Can You Make Wild Beer In A Vineous Mono-culture?


Like most things, Canadians are about half a decade behind so it is no surprise that a group of Ontario brewers have decided to take a kick at wild beer or that some in the Canadian media reacted to the invitation as if they had no idea what was going on in the wider world of good beer. Which is nothing against those directly involved. It’s a great idea. Hope it is yummy and not sold for twenty bucks a glass. Experiment on your own dime, brewers.

Wild indigenous wine yeasts are one of the current things. Like Citra hops. Craze that might be a fad. Here today and gone tomorrow. Yet the yeast is itself. From the photo up top from the Macleans magazine article, you can see the brewing is done in a vineyard, an agricultural monoculture. But is it a monoculture of yeast even if the plants are all clones? Apparently not. We learn that our mutual friend Saccharomyces cerevisiae is certainly on the grapes but only on about 1 in 1,000 berries. What else is in there? The beer will tell. Could be tasty. Hopefully.

PS: get a coolship, wouldja? Wild inoculation via narrow topped vessels might be less than optimum if the history of beer before a hundred or so years ago is anything to go by.

One thought on “Can You Make Wild Beer In A Vineous Mono-culture?”

  1. [Original comments…]

    Martyn Cornell – November 2, 2012 7:34 AM
    I thought Josh Rubin knew what he was talking about – where did he get the stupid idea that wild-fermented medieval brews would “quite frequently” be “mouldy sludge”?

    It’s another example of people simply not thinking through what they write. Clearly, if your efforts “quite frequently” ended in complete failure and the waste of expensive raw materials, fuel and time, you’d stop doing whatever you were doing, either to find a better way or do do something else completely different. So we can conclude that in fact, most of the time, wild-fermented medieval brews were pretty successful

    Jason Fisher – November 4, 2012 12:06 PM
    I’m one of the brewers in this beer project, we’re half-jokingly calling ourselves the four barrel brewers because we will end up with four barrels at the end if all goes well.

    I know you are a respected beer blogger, among the very rare of that species, however this is quite a poor article. I’m not sure why bloggers at the same time feel like journalists but also refuse to do any basic fact checking or follow up. Did you contact anyone to clarify anything before writing? It appears you didn’t even fully read the article.

    The vineyard is basically surrounded by orchards, as referenced in the article and in several other publications. A few hundred feet away from several hundred acres of multiple types of fruit trees, so mono-culture? More like mega-culture.

    Airborne yeasts and bacteria can travel thousands of kilometres, but being in a very dense population of a variety of organic fruit at harvest time should have helped maximize our exposure to the airborne creatures. Of course, time will tell and so far the barrels are fermenting nicely. However the point was not to re-create a replica of a belgian brewery 1000 years ago, but to take that level of care and effort to make something special in our surroundings and within our means. We don’t own 500 year old cool-ships. Small open top fermenters are a good substitute. Again, we’ll see in the final product if you can taste the lack of cool-ship. I doubt it. We planned this for several months to account for all details we could research and find, but it is a wildly fermented beer and things will happen. We used barrel staves to stir the wort to help with exposure time to the air. We checked temp and weather forecasts to find the best window for inoculation, so a great deal of effort went in and it was for the joy of the experimenting, hardly a fad or part of a craze we believe.

    Not sure why you are complaining about the price of a beer that’s not even made yet – you have options. You can easily go get ‘buck a beer’ from the local Beer Store if price is a concern. No one will be forced to purchase this, and no price would accurately reflect the effort or risk that went into the beer. Complaining about the lack of quality beer, and our lagging behind the american beer scene, while at the same complaining about the price of a premium product is sucking and blowing at once. Pick one. It wont be cheap if it’s even sold at all. If the criticism is of the price when the beer is released, please do some diligence in researching the cost factors and product comparisons before complaining in a blog. That seems like real journalism to me.

    Lastly, I am in the minority among local brewers in agreeing with you that we, Ontario in particular, are far behind our American craft beer cousins. We’re catching up, but way behind. One area we still seem to be lacking in is ‘beer geek culture’ and beer blogging. A large portion of the local variety are, affectionately, “Haters”. Know it all, snarky and can turn a phrase occasionally, but have no real knowledge of their subject, just opinion based seemingly formed to gain status and cred in their community. They have pallets adjusted to the molecular level and are polite to your face but vile when they get back to their key boards in their mothers basements. (ok that was a bit harsh and does not reflect all local beer geeks, but for far too many is scarily accurate).

    Keep the standards high and please feel free to reach out with questions to the subjects you write about. You would be surprised how much help you will get if you are open about your intentions and honest in your writings. Thoughtful criticism is amazing, but get’s muted when others just spew hate or nonsense.

    PS- Martyn, read any of the books available about wild fermentation in pre- WWI Belgian breweries and you’ll see Josh was bang on.

    Alan – November 4, 2012 1:30 PM
    Thanks for being a bit of a superior jerk yourself, Jason. Remind me to remind you of that if we should meet.

    If you take the chip off your should for a second – the one obstructing your view of the screen – you will see the comparison between the apparent monoculture of the grapes and the hidden complexity of the yeasts and other microbes, the things you are actually after. So, rather than being the thing you take me to be, I am expressing interest and support.

    But thanks for being so off the mark and confirming only you yourself to be what you accuse others of being.

    Martyn Cornell – November 4, 2012 2:20 PM
    Jason, if you can point me to a book that says wild-fermented medieval brews would “quite frequently” be “mouldy sludge” where the writer is speaking with well-researched, verifiable authority, I would be fascinated.

    Mike Warner – November 4, 2012 2:58 PM
    While I don’t completely side with Jason (as a beer blogger I take offense to some of his comments, though it seems he is confusingly lumping beer geeks and bloggers together), I do agree that this is a poor article. It really bugs me when people complain about Ontario being behind the times, then a) don’t want to pay for beers that try to bring something new to the industry, and b) give this attitude of, “Well, that’s been done before, so who cares?” From your tone, it sounds like you hope the beer is a mess and you can say, “I told you so”

    Alan – November 4, 2012 3:15 PM
    So what, Mike? Why do you think I would care whether you thought a blog post is “a poor article” base on what bugs you? While we are at it why do you equate “not sold for twenty bucks a glass” with not paying? I can only assume you are functionally illiterate or just a blind booster from your comment but beside that – why do you think I care what bugs you?

    Jason Fisher – November 4, 2012 3:52 PM
    I knew I would regret writing to you. Tried to be accurate and constructive for the most part (yes it’s a little harsh about the bloggers and I took pains to say not ‘ALL” bloggers and geeks were like this, but enough are to stain the whole in general terms) and all I get back is crap.

    Any time you want to call me a jerk to my face Alan, any time. It’s clearly a bad post, your anger comes from you knowing and not being able to admit it.

    Haters gona hate.

    Alan – November 4, 2012 3:59 PM
    We’re done, Jason. Any other comments are just going to get unpublished, too, so don’t bother.

    [Later…] And now Mike, too. There is no obligation to accommodate the wrong and rude. Comment moderation now on.

    [Still Later…] Jason and I have emailed back and forth, I said I was sorry for saying he was a jerk and now we are going to make this relationship work. [*sniff*] I will write a proper post on this later this evening.

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