The Heart of Wild Beer Brewing
What “wild” means to us.
Today, brewers talk about ‘local’ craft beer while sourcing ingredients from around the world. At Wild Mind Artisan Ales, we define ‘local’ as that which grows in Minnesota. From the yeast we use, to the grain and hops grown locally in our Minnesota farming fields. Once you try our brews, you’ll understand why. It’s a journey into the intricacies of the all the elements that come together in creating our wild beer styles: from the brewing process to the bacterial microbes within the yeast, to the barrel aging, blending, and cellar capabilities we apply. When everything comes together, it’s a “next level” beer drinking experience.
Building upon what we’ve started in a sustainable way that doesn’t sacrifice quality is key. Over the course of the next few years, we will work tirelessly to continue to reduce the radius of our sourced ingredients. The goal one day is to be able to say, “We planted and processed everything in this beer personally.” We are excited to see where our growth leads us. As the demand for more beer complexity and quality from drinkers continues to rise, our brewing ambitions will grow to meet them with complex, unpredictable and spontaneously fermented blends.
Sour and the wild side of brewing.
Because our beers are created by the limitation––of the local and wild resources with which we make them––you’ll find constant diversity in our tap menu. Brewing beer with wild yeast and bacteria adds a new level of complexity to an already complex process. Making beer with specialty cultures is less precise and much less predictable than brewing with a single yeast strain, but the rewards are tremendous if a brewer has patience––something we are fortunate to have in high supply.
The yeast and bacteria we use to make our beers is the driving force behind their flavors. We start with three different blends of yeast: a wild Saison blend, a funky pale ale blend, and a sour blend. The Saison blend uses more Saccharomyces yeast (designed for farmhouse/Saison style beer) that puts off more esters and phenols than typical yeast. Broadly speaking, esters are fruity and frequently desirable, while phenols are spicy and tend to show up as clove-like, medicinal or smoky aromas and are less desirable. While style-appropriate esters are usually pleasant, phenols are almost always “off” flavors.
Our ale blend mainly uses clean smelling and tasting saccharomyces and fruity Brett strains. The sour blend has a heavier dose of the sour producing bacteria and funky Brett strains.
The bacteria behind the funk.
We use a wide variety of atypical yeast as well as microorganisms, depending on the flavors we want, consisting of both commercially available yeast and native yeast that Head Brewer, Mat Waddell has personally captured. Both commercial and wild yeasts contain the following:
Saccharomyces cerevisiae: Saccharomyces Cerevisiae is a species of yeast, instrumental to winemaking, baking, and brewing since ancient times. It’s a standard Brewer’s Yeast that almost all brewers within this brewing category use. It is considered to a top–fermenting yeast because as the yeast flocculate or clump together they attach to the carbon dioxide being produced and float to the top of the wort.
Brettanomyces: Brettanomyces (brett for short) is a bit of a yeast maverick. It is considered a wild yeast and there are multiple strains of brett that we use at Wild Minds since each strain produces different “funky” flavors with relatively little acid production. Brettanomyces grow naturally on fruit skins, which back in the day, before sanitation methods were as extensive, brewers often ended up with a partially brett-fermented beer. It existed in the ambient environment, and as such, yeast found its way into the tank of glucose-rich fermenting grains.
Lactobacillus: This is the first type of bacteria we use and it produces the souring effect. We use a couple different strains of it. Like brewer’s yeasts, lactobacillus metabolizes sugars as the main source of energy, but, unlike yeast, it produces lactic acid instead of alcohol. Although undesirable in most beers, there are a few beer styles for which lactobacillus helps to create part of the beer’s characteristic flavor.
Pediococcus: This is another souring microorganism that we use with different environmental requirements than lacto. It produces lactic acid and diacetyl and can exist in Lambic and Gueuze beers. It creates a buttered popcorn or butterscotch type of aroma and flavor
The most important factor to keep in mind is that these cultures take time to develop and do their jobs fully. A good Lambic or sour style beer usually takes 1 to 2 years to develop fully. The temperature at which the beer is fermented and then stored will play a large role in determining how quickly the characteristic aromas, flavors, and acidity develop. Acidity helps flavors “POP.” Sour or acid flavors in a craft beer are the yin to the yang of the sweetness in foods. Try a sour beer with and without food and you’ll see what we mean. Add wild funk into the mix and you’ve got incredible complexity to contrast and heighten your food pairing experiences.
Our next blog installment reveals more about what makes a good sour beer, coolship brewing and how our choice of barrels and aging makes all the difference in what ends up in your glass.