During our most recent visit to Bristol Mr & Mrs Fueled by Beer stopped in at the new Wild Beer Co restaurant and bar at Wapping Wharf. As bars go it’s typically hip industrial but the beers are anything but typical; they are distinct in a Seattle deja vu kind of way…
Back in 2012 we wrote up our brewery crawl of Seattle’s Stadium, SoDo and Georgetown neighborhoods (read about it). Among our stops was arguably then the city’s most unusual brewery: Cody Morris’s Epic Ales, a tiny 1 bbl nanobrewery founded in 2009.
Cody is generally regarded among Pacific Northwest brewing circles as something of a mad scientist. Through Epic Ales he devoted himself to experimental brewing, eschewing the craft brewing sector’s obsession with traditional British-style ales and German-style lagers, producing instead beers in the time-honoured Belgian and German fashion from ‘wild’ yeasts and lactic bacteria. Thus the weird and wonderful world of lambic, gueuze, kriek, berliner, gose, saison and farmhouse ales set Cody apart from just about every other Seattle area brewer long before the present fad for sour beer styles kicked off over here in the UK.
It was a massive hit with Seattle foodies and today it has morphed into Mollusk, a significantly larger brewery and restaurant venture. In 2015. Cody closed Epic Ales and Gastropod in SoDo to focus on Mollusk in the fast growing South Lake Union neighborhood where Seattle’s leading corporate citizen, Amazon, is growing its global headquarters campus.
Meanwhile, at about the time Cody Morris poured his sour beers for Mr Fueled by Beer at the Epic Ales taproom, Andrew Cooper and Brett Ellis were preparing to leave Bristol Beer Factory to launch The Wild Beer Co. Their declared intent: to produce beers that are different; to rewrite the rules; and to challenge perceptions of beer; essentially a UK version of what Cody did with Epic Ales. The Wild Beer Co brewery was established on a farm in rural Somerset where wild airborne yeasts and lactic bacteria abound. Today the Wild Beer Co is one of the UK’s leading brewers of sour beers utilizing the full range of techniques such as spontaneous fermentation, sour mashing, lactobacillus inoculation, barrel aging and blending to produce a solid portfolio of sour and fruit beers in kegs, cans and bottles.
And, as Cody Morris demonstrated in Seattle with Gastropod and Mollusk, the suitability of these beer styles for food pairing has given rise to a restaurant and bar venture at Bristol’s Wapping Wharf combining the ales of The Wild Beer Co with the seafood concoctions of Hook Restaurants. During our visit roughly half of the bar’s 20 taps were devoted to Wild Beer with the rest featuring an eclectic mix of guest ales. The Hook Restaurants food offer is not very extensive but what is served is of high quality (although perhaps on the pricey side). The menu consists of fish in panko breadcrumbs or tempura batter, fish tacos, a couple of chicken options, and various seafood-centric sides and snacks. Limited vegetarian options are available. All the mains are fried and served with seaweed salted chips and various sauces.
Our party sampled the fish sharing board, panko fish and chips, fish tacos, and the panko chicken; all with no complaints. With hindsight, however, I don’t think I would recommend this place for its food: there’s not enough selection; according to reviews quality is inconsistent; and it is expensive for what you get. The beer, however, makes The Wild Beer Co at Wapping Wharf a worthwhile detour from the King Street pubs. The photos below include the beer boards showing what was on offer during our visit. A really excellent lineup.