Wayward Brewing, a stalwart member of Sydney’s growing inner west craft beer scene, has never been shy of doing things a little differently.
Founded by Peter Philip in 2012, initially as a gypsy brewer, Wayward have since established a stable home in their vast cellar brewery, producing a wide range of limited release ‘cellar door’ beers alongside their core range.
Last year, Wayward underwent a re-brand spearheaded by creative director Faye White. The Wayward packaging was streamlined, with a move away from trendy beer ‘nicknames’ and an emphasis on the beer style on the new cans to emphasise accessibility and quality.
A couple of new beers have been added to the line-up, including an Aussie-hopped pilsner and an ‘everyday’ session ale.
This pragmatic move has not sent them ‘wayward’ from their original mission statement of taking the road less travelled, and this week saw Wayward release the first beers in their new “Discovery series”.
The range of barrel-aged and bottle-conditioned beers is designed to give discerning drinkers some challenging characters to ponder, or stash away to help them develop further. They distinguish themselves from the core range in terms of look and design, with a focus on elegance and sophistication.
The team at Wayward – and head brewer Shaun Blissett particularly – have not taken the task of producing a more refined series of beers lightly, and Blissett says that the idea has been four years in the making.
The first Discovery series beers being released are the Ripasso Bianco and the Ripasso Rosso, a pigeon pair of beers aged on, respectively, unfermented Chardonnay grape skins and post-ferment Shiraz skins. The base beer is a Belgian-style farmhouse ale “Ripasso” that enjoyed a limited release last year, with the two Discovery versions having spent between three and four months in foeders (2000L barrels) sourced from Tyrrell’s winery.
Blissett explains that the idea for these beers came from a chance trip to the Hunter Valley last year where they were able to source the barrels and were inspired by the sort of blended farmhouse barrel-aged beers produced by the likes of Logsdon and Hill Farmstead in the US.
The Belgian yeast strain, Blissett says, combined with the barrel ageing, produces “stinky” notes that when blended in the right ways makes the beers come to life. Finished off with a clean bottle-conditioning yeast, the beers are designed for cellaring, with Blissett saying there’s plenty of time left in these beers.
For those with interest in barrel-aged brews, there’s an additional bonus on offer at the moment.
The Balthazar Imperial Stout, at 9.4% abv, is seeing an early release as part of the Discovery series alongside the farmhouse pair.
Aged in Jack Daniels whisky barrels, the Balthazar is also designed for cellaring. The bottles and labels were quickly put together in the past couple of weeks, as the team sampled and quickly realised it was already good to drink and had picked up all the oaky characters they wanted. The brewers finished this one off with a dash of dark horse espresso blend from local coffee roaster Five Senses, in order to tie the stout together and keep at bay some of the natural bugs picked up from the barrel-ageing process.
As with any kind of barrel-ageing program, there’s always a few surprises in store, and Blissett is confident that all three in the series, while tasting excellent now, will continue to develop further interesting characters over the next twelve months, and for those patient enough to hang on (storing properly of course) for even longer, there’s no knowing what they’ll taste like a couple of years down the line.
As for what’s next, a revisit to one of Wayward’s earliest experiments – an Eisbock – is on the cards. For now, drinkers can experience the Discovery series at public launch events tonight at Bucket Boys in Marrickville, or for Melbourne beer lovers, next Friday at Grape & Grain in Moorabbin.