Wednesday, 27 July 2016

Brewed & Reviewed: Wilde Child Brewing

The more we obsessively dive into the brewing industry here at Plus One Magazine via both our 'Triptick' and 'Brewed & Reviewed' series, the more we uncover some of the most passionate and creative brewers around. For this feature of Brewed & Reviewed I discovered such an individual brewing right under my nose, in Kirkstall on the outskirts of Leeds.

I sat down with Keir McAllister-Wilde, the man behind Wilde Child Brewing, in a local beer garden to get the story of how he ended up with this exciting new venture. We covered so many aspects of beer and brewery life within the time it took to knock back a couple of welcomed chilled ales...

Some background

I was a little bit lost throughout my twenties, but now I'm so focused with what I want to do... I can't switch off”.

A yearning for travel and and a somewhat hedonistic lifestyle came to an end when Keir decided to lay down roots on return from a trip to South America. 2010 began a new chapter for this Leeds 'born and bred' lad. One that he's happy to be continuing as an independent brewer.
Like most aspiring brewers, he began his beer production through the basics of homebrewing kits. Never entirely satisfied with the end result despite tinkering slightly with them as he went along. He made the leap into all-grain brewing, purchased some better equipment, and with his first brew done and under his belt in the Summer of 2011, it was at that very moment he recalls knowing that this is what he wanted to do with the rest of his life.

... a passion that's turned into a burning desire to constantly want to achieve something better”.

Keir gained his practical knowledge of the industry through working as a brewer with a couple of well established names - Elland Brewery and later, Saltaire Brewery - while he continued to work on his own concoctions in his garage-turned-microbrewery at home. Initially playing around with styles and ingredients as he became familiar with his own set up and production, he turned out simple pale ales, low on the abv's, but persistently striving for that great taste and aroma of a really good beer.

Photo credit: Robin Chamberlain

Currently brewing

As I've changed and grown as a person, my tastes have changed and the styles of beer I want to produce have changed with me, so we've kind of gone on this journey together.”

Already on the shelves of various local Leeds' stockists are his triple IPA ('Hopstosity' 10.5%), a doppelbock ('Creature Of Doom' 8.2%) and a bourbon imperial stout ('Instant Hobo' 9%). Immediately you'll be drawn to the fact that these are big hitting beers he's knocking out, and ones that stand out in the crowd and are not lost in a sea of sessionable low to mid-strength beverages. Like many of us, his own personal preference and palate has dictated a liking for something bolder with bags of flavour and aroma as he's aged. That comes hand in hand with a beer that is punching a heavier weight and it's something that has just come about naturally for Keir rather than being a preconceived idea of wanting to produce such high strength beers.

The only problem and barrier you can come up against with such big-hitting beers, particularly in cask format, is sometimes buyers don't want to touch anything above 6 or 7 %...”

Not that he is restricting himself to only producing beers with such a hefty abv. As we sit here at The Bridge Inn in Kirkstall, he informs me that he has a more easy-going English single-hopped blonde ale (4.6%) waiting its turn for the pumps down in the cellar. This particular pub has taken Wilde Child's brews with the greatest of pleasure, and Keir hopes to also make inroads into other establishments who prefer to host a beer of a more average strength.

Photo credit: Robin Chamberlain

Moving forward

I'm all about big, bold, heavy-hitting beers”

Wilde Child Brewing's blonde ale ('Princess Warrior') aside, he has his eyes firmly fixed on creating strong styles that are packed with flavour. A black IPA ('Hades Beckons' 6.66%) is on the horizon. Along with a red IPA of similar strength, and 'Hopstrosity's little brother' which will be a double IPA at 7.2% named 'Social Pariah'.

As well as bottling these carefully crafted brews, he's moving into cask territory to get them behind the bars of some of the popular craft beer and food outlets in Leeds such as Bundobust. Plus a possible tap takeover at Friends Of Ham. His eyes widen and the smile beams as he lets me know his beer will be at some of the best known, long-established homes to a wide diversity of ales in Leeds such as Whitelocks and the newer, trendier places like The Belgrave MusicHall.

It's an honour to deal with such pubs that I've personally held with such high esteem over the years..”

Leeds is where it's at

Leeds is a great place to live, look at it...I mean business is booming, it's thriving, and being a part of the beer industry - well, I wouldn't want to be anywhere else to be perfectly honest - I want to support the city, the people, and do my bit to help put it firmly on the map”.

