“A pillowy-spritzy head; aromatic notes of struck match, hay and citrus; a careful balance tartness and bitterness, a minerality in the finish,” is how Brett Taylor, Head of Brewing at Wild East Brewing Co. pictures the ideal farmhouse ale. Emphasizing balance he adds, “If that tartness and bitterness are balanced just right they don’t linger and you can’t help going for another sip.”
The focus on balance extends to the tap list at Wild East where Brett and his cofounders Lindsay Steen and Tyler March strike a harmony between a variety of styles that are available on the 20 lines in their taproom.
Brett says, “Not more than two to three hazy beers,” which is unusual on tap lists around NYC, especially in Brooklyn. Even more unusual, those hazies are surrounded by taps touting styles like Brettanomyces fermented ales, mixed culture Saisons, barrel aged beers, Berliner Weisse variants, and light and dark lagers.
“We want pretty equal representation of light and dark, sour and bitter, hoppy and malty [available],” he says.
A Process-Focused Brewery Making Farmhouse Styles
Having that many styles of beer available means that Wild East doesn’t focus exclusively on a specific type of beer or beer making technique, instead Brett says the brewery is “process focused” and uses a mix of traditional and modern methods of make their beers.
One of the core beers available from Wild East is an easy-drinking Grisette made with clean Saison yeast that tastes like Bosc pear, Nilla Wafers, and fresh-squeezed lemonade. This Grisette, called Fluent, is a refreshing beer worth seeking out on its own, but it’s also an essential step to keeping Wild East’s mixed-culture Saisons tasting right.
“We mostly brew our beers with our mixed culture, when young it’s very “clean” tasting,” says Brett. “But through successive generations it gets more bretty and lactic and needs an infusion of the clean Saison yeasts to bring it back into balance.”
Brewing a batch of Fluent gets that clean Saison yeast ready to ferment alongside wild yeast and bacteria and produce the delicate funky that the team at Wild East is looking for in their mixed fermentation beers.
Contour Interval is a wheat Saison that relies on the house mixed culture as well as a unique method known as “Solera.” Using this method a barrel or, in the case of Contour Interval, a foeder is filled with beer to age. Once the beer has acquired the character the brewer is looking for, the foeder is partially emptied and that beer goes off to packaging. The space created in the foeder is then filled with a fresh batch of beer that will age together with the beer already in the foeder until it tastes ready for packaging. Solera creates a unique beer that is a blend of dozens of different vintages.
So what does a Foeder Solera Saison Taste like?
Brett says the Contour Interval series of wheat saisons have, “balanced acidity and bitterness, minerality, lightly funky, hay-like aroma and high carbonation.”
He adds that people trying farmhouse ales (especially mixed fermentation farmhouse beers like this one) should, “Think more about wine than beer when you approach this.”
Contour Interval does have some of the fruit character that many IPA drinkers look for in hop flavors. Hints of tropical citrus created by the yeast can mirror those found in fruity, hazy IPAs.
What’s New and Next at Wild East in Brooklyn?
Brett is most excited about using fruit multiple times. “Fresh fruit is great,” he says, “But the subtlety of second use fruit produces some very sophisticated flavors.”
If you’re planning to be in Brooklyn in the next several months you might be able to try some of his second use fruit projects. Keep an eye out for “our barrel-aged Saison, Cosmic Arena resting on second use peaches that had some barrel-aged sour beer before, and two generations of barrel-aged Brett Blonde resting on second-use raspberries.”