April 24, 2015

Whole Lotta Logan

The collaborative spirit is alive and well in the Wilderness. The Beards have been busy traveling far and wide to concoct creative collaborations with like-minded breweries — Jester King, To Øl and Bottle Logic, to name a few. But the blokes at London’s Beavertown Brewery have left a soft spot in Jonathan Buford’s heart.

Having brewed a red currant, sour cherry saison called Sour Power last year in London with Beavertown and Mikkeller, the Wilderness boys invited lead Beaver, Logan Plant, to Arizona to join forces on a Grätzer — a historical style rarely seen these days. We’ll get back to the Grätzer later, but Logan’s backstory warrants some words.

Logan and his son brewing in the Wilderness
In case the last name didn’t ring a bell, Logan is the son of Led Zeppelin frontman Robert Plant. No big deal, right? Actually, it’s really not. Talking with Logan was a real treat, as he comes off more humbled commoner than rock star offspring. And while I did query Logan on how his father influenced him in terms of his love for beer, by no means was that the focal point of our conversation. Oh, in case you’re curious, Robert would often take Logan to their local pub in the West Midlands when Logan was a young lad (hey, it’s how they roll in England). Robert still has an affinity for English mild ales, but is quite fond of Beavertown’s Smog Rocket Smoked Porter. However, he hasn’t come around to the hoppy beers yet.

But Logan is his own Plant. Though he did dabble in music as lead singer of Sons of Albion, Logan’s life changed forever once he discovered homebrewing. In 2011, he decided to set up Beavertown Brewery as a 4 BBL brew house in the kitchen of his London barbecue joint, Duke’s Brew and Que. It only took a little over three years for Beavertown to outgrow its space, so they hired former Meantime brewer Jenn Merrick as head brewer, moved to a separate facility in Tottenham, upgraded to a 30BBL system, began a barrel program and started canning core beers like Black Betty Black IPA and Neck Oil Session IPA. They did, however, keep their 4BBL kit for experimental beers.

Speaking of experimental brews, Beavertown is widely known as one of London’s most outside-the-box breweries. In fact, Logan says the English beer scene is starting to feel the craft beer boom and that artisanal-style ales are becoming more common. In fact, London is seeing quite the surge in craft breweries — there were only 11 in 2011, today there are over 80. It’s a testament to how far craft beer has come, as English beer fans are some of the most fickle, especially when it comes to straying from the tried-and-true browns, bitters and cask-conditioned ales.

Opinyonated Gratzer
But back to the Grätzer. Often referred to as the Polish champagne for its clarity and vigorous carbonation, Wilderness and Beavertown wanted to brew something not often seen stateside. So Logan, Buford and Wilderness brewer Patrick Ware headed to Sedona to forage pine cones, which they roasted on pecan wood alongside malts. The final product, aptly named Opinyonated, is a unique treat. Though the beer boasted a clouded wheat hue, the aroma and flavor profile encapsulated a Grätzer with high carbonation, smoke and tart at the forefront. The pine cones provided an Arizona twist, offering a mild hop profile character with elements of grass, lemon and, well, pine. Before tasting it, I was worried the smoke flavor might overpower this beer, but it blended nicely and was very well balanced overall. 

So what’s next for these two inspired breweries? Too much to list here. Good times, bad times, I’m sure. But the future is undoubtedly bright so long as those bright ideas keep fermenting in the form of creative, quaffable ales. Cheers!

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