Wild ales are extremely interesting beers. First off, wild yeast is normally kept from the brewing process; it’s strange when brewers encourage it. Of course, wild yeasts (normally from a small region in Belgium) have become lab yeasts in the same sense that normal lab yeasts have very specific requirements. So, in some sense these are not “wild” in that they are not area-derived yeast floating around. However, these Bretts, as some beer lovers affectionally call them, are known to add some funk to the beer. You have to be careful when adding these bretts; they don’t typically have wide appeal, partly because they are unpredictable (maybe this is why Avery only brewed 694 barrels). After trying Avery’s Wild Ale, I wish they would have shipped me a barrel of it. Beware, this beer is not for everyone.
The Pour: Avery does not wish to specify what type of beer this is. In fact, they simply say that it is not brewed to any one specific style. However, I can tell you that it was much darker than I expected. Most wild ales I’ve encountered are un-fruited lambics and “Bretted” saisons (a.k.a., lighter beers). Brabant was certainly more porter/dark porter in color, which made me do a sensory double-take. This would turn out to be a theme for the beer. A further note: there was a small head on Brabant, and it was a pretty active beer.
The Nose: Being that Avery aged this beer in Zinfandel barrels, it certainly had some very vinous (wine-like) notes. But something else really took me by surprise: there was a distinct and unmistakable ripe, aged black olive quality to this beer. I love olives, so this aroma was a nice treat for me. I also noted a hint of what I can only describe as a new rubber aroma. Funky notes, indeed! There was also a touch of sweetness to the nose, which was a nice, normal quality. Additionally, as a wild ale, it had some lambic/funky qualities. To me, there were some aromas somewhere between a lambic and a Flemish sour ale.
The Taste: I’m assuming the review has not made anyone drool at this point, unless you have a affinity for new rubber…but that’s your problem. Yet I want you to know that this was one of the most unique tasting experiences that I’ve had with beer. There was some aged, ripened black olive taste to Brabant (I loved it). The funk was certainly present but not overbearing. Like I suspected, it did drink somewhere in between a Flemish in its sourness and a true lambic in its funk. There was a woody finish along with some touches of smokiness. Alcohol flavor was present but not overbearing, and wine notes were part of this quality. The tart sourness of Brabant intermingled nicely with a hint of residual sweetness. A nice, foamy mouth-feel ended well with a semi-bitter and dry perception.
Overall, I think this beer is terrific. I paid $8.99 for a 12 ounce bottle of 8.65% ABV beer, but I will pay that again. This beer is simply unique and unpredictable. Let me say that I’ve only given one other beer a 5-star review (Bourbon County Stout by Goose Island), but I’m giving this beer that coveted prize. There a few reasons that I’m marking it the way I am. First of all, the beer is complex and very well done. Even if I didn’t like the funky or other qualities in the beer, I would still give it at least a 4 or 4 1/2. Regardless of my feelings, I think the beer demands respect and has balance for the style. The subjective side, namely the fact that I like there taste so much, puts the beer at a 5 for me. So, you can see that ratings are subjective…but not entirely. I really hope to try the rest of Avery’s series. That’s my way of hinting for them to send me some. One can only hope. If nothing else, I can try to pick up another bottle or two of this stuff.
Among other Wild Beers: