Words: Richard Croasdale
Wednesday 02 May 2018
This article is from
Can of The Year
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Having in the past seemed like a brewery ahead of the times, 2018 feels like the Wild Beer Co’s moment to shine, as increasingly sophisticated UK palates catch onto its sour, funky, barrel-aged treats. Thanks to a hugely successful crowd funding campaign, wider distribution and a landmark new brewery under construction, there is a strong feeling that the The Wild Beer Co. is just getting started.
The new brewery, still located in beautiful rural Somerset is definitely about capacity, as Wild’s rapid growth over the past couple of years means everything about the current site is bursting at the seams. But it also makes more sense in terms of the kind of brewing it does, as Wild’s co-founder Andrew Cooper explains.
“The idea is that Westcombe, the site we’re on at the moment, is going to become a barrel ageing mecca, keeping the heart and soul of what we do here, whilst the new site on the Bath and West Showground is our production facility focusing on our volume beers like Bibble, Pogo, Fresh, Nebula and Jambo’.
Partyly building on Wild’s status as reigning BBC Food & Farming Best Drinks Producer, the new site will also have an ambitious visitor-facing side. This will support its ambition to become a destination brewery in spite of – or perhaps capitalising on – its relative remoteness.
“We’re going to have a really beautiful tap room and restaurant, an events space and function room - it’s a real showpiece. We’re not in a big metropolis, we’ve fairly remote, so people will have to make the journey to come and see us. But once they get here, it’s an accessible premium taste and flavor experience with hospitality to match. Whether it’s drink or food they are coming for or more involved tours, lectures and events. Especially things like the fermentation hall, a place where schools and colleges can bring kids and make it an education piece.”
Although Andrew says it will be at least another 12 months before the new brewery is ready to open its doors, there is already considerable investment underway in people, processes and equipment, which will enable Wild to hit the ground running.
“There will be no time to drag our heels once we open the doors, so there’s a lot of investment going in ahead of time, for example we have recently bought our new canning line that is delivering quality and consistency with great results.”
This ambitious plan for growth wouldn’t have been possible without Wild’s hugely successful crowd funding campaign late last year, which exceeded its target in a matter of days. Andrew confirms it was a real boost, in terms of engagement as well as finances.
“The great thing was getting those 2000 new fans into a position where we could communicate with and get direct feedback from them. When people have put in anything from £10-£10000+, there’s a good reason on both sides to keep that dialogue going. Suddenly we’ve got 2000 people to keep in touch with - it’s a step change in the business” he says.
The here and now is equally exciting for the brewery as it amplifies its message about its expertise with barrel aging. Continuing to turn out fantastic new brews on a regular basis, recent additions to the lineup include Dr Todd, an Islay whisky barrel aged, cocktail influenced beer, Breakfast of Champignons ’18, and Iced Modus just before Christmas.
“Modus has been a really interesting journey for people,” adds co-founder Brett Ellis.
“Our evolving love of Modus Operandi has inspired us to create spin off versions (the Beyond Modus series) that has taken the learning and knowledge of the past five years of blending and ageing techniques to create this new product. It really represents what we’re about as a brewery.
“We are also showcasing this passion when we hold our ‘Tales From The Wood’ festival here at the brewery in July. It’s an immersive event that will highlight our fascination with wood, featuring tastings, talks and tours throughout the brewery.”
“We also have some amazing beers aging in foudre that will be released this year, and our barrel cellar at the moment includes two years worth of spontaneously fermented coolship beers that we are patiently waiting for to be ready. We have a team of wild wood whisperers doing their thing as we speak!”
Beyond that, we’ve also just got an agreement to put our shipping container bar in front of the Tate Modern for the summer as part of the Picasso exhibition, with food (foraged pizza) and music from Rough Trade and Heavenly Social, which will give us great exposure without having to invest in bricks and mortar in London just yet.”
With events season coming up, Wild also has an exciting programme of collaborations for 2018, working with the likes of To-Øl, but also with highly regarded breweries that are less well known in the UK, such as LoverBeer, Alesong and Cascade.
“It’s chance to give some really amazing breweries more exposure in the UK, says Andrew. “But we’ve also tried to bring in guys who are doing some really technically creative stuff so we can all learn from each other and, at the end of the day, create some amazing beers together.”
Perhaps bucking broader trends in UK craft, Wild has also redoubled its commitment to cask, setting out an exciting programme of collaborations and praising the likes of Thornbridge for its work in moving the market forward.
“We’ve got some really interesting people we’re collaborating with on the cask project, and definitely one or two that you might not expect. Breweries so far include Magic Rock, Left Handed Giant, Fullers and a social enterprise called Ignition Brewery, with two more major announcements about to be confirmed. The range of breweries was curated off the back of the idea to have a diverse range through out the year featuring both cask veterans and new comers and as ever with us to try something different.
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