Tuesday, 30 May 2017

Brewed & Reviewed: Wild Weather Ales

"..Wild Weather will freely admit they aren’t specialists in any certain style. Some breweries excel in IPAs, others in sours etc, but for Wild Weather they love all beers and brew all beers, the only philosophy they strive for is to brew ‘great beer’.."

If you have been an avid follower of our Brewed & Reviewed articles then you’ll know we have become pretty good at picking out some of the most promising up-and-coming breweries in Britain. Nearly a year to the date we released an article for Cloudwater who were making waves at the time but yet to hit the meteoric heights they have now, just before the acclaimed DIPA v3 was released, before their glowing success at the 2017 Ratebeer awards. We reviewed Verdant brewing Co, around the time their DIPA 'Pulp' first hit the shelves, putting them in contention for best new British brewery. We’ve also featured the likes of Fierce Beer, Wild Childe Brewing Co and Odyssey Brew Co, so as you can see we do our homework! In contrast to the above who when featured were babies to the beer world, we now look at a more established brewery, running for nearly five years but perhaps only now receiving the attention they deserve: Wild Weather Ales

Based in Silchester near Reading, a little off the beaten track in an industrial estate is where they call home, Wild Weather Ales currently brew at 12 barrels with 7 fermentation vessels and hope to add more as and when needed. The exportation of their beers currently is very minimal but with increasing demand it won’t be long until international exporting will become part and parcel of everyday life. Unlike some breweries, they are open for visitors frequently, 6 days a week in fact, providing tours, tasting sessions and their acclaimed Wild Weather Sessions where they host live music acts for all genres. Music plays a huge part at the brewery in fact with owner Mike, sales director Iain and brewer Chris all musicians in their own right and playing in and around the local area including the brewery. Interestingly this connection helped when it came to re-branding which coincided perfectly with the new canning line. Iain’s band Threepwood have shared the stage several times with a band called Müg and noticed some interesting self-designed t-shirts from one of the band members. When the decision to re-brand occurred, the connection was already there and it proved to be invaluable. Since the joint canning and re-brand their output has quadrupled allowing them to be more expressive with their brewing. The bold can designs have made them more noticeable to the consumer and has improved business dramatically. 

The brewery is named after the owner’s surname 'Mike Tempest' meaning stormy or wild weather. I asked why they wanted to include the word ‘ales’ in their name, Iain eloquently explained that ‘Whilst the word ale could be seen as negative we like to think of it as a nod to our heritage, if you forget where you've come from you can very easily become overwhelmed with where you’re going.’ An increasing trend with Wild Weather seems to be collaborations. They’re a wonderful way to gain business connections, friends, improve techniques and gain innovative ideas. Some of the beers we received are collaborations, with Yeastie Boys, Bad Seed and one of my favourites Weird Beard. One of Wild Weather’s objectives is to stay current, making sure they evolve with the times, through canning, with the branding, but most importantly, the beer. Introducing new flavours, new recipes and tweaking old ones are all imperative to them to make the best tasting beer and to grab the attention of the customer. Wild Weather will freely admit they aren’t specialists in any certain style. Some breweries excel in IPAs, others in sours etc, but for Wild Weather they love all beer and brew all beer, the only philosophy they strive for is to brew ‘great beer’. They’ll brew with whatever product is best at that time of the year and with their 7-strong team of beer geeks they all pitch in with all and any of the needs, right down to writing recipes. 

Enough about the guys behind the brewery, the most important story is what they produce, so here we go…

Curse of Threepwood – 5% Rhubarb and Hibiscus Wheat Sour 

I’ll start off with what I deemed to be the beer I was least looking forward to, while I don’t mind a sour I’ve rarely raved about one. I notice Iain Clarke’s band mentioned in the title here too. It’s a bright amber colour with a glossy white head that dissipates quickly and a sweet rhubarb smell reminiscent of the fruit salad sweets that I’ve not had in years. An initial sweet sensation on the taste buds and a tartness that goes right down to leave the throat in a tingle. It’s pretty darn good with each individual flavour easily identifiable and flavoursome in their own right. It works really well. You get rhubarb and apple crumble, a zingy and spritzy apple cider meets white wine, lemon, red berries and a little floral note. A really tasty start. 

Storm in a Teacup – 6% Earl Grey IPA 

Very much a tip and sip beer with its lively head, every tip I had to sip more of the bubbles before any more beer could be poured. In the end, it comes out an attractive caramel and hazy colour. Highly carbonated with bubbles the size of the ones inside an Aero Bar. There’s caramel on the nose and it’s really inviting. The tea flavour itself is toned down but does impart some good flavour. Great fruity hops ripping control away from the tea but making it well balanced. The great balance continues with orange, lemon, peach, caramel and a perfumed kick. There’s a bit of gritty earthiness from the tea and this also provides a little bitterness right on the very end. I start to get a little Jaffa Cake (other equivalent products are available) taste too. I’ve only ever had a couple of beers in this style before, one of which was Gunnamatta by Yeastie Boys that I remember loving, and this beats it for me. I wonder if they decided to brew this after brewing with Yeastie Boys themselves?

