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Book Review & Interview | Wilds Brews by Jaega Wise

Wild Brews Jaega Wise portrait 2 cropped

Jaega Wise has been brewing unusual and funky beers since her homebrewing days, long before she became the head brewer of Wild Card Brewery in East London ten years ago. While she loves (and brews) standard fermentation beers like IPAs and Lagers, her heart belongs to the more esoteric corners of the brewing world — sour and mixed-fermentation beers of all kinds. In her new book, Wild Brews: The Craft of Home Brewing, from Sour and Fruits Beers to Farmhouse Ales, Wise shares her collected knowledge of alternative fermentation in a thorough but easy to understand volume.

“I’ve done most stuff there is to do in beer,” says Wise with a laugh. Speaking from her office at Wild Card, she shares with me the journey that brought her from chemical engineering to homebrewing to the top level of professional brewing. She was voted Brewer of the Year by the British Guild of Beer Writers in 2018, and in her decade as head brewer at Wild Card, she has earned not only the respect of her peers but — perhaps more importantly — the appreciation of local beer lovers. In Wild Brews, she passes on what she’s learned to help the next wave of brewers make the same ascent.

From Beginner to Expert

“The idea for the book came about because I wanted to put in one place all the things I had learned in these styles of beers,” says Wise. When she was still just brewing at home, she was frustrated that much of the basic information about “wild brews” was either unavailable or scattered between separate sources. What if you wanted to learn how to properly grind your malt before brewing and how to rehydrate an empty, leaking wooden barrel?

“Even as a professional, when you make funky beers, it can be difficult to find all the information you need in one place,” she explains. “I wanted to write a book that was both useful to professional brewers and helpful in breaking down some of those barriers for homebrewers as well. It can be really daunting. I wanted to demystify it a little bit.”

Wild Brews is intended to be a single source for someone just getting started as a homebrewer who doesn’t want to wait till they’re an expert before tackling sour and alternative fermentation beers. The book includes basic information for homebrewing — beer ingredients and the brewing process, the steps for brewing at home using mostly kitchen equipment, common off flavors, etc. — but guides the novice brewer directly into the process of mixed and sour fermentation, barrel-aging, fruit additions, and recipes for brewing advanced styles like Flanders Red Ale and Geuze.

“The original title of the book was Wild Brews: From Beginner to Expert,” says Wise. “I still use this book myself for my team at the brewery.”

Making the Complicated Simple

The book is beautifully photographed and illustrated, with helpful graphics and asides for breaking down difficult concepts. Wise’s easy, conversational writing style and the intuitive format of the book keep it from intimidating newcomers despite the extensive technical information it contains. As co-host of the homebrewing competition television show Beer Masters with musician James Blunt and a host for the BBC’s Food Programme, Wise is used to breaking down these concepts.

“It’s literally my job to talk about complicated ideas to people who aren’t brewers,” she explains. “I spend a lot of time talking to a lot of people who aren’t brewers, and I also spend a lot of time as a brewer talking at the highest technical levels as well. Just because you’re new to something, doesn’t mean you’re not going to want to have the knowledge later.”

The final third of the book is dedicated to beer recipes, including both Wise’s homebrewing recipes and adapted versions of the beers that have made her a favorite at Wild Card. She includes everything from a Kveik IPA and a Sour Raspberry Saison to Oud Bruin and Old Ale. Wise doesn’t believe you should have to put in your dues before attempting these revered styles.

“I absolutely love our Passionfruit Gose,” she says when asked about her personal favorite of the included recipes. “I make that at home and commercially all the time. I started it as a homebrewer and then scaled it up to commercial production. It’s a beer that I just really love to brew.”

Whether you’re a beginning or seasoned homebrewer or a professional brewer yourself, Wild Brews contains useful information to help you craft the unusual beers you want to brew.

Author images courtesy of Octopus Books


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