wattle it be; our first wild ale

Cut to a mid-weeknight at the bar in lockdown. I’m sitting behind the bar on my computer, sipping on a coffee, alone out the front, Cass and the team in the kitchen pumping away whilst I await my new favourite people, delivery drivers. In walks Mark with a bag of freshly picked wattle flowers from his property on Obley Road. He and I had been exchanging texts over the past few days about the wattle coming into season and how it would be advantageous to see what I could do with it. At this point I wasn’t sure who was more excited about the end result, Mark or me.

A small starter was created, basically a couple of litres of un-hopped beer with enough potential gravity for a small culture of yeast to cut their teeth on but not so much as to throw them into overdrive and stress them out. The wattle was submerged, and nature was left to run its course. Over the next couple of days, fermentation had slowly begun and more starter was added gradually throughout the next month to build up the culture of yeast to a point where there was enough to safely pitch into a batch of beer.

Cast your mind back to the 9th of August 2021. Peak Delta, the second lockdown had begun. The bar was thrown once again back into uncertainty with us being able to rely solely on takeaway and we had one of our fermenters empty and waiting to be filled.

 
The idea of a wild ale showcasing local yeast had been a whisper in our conversations whenever I had sat down to work on a recipe; however it was always thrown into that ‘wouldn’t it be nice’ category. The biggest constraint we encounter with The Pilot Room is keeping up with demand and it pains me when we are in-between beers with nothing pouring to share with those that come looking for it. Whilst this is, in essence, the nature of the beast that we have created; this period of uncertainty with no set end date presented an opportunity too good to pass up.

As fate would have it, the wattle around town had started to bloom earlier in the season than normal.

Cut to a mid-weeknight at the bar in lockdown. I’m sitting behind the bar on my computer, sipping on a coffee, alone out the front, Cass and the team in the kitchen pumping away whilst I await my new favourite people, delivery drivers. In walks Mark with a bag of freshly picked wattle flowers from his property on Obley Road. He and I had been exchanging texts over the past few days about the wattle coming into season and how it would be advantageous to see what I could do with it. At this point I wasn’t sure who was more excited about the end result, Mark or me.

A small starter was created, basically a couple of litres of un-hopped beer with enough potential gravity for a small culture of yeast to cut their teeth on but not so much as to throw them into overdrive and stress them out. The wattle was submerged, and nature was left to run its course. Over the next couple of days, fermentation had slowly begun and more starter was added gradually throughout the next month to build up the culture of yeast to a point where there was enough to safely pitch into a batch of beer.

The timing of the batch was perfect, given the circumstances. We had no end date for lockdown for us to be able to open up again, I was dealing with an unknown in terms of the yeast culture I had scaled up and had no idea how long it would take to fully ferment a beer or whether said beer would result in something that was in fact, drinkable. Early signs were promising, the starter smelt sweet, with some funk and peppery spice that appealed to me and was reminiscent of saison / farmhouse esters. And so, in the beginning of October, the yeast was pitched into a wort consisting of a mix of pilsner malt and rolled wheat and a lesson in patience had begun.

Fermentation began slowly and persisted over the next 4 and a half months, as the flavours developed and progressed;

 – ‘smelling like a pack of freshly opened lollies. Wort is highly hazy, dark orange in appearance’

 – ‘progressed from lolly sweetness in smell to fruit nectar and funk’

 – ‘nectar giving way to bubble gum, still sweet, no change in appearance’

 – ‘wort beginning to dry out, spicy funk complexity to the aroma now, taste is dry, woody’

The beer was showing promise, I was excited, every step of the way Cass would be present as my constant sounding board and sanity check. Whilst I will forever by my harshest critic, it helps when your partner also doesn’t shy away from calling a spade a spade. Together, we felt confident that we had something we would be able to release. 

Meanwhile, lockdown had ceased. The bar was beginning to come back to life and my stresses about keeping up with beer had resumed, albeit with an additional factor. Being down a fermenter full of beer with no end date in site whilst the flavours matured. Conversations between Mark and another regular turned friend, Nic, would wind its way back around to the beer. Each of us feeding off of each other’s excitement for the potential end result and sampling wort pulled out of the fermenter when I had a spare minute to dash up the back and pull a sample off.

The question we always ended with was how it would taste when cold and carbonated properly? One night to which Nic threw out “Wattle it Be?” and so, Wattle it Be was born; as it was forevermore referred to. 

Screenshot 2022-03-10 133448

The resulting beer pours incredibly bright, with a firm, meringue like head. Carbonated higher than any of our other releases. Pouring with a golden orange hue, light in body with a dry finish and low bitterness. Smelling of funk, spice and citrus. A true product of its environment and, most proudly for us, a truly unique and local beer. The first of it’s kind for Dubbo and the first of many from Cass and I out of The Pilot Room.

Since opening back up, word has spread about this little experiment sitting up the back, slowly ticking away. Interest has peaked and others who frequent the bar have been asking what they could possibly contribute out of their gardens or off of their properties to take part in this ongoing tale. 

As such, the yeast from the fermenter has been harvested now that it has completed its work on Wattle it Be and has been re-pitched into another batch of beer which, as of the time of writing this, is again slowly fermenting away before the beer will then be treated to a generous dose of mulberries harvested from South Dubbo, further continuing what we intend to be a continuous series of beers we are affectionately calling ‘Streets of your Town’. A lesson in patience for all of us at the bar and who are contributing to the beer in any form.