Over a year before we opened our brewery, we had a chance to perform a homebrew demo at the Elmwood-Bidwell Farmer’s Market, so that we might do a little promotion regarding our to-be-open brewery, as well as provide some education to market-goers about the brewing process.
We detailed the concept for the beer we brewed in a blog post called “Latest and Greatest” that was published on August 27, 2013. My guess is that not many of you read it, since you had no idea who the heck we were at that time.
Well, let’s just say the words written back then are a bit more relevant now.
Here are the details:
“August 3. I am really, really excited about this. We did a brewing demo on a beautiful Saturday morning at the Elmwood-Bidwell Famer’s Market… we wanted to brew something simple. Usually it takes 6-7 hours for us to brew a beer – the market is only open for 4-5. Since we’re uber-specific about our setup, and we didn’t have access to everything we needed (for example – cold water to cool the wort), we decided to do a partial mash brew (some grains, some malt extract.) And, if the beer didn’t turn out great, who cares right? Well, we decided if we’re not gonna care - we’re really not gonna care. So, instead of trying to bloop a single up the middle - we swung for the fences.
We collected about 5-6 pounds of ripe, bruised fruit from the farmers that didn’t need it – then used it as a source of wild yeast to kickstart a fermentation. Wild yeast (brettanomyces) typically lives on fruit, and plants, and naturally in our environment, and works similarly to brewer’s yeast (saccharomyces), but tends to yield a taste that is much different and more complex than typical flavors achieved from brewer’s yeast. To be honest, I thought there would be equal chances the beer a) wouldn’t ferment or do anything b) would turn into a vinegary, diaper bomb or c) maybe be a bit drinkable after a long, long time.
Well, after two days, we got a nice looking pellicle on top of the beer – which means that Western New York brettanomyces wild yeast has found its way into the beer! After about a week, enough yeast had grown to start a furious fermentation. I tasted the beer a week after that and it was tasting like a young red wine with a lot of funk taste thrown by the brett. We’re gonna let it sit for a few more months (at least) and see what happens. We’ll be back at EBFM on Sept. 21st to brew the same beer. We hope to blend them down the road and serve it to the farmers that provided the fruit (and yeast!) next year… or three years down the road if it takes that long to mature.”
We wound up using nine different types of fruit (peaches, blueberries, blackberries, gooseberries, raspberries, pears, nectarines, plums, and grapes) in the beer. Here is what the beer looked like after just a few days:
We tasted the two batches that were brewed about every 3 to 6 months. It took about one year to complete primary fermentation. At that time, the beer had a lot of character, quite fruity and funky, but still tasted sort of young, without a lot of depth. More specifically, the first batch we brewed (on August 3rd) had very strong brett/funk character, while the second (On September 21st) was much more acidic/lactic in character.
After another year however, the lactobacillus went to work, adding quite a bit of acidity to the beer, and the beer became very close to what it is today: quite sour, very fruity, almost vinous, with a mild underlying funk.
We aged it another 6 months in the fermenters to see if it changed (which it didn’t), then blended the two batches and bottled them, then bottle conditioned the beer for two more months.
And, as of Saturday, April 9th at 12pm – an experiment that we never thought would work – the first beer sold (to our knowledge) with native yeast and bacteria purposefully collected from Western New York – will go on sale.
The name is – of course! – Bidwell Wild. WNY Wild Ale.
A few details about the beer.
1) This is a wild and sour ale. For those that have not had one of these beers before, they are often characterized by the following terms: horsey, leathery, cheesy, acidity. This beer is not an IPA. It is certainly not a lager. It is a very complex beer with a number of unique flavors. It is much more like a wine than a beer. If you come to our brewery to taste this beer, be ready for this.
2) This is an experiment. We’re not going to sit here and say that this is the best wild ale that’s ever been brewed. That being said, it’s an experiment gone right. This is a complex and tasty beer, meant to be savored and sipped. We think those of you who enjoy wild ales will enjoy this beer.
3) The biggest problem with this experiment is that we never thought it would actually work. If we actually thought this beer might turn out good someday, we would have brewed more for sure. But, alas, we did not. We only brewed 8 gallons of it.
And, so, we have a very, very limited amount of this beer. When it goes on sale on April 9th, we will have exactly 50 x 16 oz bottles for sale. The bottles will sell for $16 each. We will also crack open several additional bottles of this beer to serve 1 oz pours, so more can at least taste the experiment. Expect there to be about 150 x 1 oz pours. We’ll sell those for $1 each. Of course, we don’t know for sure, but due to the limited availability and uniqueness of this beer, we expect the entire batch to go fast – so try to get here early on that Saturday if you want to taste or purchase one of these samples/bottles.
We are very, very proud of this beer. It has existed longer than the brewery has been open! We hope you enjoy it. Here’s to continued beer progress in Buffalo! And thanks so much to the farmers at the Bidwell Market who donated the fruit (and microorganisms) that made this beer possible!