The Bhurtpore Inn
Wrenbury Road

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Wild beers: So much more than a piece of history

Around 30 years ago my brother and I found ourselves staying in a hotel on the continent, possibly in Heidelberg, near the Black Forest. Armed with little more than a couple of books on world beers (by the late Michael Jackson, ‘the Beer Hunter’ – my greatest source of inspiration) we set off to explore.

We found a shop selling a good range of 8 or 10 bottles to sample in the hotel later, before setting off and enjoying a few beers in a nearby bar.

On our return, already a little the worse for wear, we started on the bottles which we had left in the mini-bar in the room. This was to be my first experience of Belgian lambic ales. We had 3 or 4, mostly Mort Subite, with and without fruit.

I didn’t really know what to make of the stuff. Sour, cidery, not particularly strong – what was the point? I was glad to have had the opportunity to try them and considered it a box ticked. Done that.

Later, on the same trip, I fell in love with the wheat beers of Bavaria and the smoked beers of Bamberg. These I knew I would seek out in the future, unlike the lambics.

A few years later I found myself in Bernie’s Off-Licence, Shirley, West Midlands. When I came to pay, amongst the Trappists and great Belgian classics in my basket nestled a couple of Timmerman’s lambics. A second chance.

First impressions were exactly as I remembered. Exactly. Only this time my reaction was subtly different – I wanted more. I wanted to try more. More trips to Bernie’s followed and more lambics were sampled. I was smitten.

When I came to the Bhurtpore I was able to indulge myself to a greater extent and still enjoy lambics, the dryer and sourer the better – Cantillon is now king for me.

The style has now broken out from a small area of Belgium and craft brewers are using wild Brettanomyces, or Brett yeasts to produce beers of tremendous character all around the world. Look out for the Wild Beer Co. from Bristol.

If you haven’t yet developed a liking for these styles, it really is worth a little work. Strawberry Timmermans doesn’t really represent the style. Ask me for help if you want to try something. Or go to Bernie’s. It’s still there and still in the Good Beer Guide more than 25 years on.   

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