Wildflower Alpha is the first special release from the Marrickville blendery. It’s an unblended ale that was aged for one year on wood.
It has an overt tartness from the start, although it rounds out into a balanced beer packed with character from the barrel and bugs.
Unblended Barrel-Aged Ale
Gold and Amber are blends. Alpha is from just one barrel, in which the beer sat for a year with brettanomyces, pediococcus, and lactobacillus. It was Wildflower’s first special release and available in limited quantities directly from the cellar door and website.
Alpha went through a primary ferment with clean Belgian ale yeast before being moved to a barrel with the variety of cultures mentioned above.
This particular barrel could not be blended into Gold or Amber beer as some of the strains within it are not native to New South Wales. Provenance is an important part of Topher Boehm’s core beers and therefore this was released separately.
The name of the beer, Alpha, comes from the Greek alphabet labels used to mark Wildflower’s initial barrels. This, and subsequent barrels, were used during an experimentation phase when the Marrickville operation was trying to determine the best cultures to use.
Lacto, Pedio & Brett
The flavour profiles that are typical of these different bugs are all evident in the beer. There’s light acidity from the lacto, a buttery mouthfeel and mid-palate from the pedio and a subtle grassy funk from the brett.
Alpha possesses a balanced acidity which, on the nose, initially suggests towards the acetic but this doesn’t eventuate. Instead there’s a sharp, lemon citrus bite that’s rounded out by a smoothness and a straw-like funk as it opens up. The tartness is assertive and probably more obvious than in the core Wildflower range but it’s still rounded and nuanced.
Serving the beer at cellar temperature, you’ll pick up vanilla oak notes, as well as more spicy phenolics towards the end. While these may be subdued at first, they come into their own and become a primary characteristic of the beer as it rises a couple of degrees in temperature.
Complex But Approachable
The barrel character is certainly there, providing a solid backbone on which the yeast cultures can play. Given the obvious yeast-forward nature of this beer, it’s wonderful that the complexity is married with an approachability. It lures you back to it again and again. It drinks below the 6.5% ABV meaning it’s a satisfying quaffer.
Alpha has a decent weight to its body which in turn coats the tongue, both with a buttery smoothness and a subtle sweetness from the malt base.
The beer is a showcase for the various bugs that drive its flavour profile. It demonstrates what unblended, wood-aged beers can be and it’s one of the standouts in an admittedly narrow category among Sydney’s beer makers.
From: Marrickville, NSW
Beer style: Barrel-aged beer
Pair with: Moules frites
Did you get hold of Wildflower Alpha? Leave a comment below and share your thoughts on the beer.