Category Archives: Wild Ales

Scenes from Allagash’s Wild Friendship Celebration with Cantillon, Russian River

AllagashWildFrienshipCelebrationYesterday, Allagash Brewing Co. held its Wild Friendship Celebration, with Brasserie Cantillon and Russian River Brewing Co., at the Allagash brewery in Portland, Maine. Allagash did an absolutely amazing job of arranging and organizing the event, which had a casual, festival-like feel, as beer nerds and brewers drank world-class brews and milled about Allagash’s tasting room, brewery, wild barrel room and a large tent outside.

For background, the Wild Friendship Celebration was a series of events to celebration and share a collaboration lambic, a blend of beers from all three brewing companies.  The three brewers contributed versions of their own spontaneously fermented beers, and two versions were made, one blended in Belgium by Cantillon’s head brewer Jean-Pierre Van Roy, and another blended by Russian River’s Vinnie Cilurzo and Allagash’s Rob Tod in Portland. The first event (called Quintessense) was held in Brussels last May at Cantillon’s location, the second took place last week at Russian River’s Santa Rosa, Calif., brew pub, and finally, Allagash held its event yesterday.

In addition to both versions of the Wild Friendship Blend, the three breweries shared a number of additional beers. (Hit this link for the full beer list.) And the brewers were on hand to chat with beer enthusiasts. I spoke with Russian River’s Vinnie Cilurzo and his wife Natalie, and they both got a kick out of this Boston boy’s knowledge of where to find their beers all around San Francisco, where I frequently work–and drink. I also chatted with Cantillon’s Jean-Pierre Van Roy, who was treated like some sort of Sour Beer God by many of the folks in attendance.

Here’s a first hand, beer nerd’s view of the Allagash/Cantillon/Russian River Wild Friendship Celebration day session. Click one of the photos below to open up a carousel of larger pics. (The image quality isn’t great in all of the photos. Blame my Samsung Galaxy S6 edge, which I used to capture the images.)

UBN

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The Difference Between ‘Sour Beer’ and ‘Wild Beer’

Russian River Sour Ales

Russian River Brewing Co. makes some of my favorite sour ales

It took me quite some time to acquire a real taste for sour beer, but now that I have one, sour beers are pretty much all I want to drink—except for IPAs; I still love my hops. (Check out my lists of sour ales and Flemish red/brown ales for details on my favorite sours.)

In my quest to try every sour beer I can get my mitts on, I’ve encountered quite a few “wild ales,” some of which were sour and many that were not. I also read the word “Brettanomyces” or “Brett” a lot. Brett is a wild yeast strain used in many wild and sour ales.

At first, I assumed that sour beers and wild ales were one in the same, but after tasting many wild ales with Brett that were not at all sour, I did some research to determine the difference between the two.

First of all, there are no concrete definitions of sour beer and wild beer. But here’s what The Oxford Companion to Beer says on the subject:

“The development, largely by American craft brewers, of entirely new categories of beer [that use wild yeast and/or bacteria] during the past decade, has resulted in the need for a new nomenclature to describe them. This nomenclature is surely unsettled, but the two terms in general use are ‘sour beer’ and ‘wild beer.’ ‘Wild beer’ is generally used to describe any beer that displays earthy characteristics of Brettanomyces yeast strains, regardless of whether the beer is a light golden ale or a strong dark stout. If the brewer adds acidifying bacteria to the beer, it is termed a ‘sour beer.’ If both Brettanomyces character and bacterial acidity are in evidence, then the beer is generally deemed to fit both categories.”

So, to sum that up. Beers with funky, Brett character but no acidity from added bacteria are commonly referred to as “wild ales,” and they are not necessarily sour. If a brewer opts to add bacteria to a beer made with wild yeast the beer will take on an acidic, sour flavor. These beers are called sour beers. Wild ales can be sour, but not all of them are. The difference between the two is the addition of bacteria during the barrel aging process—the two most common bacteria used in the process are Lactobacillus and Pediococcus.

There you have it, wild beers are not necessarily sour beers; some just taste “funky” due to the wild yeast used during fermentation. And many sour beers, but not all, can be called wild, because they use wild yeast, as well.

UBN

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Thankful for Craft Beer

Rodenbach Vintate Allagash Interlude Stone Enjoy By IPA Brux

This Thanksgiving, I’m thankful for craft beer. (I’m also thankful for lots of other things—and people—but this is a beer blog, so I won’t bore you with all that shit).

As I wandered around my local beer shop yesterday, stocking up for today’s holiday, I couldn’t help but feel happy about the current state of craft beer in my home state of Massachusetts and throughout the rest of the United States. I stopped in one of the liquor store aisles, surrounded by bomber bottles stacked so high I couldn’t see beyond them, and thought about how awesome it is that beer is finally getting the respect it deserves. Talented brewers are pushing the boundaries of beer making every day, and I, and all my fellow beer lovers, get to reap the benefits.  For that, I’m truly thankful.

What you see above is my Thanksgiving 2012 craft beer lineup. I plan to start with Stone Brewing Co.‘s fantastic Enjoy By 12.21.12 IPA, then move on to the Russian River/Sierra Nevada collaboration wild ale, Brux. After that, I’ll either pop the cork on the Rodenbach Vintage 2009 or the Allagash 2009 Interlude; I’ll cross that bridge when I get there.

I hope you’ve got something special to sip on today, too. Happy Thanksgiving, beer nerds.

UBN

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