Blended Wild Ale is the Next Big Thing in Craft beer

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A bottle share with some blends

Yes I truly believe the next explosion in Beer will be blended Wild ales and Wild-ish ales. No, I do not mean that I believe Blended Wild-ish ales will come to dominate the industry like Hazy IPAs have. I do think Blended Wild-ish ales will come to form a small fraction of the market to become a small but significant portion of the market though. Before I go any further lets get some Vocab down

Blended Ales “involve[s] a brewer sampling multiple beers and then determining (with specific measurements and careful sensory analysis) the right combination of flavors. In barrel-aged beers, this involves pulling nails from the front of aging barrels and sampling the liquid therein.”

https://www.allagash.com/blog/why-blend-beer/?ao_confirm

Wild Yeast Yeast actually is present in the air and wind. Exposing beer to the open air and wind will often lead to fermentation. The problem with this method is the yeast strains are often very localized and can be very different,  giving what many might consider “off flavours”. Some regions and areas (even buildings) are well known for having very desirable local strains. The most beloved strains are often found in Belgium where a few brewers still consistently wild ferment.

Wild Ale “Wild Ales aren’t necessarily Sour Ales, and Sour Ales aren’t necessarily Wild Ales. What makes a Wild Ale a Wild Ale is just that – the presence of a wild yeast or some other kind of uncontrolled or atypical microflora (“bugs,” if you will). These microflora are used in addition to (or wholly in place of) traditional brewer’s yeast (Saccharomyces Cerevisiae). It isn’t necessarily a requirement that the “wild” fermenting strain be derived from the actual wild – it also can come from a pure culture of some particular bug like Lactobacillus (Lacto), Pediococcus (Pedio) or Brettanomyces (Brett).”

https://beerconnoisseur.com/articles/difference-between-sour-and-wild-ale

Wild-ish Ale I made up this term to describe beers that are made from lab curated wild strains, so they may taste like true wild ales but they are brewed in a more modern way. 

Its important to note that there are no hard-fast rules about these beers and Breweries play with the labeling and naming often. For example it is my understanding that Yellow Dog’s recent Blended Reality release used Barrel-Aged Wild-ish beer BLENDED with  a kettle sour. Is that a Wild Blended Ale in a specific sense? No. But, in the broader sense it is Blended and thus a Blended ale, for the purpose of this article I mean Blended Wild Ales in the broader sense.

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Why are Blended Ales about to explode (in relative terms)?

Quality

Unlike other beers which after fully fermenting and conditioning do not change, blended beers are able to be blended to brewers taste. For example a brewer may brew 1000 litres of beer and put the beer into 3 100 litre oaked barrels, 3 100 litre oaked barrels with raspberries, and the rest in a steel conditioning vessel. When it is time to package the brewer can try each vessel. Each vessel WILL have slight to large differences in flavour body etc. The brewer can taste and blend to intended taste ensuring (to a a much larger degree than a conventional brew) that the beer tastes as she or he intends. In short blending allows for greater quality… and yes some beer is often left on the cutting room floor.

 

-Barreling at Coalesce and Temporal Artisan Ales

Cost

Lets make no bones about it when done well the quality of a blended ale should be very high, but what is also intriguing in the low start up cost of these breweries. Whereas conventional breweries really need stainless steel fermenting tanks which cost  in the 10s of thousands of dollars Barrels can be had in the mid hundreds. That is not to say when scaling to larger sizes that the costs of a blended ale brewery aren’t similar to a conventional brewery but rather that in certain circumstances such as a small start up brewery in 1000-3000 sq feet the start up costs can be significantly lower. An example of this is Deep Dark Woods Brewing in Whitehorse Yukon Territory. Another way this happens is when an employee of an existing brewery buys 10-50 barrels, leases space and time on the brewhouse from the brewery and they start a brand, as was the case (or something similar) in Coalesce Brewing and Temporal Brewing.

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Small scale brewing at Deep Dark Woods Brewing, pictured here is the Barrel Mash Tun

If you are looking to give these beers a go locally start with both Temporal Artisan Ales and the coming soon Bakery Brewing on Brewers Row  . Slightly further a field Deep Dark Woods Brewing in the Yukon Territory. Internationally I recommend Drie Fonteinen, Brasserie Tilquin, and Cantillon!

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