Once you get a bit of an insight into the working life of a professional brewer, it really does destroy the mystique around how cool a job it must be. Sure, you get to drink nice beers, hang out with mostly nice people and create new things that bring joy to the masses, but like pretty much any job there’s a great deal of hard work that goes unnoticed and a big helping of mindless repetition. Plus, at some stage you’re almost certainly going to burn yourself with boiling liquid or a caustic chemical.
But, every so often, you also might get the chance to do something you’ve spent years dreaming of doing and have one of your best mates beside you when you do it.
Village is the first instalment of what we hope will be a very long-term collaboration between Sydney’s Wildflower and Katoomba’s Mountain Culture. The foundations of this Village were laid even before Mountain Culture’s DJ McCready had a brewery of his own. Driven by friendship and a mutual love of Belgian beer, the two hatched a plan to one day brew their very own traditionally-made lambic style ale. So serious were they about this plan that, when DJ was finally setting up Mountain Culture in 2019, he made sure his brewery could actually handle a turbid mash process. Turbid mashing is an old Belgian technique still used by the likes of Cantillon and Boon that utilises raw wheat and a huge helping of tediousness mucking about to create an almost milk-like wort that excels at feeding wild bacteria and yeasts.
So, in 2020, Topher drove his newly-constructed copper coolship up the range, then he and DJ got to work on filling it with hot, milky wort bittered with aged Aussie hops. The filled coolship was then left on Mountain Culture’s back deck overnight to allow all the sugar-loving yeasts and bacteria floating on the Katoomba evening breeze to make themselves at home before the wort was loaded onto the back of the Wildflower ute and transferred into clean ex-Brokenwood wine puncheons for its long ferment. When people talk about spontaneous fermentation, this is about as close to textbook as it gets.
This process was done multiple times in 2020, again in 2021, and will continue indefinitely so our first year release of Village is a blend of three one-year-old barrels, while future releases will be able to draw from a much wider range of older and newer beers for blending. While Topher and DJ are not calling this beer a lambic for their own reasons, I’m probably just going to call Village what it is: a lovingly produced Australian lambic.
Village starts with juicy fruit esters of pear, peach and berries, but if you allow it to open up with a bit of warmth, the cheesy aged hops really shine through. The Brett influence is rather subdued with no hint of dusty pineapple or barnyard funk as yet. What’s really striking is that Village is properly bitter, with the spicy bitterness overlaid on mild acidity with a sort of savoury, nutty finish. For one year old lambic, Village is a giddying taste of what’s to come and a reminder that, even in 2022, nice things are still possible.
Published March 3, 2022 2022-03-03 00:00:00