We know that Leeds already has some fine breweries, wonderful bars, and a forward-thinking approach to craft beer. It's an exciting time to be living here and clearly Keir feels Wilde Child Brewing fits in nicely and has hopes and plans to be a major part of its future. He's currently holding down a day job to earn a living and brewing around the clock where time allows. when I asked him where he'd like to see himself in twelve months time, he hopes to achieve the status of brewing full-time to solely generate his income. It certainly doesn't seem to be an unreachable goal!

At the end of the day I'm not about being loaded or mega rich. You're a richer man if you truly enjoy what you're doing in life. I love the days when I'm brewing... I'd love to be doing it full time... and if I was to achieve some recognition it would maybe put some insecurities of mine to rest.. and being able to pay the mortgage and bills!”.

Photo credit: Robin Chamberlain

Frustrations and other thoughts

Brewing blends three things that I hold close to heart... the science element to it all, being able to be creative, and obviously the beer itself. You've got to multi-task when brewing beer and it can go tits up on a regular basis. Brewing beer is a bit like having a relationship... you can have your tiffs with one another but you still love each other and are together again at the end of the day”.

Talking to Keir and getting his perspective on the trials and tribulations of an up-and-coming brewer, is as enlightening as it is fascinating. Passion for the industry and the part he is playing in it, is at the very core of what should undoubtedly be a hugely rewarding journey for him and Wilde Child Brewing. His boundless levels of enthusiasm, alongside an overwhelming urge to be as creative as possible, heralds some exciting times for us consumers. For him personally, if he can make that leap into full-time, then growth and expansion is surely a given. He happily flies solo, and covers all aspects of his business personally. From the recipe designs and the brews themselves, to the logo (fresh, young and eye catching), as well as a huge amount of time given to thoughts on naming his products, the label designs etc. Personal delivery of the bottles, casks and kegs is also somehow weaved into the time-taking equation. He once drove to the home of a customer with a single bottle who had had a problem with a 'gusher' with the offer to replace it for him. Now that is commitment.

I just love beer so much!”

I'm sure you'll join us in wishing him well. We can't wait to catch up with him further down the line, to see how it's all going.

Words: Pete Jackson

Photography: Robin Chamberlain 

In the time between our chat and this article being written up, Wilde Child Brewing is now a full time operation. Here's an update from Keir..

"I was pushed into a situation where I found myself without the temporary job I was doing and so decided to do Wilde Child full time on an interim basis. I have been very busy this past few weeks and sales are rolling in. Long may it continue."


Wilde Child beer review

'Creature Of Doom' Doppelbock 8.2%

Photo credit: Pete Jackson

As a general fan of hops hops and more hops, I was a little apprehensive about the Doppelbock 'Creature Of Doom'. Not a style I'm that familiar with but upon opening the sweet malty smell was luring me in. This is a beautifully poured beer, with a terrific colour to it. A good firm head with lasting qualities right down to the bottom of the drink. Quite enjoyably chewy, with sweet tastes of caramel and liquorice in there. The sweetness of the malts is in no way tainted by the beer's strength. Yes the alcohol is very much present but at over 8% this feels significantly lower in the mouth. Could well be my favourite of the three samples here, we'll see.

'Hop Strosity' Triple IPA 10.5%

Photo credit: Pete Jackson

This is a lively character. Full of charge upon opening and wishing to make its way out of its bottled home into the glass. Pours a lovely murky golden orange and the smell of the hops in here is tantalisingly good. I let it sit a while to calm down and the huge white foamy head settled to a regular centimeter or so. It became much easier to drink too. Lots and lots of hits of tropical fruits, sturdy as hell and chewy yet deceptively easy to drink for such a high strength (There's a pattern emerging here!). Remember, this is a TIPA! Not a regular IPA or even or double, although you would be forgiven for sipping this one back a little too fast if you didn't know. Hop Strosity's little brother is coming soon if this is too powerful for your liking. I say 'man up' ladies and gents, and get this one in.

'Instant Hobo' Bourbon Imperial Stout 9%

Photo credit: Pete Jackson

I do like a good stout, got to admit it. It hasn't always been a palate pleaser of mine but over the years I've grown to love the stuff. Instant Hobo is a hefty beast yet retains drinking qualities of a beer much lower than its actual abv. Silky smooth, dark and rich and initially quite sweet. There's eight different malts in this apparently. The bourbon for me is much more to the fore than in similar beers I've tried of this style. It doesn't completely override the other textures in here but boy can you taste it! Poured perfectly, retaining a creamy beige head. Not as thick as you might expect this style to be. Perhaps more inclined to sip this beauty by a roaring open fire in the depths of winter rather than under today's rare glimpse of a British Summer. If you like your stouts whisky-laden then this is a must.

Words  - Pete Jackson

Wilde Child Brewing official

Tel: 07908419028 for keg, cask, or bottled beer