Wild Things

Wild beer have come of age and so has their beer with the release of their first (spirit) barrel aged beers. Ninkasi, Wildebeest and a barley wine aged in Somerset Cider Brandy, malt whisky (a highland and Islay blended) and Marc de Bourgogne barrels respectively. All 10% ABV and available at the usual suspects.

I started with Ninkasi, one of my beers of the year for 2013. Immediately on opening you can smell the oak and boozy notes from the cider brandy barrels but the unmistakable tart apple of ninkasi is there in the background. Flavour remains much the same though body has become fuller, aided by reduced carbonation in comparison to the original but its lost some of the Belgian yeast esters which made the beer so complex in the first place. Still excellent as a beer and worth trying but I prefer the unaged version.

Now Raconteur is a new arrival. The anonymous barley wine* brewed with these barrels in mind remains hidden in the background and the Red wine parades around the palate. This is so wine-like that its almost no longer a beer. Rich molasses and sour cherry nose. Boozy grape notes and oaky vanilla. Smooth and full bodied, light carbonation, grape must, caramel, vanilla. Tonnes of port like rich vinous character...must have been a lot of wine left in there.
If wine lovers are looking for a beer that hasn't deviated much from their usual tipple then this is it. It would make an excellent pairing for dark meats and at 10% certainly has the oomph to cut through them. At about £12 for 750ml its not unreasonably priced either when compared to wine.

The Whiskebeest remains true to its parents, but becomes more rounded and hides its strength all too dangerously. Pours dark peaty brown with a light beige lacing. Whisky immediately apparent on the nose, slightly smoky but not all phenolic...something like highland park and Caol Ila?
Full bodied and thick, coffee comes first as with the original but then some warming whisky, melding seamlessly with the beer. Chocolate, toast, more coffee and sweet vanilla follow. This is barrel ageing at its best.

Three fantastic examples of barrel ageing then that I recommend you try. If I were to pick just one it would be whiskebeest, but then its my kind of beer!

*A special release of the unaged beer "zulu charlie" showed a fairly sweet, rich malt led beer with red apple, yeast esters, which could only have enhanced those red wine notes.


  1. Had the Ninkasi at the weekend. It was nice, but I wasn't blown away by it. I thought that as it warmed up a little, I got a lot more on the nose and the taste became fuller too. Haven't tried the un-aged version, so difficult to comment beyond that, but I think I expected a lot more cider brandy in the mix....an interesting experiment, though

    1. I've got plenty of bottles of the regular, will share one with you whenever I'm next in Soton!

  2. Nice post Steve. I enjoyed all three immensely and have kept another bottle of each back to see if another 12 months will do them any more good. I really enjoyed the Ninkasi Premier Cru actually preferring it to the unaged version but thought the Whiskebeest was a little all over the place and might benefit from few months of laying down... Still, stunning beers, I love this brewery!

    1. Cheers Matt. Yeah, if I wasn't about to move soon I'd probably pick up bottles for ageing too. I enjoyed them all but still prefer other beers in the range (epic saison, madness, M.O.). Tried some other interesting experiments at the hanging bat next week which should help inform a future blog...