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Heretical Sour Beer & Natural Wine

The gentlemanly club of making booze is rarely forgiving to those who challenge the established order. There are the accepted rules; and there is the chaotic worldview of its heretics.

This is where life gets a little more interesting in the brewing landscape. In recent weeks there was a great little story on the ABC’s 7.30 Report about Ashley Huntington’s micro-brewery, Two Metre Tall, that broached the subject of sour beer. These may be the fringe beers in contemporary Australia, but sour beers are mainstream fare in the United States and Europe and sit at the forefront of the burgeoning craft brewing industry.

There is a bit more written about Ashley Huntington’s mouthwateringly colourful wine barrel aged cherry beer on the ABC Rural website. Or if you’re in Southern Tasmania you might attend his popular on-site Farm Bar at Hayes. It’s on our to-do-when-we-have-cash list, so we’ll hopefully get there.

Another group of rule breakers worth keeping an eye out for in the brewing scene are those heretical natural wine geeks.

Natural wine vintners utilise wild yeasts from the environment (as opposed to commercial yeasts) and avoid many of the additives that govern qualities of a commercial wine. They don’t add in things like egg white or sturgeon bladder to clarify wine. And they only add sulphur dioxide right before bottling. Of course, the nature of these wines can be as heretical as their creative philosophy outside the conventional wine paradigm, so be open to a new experience.

The Sunday 13 October, 2013 episode of ABC’s Landline had a great story on natural wines as the second segment (starting at 16 minutes) looking at both sides of this wine heresy.

One exciting quote from Anton van Klopper (an ex-cook turned natural wine maker), Lucy Margaux Wines, South Australia “… but the consumer has changed; people are after more interesting things. We’ve got a more educated consumer and people trust their palates a bit more.”

Again, natural wine is a much bigger thing in Europe and we can only hope, as the Australian palate and confidence grows, that there will continue to be market growth in the heretical direction. It’s nice to see the heretics convert drinkers to a wider idea of what’s possible in a glass.

This heretical direction is the most interesting for us when it comes to making mead, too. Not that we’re throwing away commercial yeast or DAP (Diammonium Phosphate) because honey is a nutrient poor source of fermentables, but we do try to avoid any unnecessary additives. And we embrace the wild yeasts that contribute from added fruit in the fermentation.

We’re looking for something in at least some of our mead that’s not quite the fare of the Fruit Wine Society and sits beyond the accepted mead paradigm. There’s not much excitement for us in becoming the eleventieth traditional mead seller on the block.

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About the Author

Steven Clark Steven Clark - the stand up guy on this site

My name is Steven Clark and I live in the Derwent Valley in Southern Tasmania. I have an MBA (Specialisation) and a Bachelor of Computing from the University of Tasmania. I'm a mazer & a yeast farmer (making beer, fruit wine and mead as by-products of continuous improvement in my farming practices). I'm a photographer, although my film cameras are currently silent. I do not tolerate idiots. I do not tolerate bigotry. I do not tolerate excuses. Let's be clear, if you sit with my enemies you my are my enemy for life.

Blogger. Thinker. Brewer. Drinker. Life partner to the amazing and incredible Megan.

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