Monday, 12 January 2015

Our brewery of 2014 - Wild Beer Co

In this new world of craft brewing it takes something quite unique to stand out from the crowd. One brewery that has uniqueness in spades is the Wild Beer Company from Somerset. Wild Beer have made a huge impact on the British beer landscape over the past couple of years with their inventive and delicious beers. To make their inspiring beers they have borrowed techniques from Lambic beers, Champagne and even Sherry. They are flavoured with apricots, pink peppercorns and even cucumber. But the unusual techniques and ingredients are never for the sake of novelty, they are always with flavour in mind. Of course it doesn't hurt that each beer has a fascinating story behind it.

Some of Wild Beer's most extravagant beers have been collaborations not only with some exciting breweries but also a local bakery. In order to explain why Wild Beer Co are our brewery of 2014, we decided to run through a few of their range with some tasting notes below.

Sourdough (3.6%)

This is a collaboration between Wild Beer and Hobbs House Bakery. The bakery have given their ancient sourdough culture to the blend (and we do love sourdough). It pours a light golden colour with some healthy carbonation. It might be the knowledge that there is a bread ingredient in the mix but there really is a whiff of toasted bread, a little like champagne lees but with a woody lambic like character.

This is the second time I've had the beer and it's sourer than I remember, with a lightly citrus character. It's an intriguing and refreshing light beer with an almost lager mouth feel. Lovely effervescence. The wild yeasts come through well giving what could be a one-dimensional beer a depth. This is lovely, even better than I remembered, and might be because we've held on to this bottle for a while as it's designed to evolve in the bottle.

Bliss (6%)

It's not the most appetising looking beer being a murky orange colour without any head at all. The smell is all Christmas fruitcake, heavily spiced with concentrated raisiny fruit. The beer doesn't sing of apricots but they do lend a roasted fruity caramel flavour. The spices make this feel very festive and although it's not our favourite wild beer it is still a strong beer from their range. Best not to chill this too much as it seems to kill the real fruity flavours which come through more as it warms in the glass.

Shnoodlepip (6.5%)

This is the beer that, in our eyes, took Wild Beer from great brewery to game-changing one. It's a collaboration with Burning Sky and Good George brewery. It contains passion fruit which gives the beer lashings of tropical fruitiness. It's a riotous adventure through sour fruit and intriguing spiciness from the pink peppercorns. A truly original beer, with a truly awesome name.

Ninkasi (9%)

Ninkasi is a special beer. A pale beer with a voluminous head that dissipates quickly leaving behind lacing on the glass. Delicious apples and hops on the nose. It has a strong carbonation from the champagne style bottle conditioning which delightfully fizzes on your tongue. The apple flavours build the more you taste. As with all of the Wild Beers the yeast gives a large part of the beer's character. Here it complements the spicy hops to give a savoury note to what could have been a bit of a pudding of a beer. The sugar from the apples has all fermented out leaving just the tang. It rounds out the beer beautifully and is dangerously drinkable for such a high ABV beer.

Raconteur (9.5%)

This barley wine has been aged in brandy barrels from Burgundy and this really comes through on the smell. Vinous aromas and flavours abound. There is an intense raisiny flavour too, with a sourness from aging balancing out what has the potential to be an overly sweet and cloying beer. It has a hint of Flemish red about it and there is a moreish nutty character there too which keeps bringing your lips back to the glass. A savoury touch of marmite is there but certainly not unpleasantly. This is a complex, challenging and ultimately sublime beer. It takes time to appreciate but is worth the effort.

Thursday, 1 January 2015

Happy New Year! Meopham Valley Sparkling Rose 2009

For New Year's Day we thought a bit of fizz was in order!

We tasted Meopham Valley's Sparkling Rosé at the Canterbury Food and Drink festival back in 2012 where the quality of this English sparkling wine really stood out and we've finally got round to drinking it. Meopham Valley is on Kent's North Downs and the vineyard have been making sparkling and still wines since 1991. This one won a silver award at English Wine of the Year, and a bronze at the Decanter World Wine Awards.

It's a beautiful light salmon with a fragrant aroma of Strawberries and Raspberries with some yeasty, bready notes. This wine has a refreshing acidity, lots of fresh raspberry and lemon and lovely touches of summer flowers. It has a very long finish which really shows off the quality of the wine. A great wine to pop open on New Years Eve or at a summer evening garden party.

Meopham Valley is available from Waitrose Cellar (where it's currently on offer) amongst other selected stockists.

Beer of the week - Hotel Chocolat Beer Truffles

We are just past Christmas and the house is still full of chocolate. It's also full of beer; both situations the effect of over-ambitious ordering and generous gifts.

Hotel Chocolat have done a good job of combining these two household favourites with their beer truffles.

A crisp crack of milk chocolate yields to a creamy, boozy, white chocolate ganache. It's subtly enriched with familiar Belgian beer flavours of malt and banana rounded off by an intriguing hoppy bitterness.

I've tasted a fair bit of beer based confectionery and I think these truffles come the closest to properly capturing the flavours of beer in this format. Maybe not one for a chocolate connoisseur and they certainly won't satisfy your thirst, but for a bit of festive fun they hit the mark.

Maybe a kind gift for a beer fan who is abstaining for January!