Wild Beer x Coolhead
A mixed-ferm marriage made in heaven
Wednesday 09 March 2022
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If ever two breweries were destined to get along, it’s Finland’s Coolhead brewing and Somerset’s Wild Beer Co. Sure, there’s a couple of thousand miles and years of experience separating them, but they’re cut from the same nature-inspired, fermentation-driven cloth. So when the two teams got together to collaborate on a mixed-ferm black IPA, the results were always going to be exciting.
“We got to know Coolhead quite well during a festival we were both at,” says Wild co-founder and brewing director Brett Ellis. “The beers they make are very creative and very in line with what we do; they’ve not been going all that long either, so there’s this real energy and excitement that they bring. They’ve also just moved into this huge greenhouse, which houses the entire brewery. Not sure how they’re going to survive in the summer, but it looks amazing.”
The resulting beer, Rabbit Pants (a phrase that is the Finnish equivalent of ‘scaredy cat’) is brewed with Wild’s own house culture; the same mix of beer and wine yeasts that give the brewery’s core IPA its dry, crisp, slightly Belgian character.
Brett continues: “For this brew though, we agreed with Coolhead that it would be good to have more of a Finnish identity, so we did a much cooler fermentation. That makes our house culture behave a lot more like Kveik [a traditional Scandinavian strain of brewers’ yeast], so it still ferments quickly and aggressively, but is much cleaner than with a warm ferment, so you don’t get those farmhouse clove and ester notes. It’s a very different beer to our Wild IPA.”
Black IPA is of course a style that’s fallen largely out of favour, and Brett doesn’t hold out much hope for a miraculous change in its fortunes. This particular brew though is inspired by Stone Brewing’s Sublimely Self-Righteous, a legendary example of the style that pulled off the feat of balancing rich coffee and chocolate malt with fresh hops and plenty of body.
“We’ve used the equivalent of 10g of hops per litre, with Simcoe, Centennial and Idaho-7 as our power hops, added in the whirlpool and in dry hop. Balancing a black IPA can be quite tricky, because the colour has to be right, but that obviously affects the flavour; you’ve got the bitterness of the malt but also a different kind of bitterness from the hops. We did the first brew in a double batch and checked it alongside Coolhead. And then for the following eight batches we tweaked it a little, making the colour a little darker and adding more Centennial,” says Brett.
“Even though we couldn’t all be in a room, it was a very active collaboration. The guys at Coolhead were much more relaxed about it being more dark brown than black, for example, so we found a middle ground there. And the hop profile was originally more like a New England IPA – not hazy, because if you make a hazy dark beer it just looks like mud, but in terms of the low hop bitterness and residual sweetness. Coolhead was really keen to go down more bitter, west coast IPA route, and I’m glad they pushed on that because it really worked out well – definitely the right decision.”
There are plenty of other exciting developments happening in Somerset just now, including the addition of a new bottle size to Wild’s range of sour beers, which will soon be available in a 500ml bottle. This increasingly popular format is a happy medium between the single serving of a 330ml bottle and the wine bottle-sized 750ml, which can be a bit of an undertaking. There’s also a brand new low-alcohol ‘IPA soda’ coming out in time for the summer; an intriguing hybrid product which blends fresh fruit juices and zest with beer, for a 0.5% sparkling drink that Brett believes will be a big hit.
Wild was one of most nimble breweries at the beginning of the pandemic, swiftly realigning to focus on small pack and alternative distribution channels; a fact that’s happily meant we’ve been able to bring you more of its beers over the past two years. With restrictions now lifting, Brett is as keen as anyone to get back out into the world, to pubs and festivals (not to the detriment of Beer52 subscribers though, he assures me).
Long-time Wild fans will be pleased to hear this means the return of the brewery’s legendary beer and cheese festival, which showcases many of the things Somerset does best. Beer, cheese and charcuterie obviously feature prominently, but the brewery itself also throws open its doors for in-depth tours and even beer blending masterclasses. The festival takes place on May 21, and tickets can be bought here. I’ll be the guy slumped against a barrel, in a gruyere coma – see you there.
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