The Barrel Store: Mixed Fermentation and Barrel-Aged Beers
Carnival Brettanomyces 2017
Three years ago in the summer of 2017, a trio of giddy brewers from Bristol set off to Amsterdam. Their names were Michael Wiper, one of Wiper and True’s founders; Will Hartley, our then Head Brewer; and Will Davies, one of our brewers who’d been doing a lot of research into mixed fermentation and experimenting with imaginative brewing projects on a pilot scale. Their destination was Carnival Brettanomyces, a four-day learning extravaganza focussing on the infamous ‘Brett’ yeast, along with other wild yeasts and bacteria.
Through a series of lectures, events, panels, tasting events and tap takeovers, Carnival Brettanomyces takes its enraptured attendees on an in-depth journey of discovery, learning and experimentation. It’s a beer festival that’s like no other, where hundreds of avid beer makers (professionals and home-brewers alike) spend literally days discussing some of the most fascinating - albeit a little niche - aspects of their craft.
As the festival’s name hints, the main focus of proceedings is a deep-dive into the yeast known as Brettanomyces - a wild strain that stands apart from the commonly used Saccharomyces, popularly known as brewer’s yeast.
The magical Brettanomyces yeast, safely contained within its double-layered packaging.
Across much of the commercial brewing world, Brettanomyces (or ‘Brett’ as it’s often known) is avoided due to its wild, unpredictable nature. Where traditional brewer’s yeast follows set behavioural patterns, interacting (for the most part) with other ingredients in a beer in steadfastly predictable ways, Brett is something of a wild child. Of course, these renegade characteristics are also precisely what makes Brettanomyces so exciting to work with. During its fermentation process, the yeast produces distinctive aromas and flavours, variously described as “fruity”, ‘funky’, ‘leathery’, ‘horsey’ and ‘farmyard’, depending on the strain, the beer, how it’s made, who you ask and how the flavours are evolving. Needless to say, beers brewed with Brett can be somewhat divisive. For an increasing number of brewers, though, Brettanomyces is an alluring ingredient to work with. There’s a certain intrigue in never quite knowing what twists and turns a beer will take as it ferments and the yeast works its magic – and all Brett brews hold a certain level of risk. Usually, though, the payoff is great: deeply complex, multilayered beers that evolve over time.
A New Unit for Wiper and True
Fast forward to January 2020, and we picked up the keys to a new unit, just down the road from our main brewery on York Street, St Werburghs. To an outsider, Unit F was a nondescript, high-ceilinged, empty space with no distinguishing features at all. To us, it was perfect; the ultimate blank canvas. A dedicated place for experimenting with barrel ageing and wild yeast. Somewhere we could really sink our teeth into the world of Brettanomyces and unusual cultures, with no contamination risks for the beers and equipment at the main brewery. A unit with its own canning line, opening up a world of possibilities. As we set about filling this hangar-like building with as many intriguing reclaimed barrels as we could set our hands on, Unit F came to life before our eyes, and was renamed the Barrel Store. We’ve already filled several of those barrels with some pretty exciting beers – let’s just say that Christmas time is going to be rather delicious if all goes to plan.
The First Releases
Today, though, we’re delighted to announce the release of the first mixed fermentation beers.
Hinterland is a 7.3% India Pale Ale, bursting with fragrance and flavours of ripe pineapple and fresh, juicy oranges. Four hops (Ekuanot, Loral, Simcoe and Citra) provide layer after layer of flavour, building up into a rich, complex tapestry of flavours that envelop the palate. Beneath these more familiar fruity top notes, though, lies the real intrigue of this beer, thanks to a rich complexity introduced through the combination of Cerberus with Brettanomyces ‘D’. We used torrified wheat in the mash for a thick, lacy head that maintains as much of those intricate, indescribable Brett characteristics as possible. The result is a complex yet beautifully balanced, nuanced beer that we are extremely proud of.
Narrow Sea is Wiper and True’s very English interpretation of a Saison. Clocking in at 5.6%, we’ve reimagined the traditional Belgian style so it’s built upon Yorkshire Square yeast, combined with a British heritage Brettanomyces strain. The recipe features native hops and malts, which combine with the yeasts to make a memorable, alluringly crisp beer that sparkles with subtle hints of elderflower and orchard fruits.
Speaking about Narrow Sea and Hinterland, Wiper and True founder Michael Wiper said:
“We are over the moon with how our first two mixed fermentation beers have evolved. We’ve been dabbling with Brettanomyces and other wild yeasts for several years now, but taking on the Barrel Store has given us the scope to really hone in on this unique ingredient. It’s been a joy to work on incorporating Brett into truly balanced, deliciously drinkable beers, and we hope that by offering these beers in can, they’ll be really accessible. We want everyone to feel like they can pick up a can and crack it open, and we’re confident that the balanced beers we’ve created mean we’ll be able to slightly demystify the conversation around wild yeasts and mixed fermentation.”
Head brewer at the Barrel Store, Will Davies and Michael Wiper, founder, after pitching the wild yeast into Hinterland.
Hinterland and Narrow Sea will both join the ranks of our core range, and will be accompanied by many more seasonal, collaboration and core releases from the Barrel Store over the coming months and years. The two beers are years in the making, and we’re absolutely thrilled to share them with the world. We hope you enjoy drinking them as much as we’ve enjoyed journeying into brewing them.
Discover mixed fermentation beers for yourself on our online shop now.