — another appropriate name given the mission of the brewery). Into a yard, where Westcombe Cheddar is made (one of Slow Food’s three designated Cheddar producers along with Keene and Montgomery) and into an empty space, formerly where pickles and chutneys were made (the smell of all-spice and vinegar seems to cling to the air, as if reluctant to leave). Three large wooden barrels stand all alone (and in them the brewery’s Modus Operandi sleeps the sleep of the just), athletes on a plinth, all at equal height; elsewhere there’s more space or to put it another way the lack of equipment is the dominant theme. There’s no brewing yet, stuff is on its way and you can expect beers to emerge sometime in the autumn (appropriately the start of the old brewing season in the past). And then we’re off again through these lush lanes to the Three Horseshoes in Batcombe (they do a mean Ploughman’s). Beer is brought out of a bag by Brett, in small bottles, some capped, some in PET containers, all brewed on a small system at home, and we’re off. A grapefruit zing in the glass, some acidity and a farmyard earthiness (think of that indefinable link with the earth, that erotic charge, that sense of connection you get when you recall the moment you smelt the aroma of the farmyard, that you get with a great Burgundy). This is a prototype I am told; ‘we are going for a way to make a lambic inspired beer’. It’s zesty, pithy, with grapefruit and orange peel and a wrap around fullness — I think of throwing ripe fruit against a dry stone wall on a hot summer’s day and deeply inhaling. Welcome to a west country lambic. Next up is Fresh, an APA, with canned mango, fresh ripe papaya and a hint of banana on the nose. Orange marmalade rushes forth on the palate and I think of a sun-warmed bowl of tropical fruit in a nice kitchen. It’s not a wild beer but ‘it’s a beer we love to drink’. We have more beers, all of them excellent, infused with Brett, others barrel aged. Ah here’s Modus Operandi, ‘the beer that says what we are all about’ beams Andrew. Brett-infused and barrel aged, it’s a 7% beauty that is a marriage of sweetness, vanilla, grapefruit, lush tropical fruit, plus a dark malt cloak thrown over the shoulder in the manner of Zorro. How romantic. I think I love it. There are saisons with Brett, an imperial vanilla espresso chocolate stout and a mellifluous DIPA — and then it’s time to go back through the lean lanes, the hidden lanes of East Somerset and take the train west. This is a brewery I am excited about and I respectfully suggest that you should be.