Monday, 14 September 2015

The First Wild Beer Bar & Restaurant Opens in Cheltenham

Anyone that knows a thing or two about beer will have heard of the Wild Beer Co before, and if not, you'll probably recognise the beautiful branding. And FYI, they were putting stags on their bottles way before it got "cool".

The Wild Beer Co brews wildly different beers and is pretty much considered one of the UK's most exciting breweries. They've featured on Vinspire before, thanks to Adam's 'Beers & Breweries to look out for in 2015'; but little did we know that they'd be opening up their own bar, let alone that it's be just down the road from my house in Cheltenham (a stone's throw away from The Grape Escape no less… I can see a bar crawl brewing… No pun intended),

Saturday 12th September saw the launch night of Wild Beer at Jessop House, and a number of people in the industry were invited to come and see what wonders the team have created in the stunning Georgian townhouse just off the High Street.

Full-flavoured beers with unusual ingredients and yeast strains are their forte, and although I've tried a couple of their beers before, I was looking forward to sampling more of their ever-changing range. To make an indecisive person's life harder - raises hand - Wild Beer don't just showcase their own beers, but also those of other great breweries too! So, as well as the WBC's many wild, sour and barrel-aged beers, there are pale ales, IPA's, lagers, saisons, stouts and many other styles of beer from around the world. To top it off, they have a cracking list of wines, spirits, cocktails, soft drinks and coffees; how is one supposed to choose?!

Greeted with a flute of Ninkasi (a gorgeous 9% champagne fermentation beer named after the ancient Greek goddess of beer), I had a tour of the building. The ground floor houses the main bar, which has 20 draft beers on tap, each with an individual pressure and a building/gardening tool handle - I'll have a pint of the trowel please - then there are two rooms for you to park your bum in. If you strike lucky with the weather, you can even venture out to the hidden walled garden at the back; a rare find in a town centre venue!

There's a lounge on the first floor, full of sofa's and armchairs, which can be hired out for private functions or parties. It's bar only opens in the evening, but it serves some of the rare and unusual bottled beers from Wild Beer Co, as well as a few cocktails.

Heading downstairs into the basement, there's a cosy 45 seat restaurant. I should probably say now that the whole place is kitted out perfectly - tiles, wood, bricks, antlers, wing-back chairs, a barrel-stave-bloody-wall, and the most amazing illustrations from Ben Rothery - I can already see me being a regular.

Canap├ęs were coming out of the kitchen to give us a taste of the creative beer-laced menu, which sees small dishes such as charcuterie, cured and pickled fish, and bruschetta, as well as more substantial meals like ox cheek carbonade, Iberico pork collar, and bouillabase. The banana bread pain perdu was a top tip for dessert from Wild Beer's co-founder Brett Ellis; even the bread is made with beer, giving it a unique flavour... I'm sold.

Brunch is big thing here too. Hallelujah! The 'Bloody Dill-icious' Bloody Mary - using dill infused vodka, dill pickles and tomato juice - is to die for, and pair that with an ox eggs benedict or beetroot gravadlax, and YES, just yes.

Food and drink pairings, tasting menus with matching drinks flights, and dinners with different producers are all on the cards, so be sure to keep an eye out on their Facebook or Twitter feed.

The million dollar question; what did I drink? Well, what didn't I drink is probably more accurate! Wild Beer at Jessop House is a different kind of beer experience, they're all about the importance of quality and trying tastes and flavours rather than simply offering you a pint. Yep, that's right, they don't actually serve pints, though that's not surprising when some of their beers are super-high percentages, *cough* the 13% Yadokai (a collab beer that's sake inspired with flaked rice, saison yeast, Scottish sea buckthorn, yuzu, Hijiki and Konbu seaweed). Wowzas.

All the staff have been well trained in the lead up to the opening, and they're instilled with the ethos that 'there is a beer for everyone', and they will endeavour to find the perfect beer for you.

I started off lightly with an interesting 2.9% Cool As A Cucumber; a clean, cool and refreshing infused beer that screams summer and desperately wants to be drank at a BBQ - good luck with that in September, eh? Then we had the Madness IPA, which was crowned Supreme Champion by the Society of Independent Brewers (SIBA) in its National Beer Competition 2015. At 6.8%, its a tropical punchbowl of aromas and absolutely hop-tastic!

The Millionaire would be an excellent companion to a chocolate dessert; a decadently dreamy chocolate and salted caramel milk stout. Whilst the Sleeping Lemons would partner a Middle Eastern dish marvellously; a complex German-style sour wheat beer brewed with preserved lemons. Did you know that L'hamd Marakad, the Moroccan for preserved lemon, litterally translates as Sleeping Lemons? Nope, me neither.

There were so many other good'uns that I tried (with the help on my other half of course), much of which was from their core range that you can view on Wild Beer Co's website. Needless to say, with so many different styles and percentages flying round, I left feeling very merry, and as of yesterday - the official opening day - you can too! What's more, there are rumours of a second site in Bristol in the pipeline - move over Brewdog, you've got some new competition!

Go WILD and plan a trip to Cheltenham. You won't be disappointed!

Wild Beer at Jessop House can be found at 30 Cambray Place, Cheltenham, Gloucesterhsire. GL50 1JP.

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