Brewery: Ommegang (NY)
Style: 100% Brett Beer / Belgian Strong Ale
Ommegang is a bit of a puzzle to me. They are one of New York's largest breweries — certainly in competition for New York's best-known brewery — and yet they are a farmhouse brewery in concept, settled on an idyllic, remote plot in Upstate New York, hours from the usual tourism avenues. They have prestige and resources, but as of yet, they haven't really embraced the actual wild side of farmhouse brewing. Ommegang is in the perfect position to introduce funky beers to the New York market, but rarely tries to do so.
So when I heard about Wild At Heart, Ommegang's attempt at a 100% Brettanomyces-fermented beer, I obviously had to pick up a bottle. Kudos to them for trying their hand at an all-Brett fermentation, which is still rare for commercial releases... though finally gaining traction, clearly.
I like to know what Brett strain was used to ferment these things usually, as it's going to make a huge difference in the flavor profile. Unfortunately, Brett strains still aren't as sexy as hop varieties, but if I had to take a guess, I'd say this was probably brewed with just the classic Brett B — it seems to be the safe choice for almost every brewery attempting a Brett beer. My reason for this guess is the extremely clean profile of the beer, even for a 100% Brett beer. Read reviews of Wild At Heart elsewhere, and you'll still encounter disappointment that this is neither sour nor very funky. People apparently haven't gotten the memo that All-Brett beer is rarely going to be. Nonetheless, the nose is surprising even to me — really not far from Ommegang's other rich Belgian options. There's some caramel raisin sweetness, which is unexpected, given the color of the brew. If there's funk, it's more of the grassy and phenolic kind, still very Belgiany, with some citrus from the hops.
I'm still not getting any trace of Brett in the flavor department, which isn't altogether surprising. What is a little shocking is how sweet Wild At Heart is — I don't know if Ommegang was concerned about the thin mouthfeel typically associated with Brett, or if their tastes just run way sweeter than mine, but this is a sticky Belgian candy of a beer. Even if the malts are lighter in color, this is as sweet as a dubbel, with a similar fermentation profile. Search for some more interesting nuances — lemon, orange, vanilla, rich berries, maybe some tropic fruit coated in honey — and I'm sure you'll find them, but I imagine most drinkers will be surprised how 'normal' this is. It's another commercial Brett beer that could lead to pleasant relief or a sad lack of fulfillment, depending on your expectations. I think you can guess which side I come down on.
Availability: Came out as a limited release, but it sounds like this could fill a rotating spot in Ommegang's lineup. 750 ml bottles.