Great British Opaque Off – 5.2% New England IPA 

Brewed with Bad Seed Brewery, this cleverly named beer shows off the previously mentioned ambition of wanting to ‘keep relevant’ with the New England IPA being the on-trend beer at the moment. The size of the bubbles on this one again are enormous and it leaves a tall puffy white head. It did pour thin but then again, I am used to stronger beers of this style. The mouth feel wasn’t as soft as I’d have both liked and expected, instead it felt overly spritzy. The flavour was earthy and waxy, big with grapefruit, a little bit of a chewy oaty mouth. It was resinous but malty and musty too, lots of words ending in Y! Here’s some more – bicuity, juicy, drizzles of honey, grassy and some peach, sorry, peachy. It becomes more enjoyable with every sip but I can’t help but wish it was a little stronger. 

Wild Boys – 5.5% Texas Brown Ale

Another collaboration, this time with New Zealand based Yeastie Boys. I can’t say I know the difference between a regular brown ale and a Texas brown ale, perhaps its hoppier? On the nose it’s malty, hoppy and I’m getting some red berries. I’ve never really been a fan of brown ales but I did enjoy this. The hoppy nose follows on to the palate along with the malt. An interesting hit of chestnuts, a hint of chocolate and some syrup. The mouth feels quite muddy and thick. I’m pleased it was as hoppy as it was, another great balance of flavours and something I’m noticing Wild Weather to be particularly clever at. 

Kwantum State – 7.7% Kaffir Lime Saison 

The final collaboration from this delivery and its with Weird Beard. I’m not hugely up on my fruit and veg knowledge so I did have to research just exactly what a Kaffir Lime was, it looks like a normal lime but shrivelled with profusely fragrant tropical citrus flavour, commonly used in Thai cuisine. This is a dark looking saison with plenty of lime on the nose and something I struggled to put my finger on for a while – Turkish Delight. Very softly carbonated and then BOOM, massive pithy lime flavours, and I mean very pithy. It’s strangely sweet, tart, unusual and very bitter, presumably from all that lime. There’s also tons of banana, spices like star anise and sultanas. The Turkish Delight flavour is prominent and I also get coconut and Palma Violets. The more you drink the more flavours you seem to find and the more complex it becomes. Such an interesting beer, I’ve never tasted anything quite like it, it was enjoyable and certainly memorable. 

Skadoosh - Second Verse – 11% Double IPA 

I had to end on the monster beer. I hadn’t quite clocked the percentage before opening the can, I knew it was strong but not quite this strong, and on a school night as well, I felt pretty damn rebellious that’s for sure. It pours looking rather malty as you would expect given the percentage, I didn’t expect much of a head so poured it aggressively to achieve a one finger creamy textured top. The nose is grapefruit, toffee and tree sap. With the first sip the realisation of the strength hits me. Straight up alcohol heat burns all the way down the throat and burns the nostrils on the exhale. The flavours are booze soaked oranges, grapefruit and toffee, it’s got an element of sweetness, some tasty peach and it’s resinous too. This is not one for the faint-hearted. I wasn’t sure on it at first but it really grew on me (maybe because it got me a little drunk) and it was nice to have a double IPA that isn’t a soft murky juice bomb and more of an old school West Coast IPA. 

So, what did I think? I was relieved really, I’d heard of some canning issues during the transition from bottling but it looks like they have put any of those issues behind them. Every beer was packed full of flavour, there wasn’t any that seemed half arsed, when they want to brew something you better believe they will go in all guns blazing. There wasn’t a single one I disliked, and if I had to pick a winner I’d personally edge towards Kwantum State, complex, bold, different and memorable. Would I rate the beers as some of the elite in the country? No, but I could count on one hand the number of British breweries I would consider elite. 

What could they do differently? Well they want to stay on trend, why not look to get some 440 or even 500ml cans. If they want to be more sought after then the obvious route would be to make more IPAs. It’s just the way it is. The best way to whip up a beer geek frenzy is to make fantastic IPAs, and plenty of variety. While IPAs are frequent on Wild Weather’s brewing calendar their next step is to keep up with likes of Verdant and Deya, big, murky, strong IPAs in big boy cans. Yes, they have Skadoosh, but the public are loving a 6-10% sort of beer. The branding is on point, the beers they do make are really good, and If you want a diverse, established yet up and coming brewery then keep a look out for Wild Weather Ales, you’ll be seeing plenty more from them.

Words & beer photo's - David Dickinson (Beer Baron Lincoln)

Wild Weather Ales

Wild Weather Ales
15 Benyon Rd