As a quick introduction, my name is Jonny and together with my partner Gen, have started a brewing company producing beers fermented with only wild yeasts and bacteria we have sourced from nature. All of our beers are completely fermented and matured in wooden barrels, the only stainless steel is our blending tank and open wort cooler, or coolship, used to naturally inoculate our spontaneously fermented beer. In the spirit of Belgian Lambic blenders, our focus is on fermentation and blending, as such we do not have our own brew kit, nor do we ever plan to. I currently brew all our wort on the small kit at the Salutation Inn (Ham, Gloucestershire) where we also happen to live. We owe a great debt to landlord Pete Tiley who helped us find our site in Berkeley, Gloucestershire, as well as letting us use his brew-kit to produce wort.
It’s been around a year since we made the first steps towards our dream of a brewery producing all wild fermented beers. I’ll happily skip over the details of property leases, solicitors, local councils and HMRC and get to the reason I’m now sat here writing:
Our first beer is ready.
Our raison d’être is to produce beers using 100% wild cultures sourced from nature. No brewers yeast, no lab cultivated wild strains. A true expression of our locality. We have started brewing two streams of beer:
A wort made with rye, oats, barley and wheat is boiled for three hours with aged hops and finished with a new English variety Olicana. Fermented with our house mixed culture in ex-bourbon and wine barrels for around six months, small numbers of barrels from multiple brews are selected to blend each batch. Very low carbonation, amounting to almost being still, served primarily on draught.
Spontaneously fermented beer in the style of Belgian Lambic. Wort made from a traditional turbid mash is boiled for three to four hours with aged hops. Fermented in oak barrels for 1-3 years. Blended and conditioned in bottle to produce lively carbonation.
Brewing started in October of last year and as such our first batch of Running Beer is now finished. The inspiration for this beer came from two places. The first is one of my favourite ‘beer moments’ drinking cask Cantillon Lambic at Moeder Lambic in Brussels. The combination of its complexity of aroma and flavour, gentle acidity and the soft mouthfeel of its very low carbonation became the goals for Running Beer. The second inspiration was taken from cider and perry maker Tom Oliver. Back in autumn 2015 we had the chance to produce a beer/cider hybrid with him, what retrospectively became our first brew, details on this in the next post. This collaboration involved wort being fermented for eight months in old cider barrels with the residual lees from a previous cider fermentation, and it was from this we took our inspiration for the production method for Running Beer: Each batch of wort is filled straight into barrel with a small pitch of our house mixed culture of wild yeast and bacteria. This symbiotic culture then slowly ferments the beer over the course of six months, producing gentle acidity and wonderful wild yeast aromatics.
This first batch of Running Beer was a blend of our third, fourth and sixth brews, dating from between October 2016 and January 2017. We deliberately brew each batch slightly differently to offer more of a range for blending. Brew 3 had developed fantastic aromas of brettanomyces and substantial acidity, Brew 4 had more body and a honeyed aroma from it’s time in ex-bourbon barrels and the younger Brew 6 had retained orangey hop aromatics of the Olicana used late in the boil. We had some great help choosing which barrels to use in the blend from our friends Jack and Matt from Bristol’s Left Handed Giant and Small Bar.
The beer has been refermented in keg with a small amount of priming sugar to give life to the mouthfeel, but not enough to make it truly carbonated and fizzy. As such it is closer to the cask Lambic which inspired the beer. We realise this is quite unusual for a keg served beer, so we will be labeling the beer as ‘Still’ to give a more accurate impression to the consumer.
Kegs are going out tomorrow to Bristol and of course to the Salutation Inn.