Carnivale Brettanomyces, an Amsterdam-based beer festival dedicated to Brettanomyces and other wild things, sees its fifth anniversary this year. Originally started by Elaine Olsthoorn and Jan Lemmens, known as the ‘other wild things’ from Bierproeflokaal In de Wildeman and bottle shop De Bierkoning respectively, the festival has grown to be the single-largest Brettanomyces Beer Festival in the world!
The vast majority of modern day beers are made with a highly controlled and professionally propagated yeast strain, top fermenting or bottom fermenting. The last thing most brewers want is anything wild in their brew house, let alone wild (thus uncontrollable) yeast. It will infect their beer, give off-flavors like acidity and aromas that remind you of a subway car filled to the rim with commuters on a rainy day, with half of them bringing their dog along, the other half deceased. Not quite a pleasant smell indeed. Yet a small group of brewers has retained the art of brewing with wild yeasts and manages to create some beautiful beers which managed to stay below the radar for years. With the popularity of, and interest for, sour and wild beer seemingly on the rise, this festival plays to the true tradition and origin of what we can call the last remaining witchcraft of brewing.
We have to remember all beer was once made this way. It wasn’t until the discovery of yeast by Louis Pasteur in 1857 that we really understood how brewing really worked, and what turned sugar into alcohol and gas.
That is why the fable of Belgian brewers, claiming wild beer can only be made in and around the Zenne valley, is a fable: all beer was once brewed this way.
Carnivale Brettanomyces’ goal is to both educate and inform the audience about the great and varied spectrum of beers brewed with these outsiders, and to share and drink an awful lot of them. Take a look at the program page, and choose your activities in any of six locations: also Arendsnest, De Prael, Beertemple and the Wallonian Church host events. One particularly interesting feature for me is a culinary event called Goatee Dinner: five courses paired with five beers from the Wild beer Co.
Rumor has it a revolutionary series of new beers is to be presented by a thus far unknown – so very wild – brewery called ‘The Cult Abyss’. Apparently they managed to gather Brettanomyces and other less common yeasts and bacteria with which one can brew perfectly alright from various hairy places of Arendsnest bartender Rickert van der Vlies. Each hairy place(and he has quite some hairy places) is said to have a slightly different culture or strain, and that’s the revolutionary part: we’ve seen single-hop series (same recipe, each brew its own single hop) and single-malt series (same recipe, each brew with a different malt bill) and the H41 Wild Lager by Heineken (same recipe, different yeast strain) – The Cult Abyss is said to launch a series of wild beers with the varieties found on Rickert! The naming of the beers is the best kept secret, but be sure not to miss out on this original tasting and presentation. Keep an eye out on the Facebook page for it!