Best Wild Ales: Embrace the Funk

Hey there, adventurous beer drinkers! Ever tried a wild ale? These funky, complex brews are made with wild yeast and bacteria, giving them unique flavors that can’t be replicated.

Imagine sipping on a beer that’s as unpredictable and exciting as a roller coaster ride—each sip offers something new and intriguing.

Let’s dive into the world of wild ales and discover why they’re a must-try for any beer enthusiast.

1. Cantillon Gueuze

Cantillon Gueuze is a standout in the wild ale category. This Belgian classic blends young and old lambics, resulting in a complex beer with notes of sour apple, barnyard funk, and a crisp, dry finish. It’s like a wild dance party in your mouth!

2. Russian River Consecration

Consecration from Russian River is aged in Cabernet Sauvignon barrels with currants, creating a rich, fruity, and tart experience. It’s the beer equivalent of a decadent dessert—bold, complex, and utterly satisfying.

3. Jester King Atrial Rubicite

This American wild ale is brewed with raspberries, offering a burst of fruity tartness balanced by earthy, funky undertones. It’s like a summer berry picnic in a bottle—refreshing and delicious.

4. The Bruery Oude Tart

Oude Tart is a Flemish-style red ale aged in oak barrels. It features notes of dark fruit, caramel, and a touch of vinegar-like acidity. Imagine sipping on a fine wine that’s also a beer—elegant and complex.

5. Crooked Stave Nightmare on Brett

This dark sour ale is aged in whiskey barrels, combining rich malt flavors with Brettanomyces funk and tartness. It’s like a gothic novel in beer form—dark, mysterious, and full of character.

History and Background

Origins of Wild Ales

Wild ales have ancient roots, dating back to when all beers were spontaneously fermented with wild yeast from the environment.

The Belgian region of Pajottenland, home to lambic beers, is particularly famous for this style. These traditional brewing methods have inspired modern brewers worldwide to embrace wild fermentation.

Evolution Over Time

Initially, wild ales were the norm, but with the advent of modern brewing techniques, controlled fermentation became standard. However, the craft beer revolution brought wild ales back into the spotlight.

Brewers began experimenting with wild yeast and bacteria, creating a renaissance of funky, sour, and complex beers.

Key Regions and Their Influence

Belgium remains the heartland of wild ales, particularly with lambics and gueuzes. However, the United States has become a hotbed for innovation, with breweries like Russian River and Jester King leading the charge.

Each region brings its unique terroir and brewing traditions, adding to the diversity and richness of wild ales.

Characteristics of Wild Ales


Wild ales can vary widely in color, from pale gold to deep brown, often with a hazy or cloudy appearance. They typically pour with a frothy, persistent head. Imagine a wild landscape captured in a glass—unpredictable and intriguing.


Take a sniff, and you’ll often get a mix of fruity, earthy, and funky aromas. Think tart berries, barnyard hay, and sometimes even a hint of horse blanket. The aroma sets the stage for the complex flavors to come.

Flavor Profile

The flavor of wild ales is where they truly shine. Expect a balance of sourness, sweetness, and funkiness. You might taste notes of fruit, oak, spice, and earthiness. It’s like a symphony of flavors that keeps you guessing with every sip.


Wild ales usually have a medium to light body, with high carbonation that provides a refreshing, effervescent feel. The mouthfeel can range from dry and crisp to slightly creamy, depending on the style. It’s like a wild ride that’s both exhilarating and satisfying.

Types of Wild Ales


Lambics are spontaneously fermented beers from Belgium, often aged for several years. They’re typically tart and funky, with a dry finish. Think of them as the original wild ales—unpredictable and complex.


Gueuze is a blend of young and old lambics, resulting in a balanced, effervescent beer with a mix of tart, funky, and fruity flavors. It’s like a sophisticated cocktail party in your mouth.

American Wild Ales

American wild ales are a diverse category, often featuring innovative ingredients and techniques. They can range from fruity and tart to earthy and funky. Imagine a playground of flavors, where each sip is a new adventure.

Other Wild Styles

Beyond lambics, gueuzes, and American wild ales, there are many other styles, including Berliner Weisse, Gose, and farmhouse ales. Each offers a unique take on wild fermentation, providing a wide range of flavors and experiences to explore.

Pairing Wild Ales with Food

Best Food Pairings

Wild ales are incredibly versatile and can pair well with a variety of foods. Here are some suggestions:

  • Lambics: Perfect with sharp cheeses, roasted vegetables, and fruity desserts. The tartness of the lambic complements and contrasts these flavors beautifully.
  • Gueuze: Great with charcuterie, seafood, and creamy dishes. The effervescence and complexity of gueuze can cut through rich flavors and enhance lighter ones.
  • American Wild Ales: Pair well with grilled meats, spicy foods, and berry-based desserts. The diverse flavors in American wild ales can stand up to bold dishes and complement sweet ones.
  • Other Wild Styles: Experiment with different pairings! Berliner Weisse is fantastic with light salads and seafood, while Gose pairs well with tangy, salty foods like pretzels and oysters.

Why These Pairings Work

The acidity and complexity of wild ales make them excellent for cutting through rich, fatty foods and enhancing the flavors of lighter dishes.

Their carbonation cleanses the palate, making each bite more enjoyable. Think of wild ales as a culinary partner that elevates every meal.

Homebrewing Wild Ales

Basic Recipes

Ready to try brewing your own wild ale? Here’s a simple recipe for a basic American Wild Ale:


  • Pale malt
  • Wheat malt (for body and head retention)
  • Hops (low bitterness, such as Saaz or Hallertau)
  • Wild yeast strain (like Brettanomyces)
  • Water


  1. Mash the grains at 150°F (65°C) for 60 minutes.
  2. Boil the wort, adding hops at the beginning for mild bitterness.
  3. Cool the wort and pitch the wild yeast.
  4. Ferment at 68°F (20°C) for several weeks.
  5. Bottle or keg, carbonate, and enjoy your homemade wild ale!

Tips and Tricks

Patience is key when brewing wild ales. Allow the beer to ferment and age for several months to develop the complex flavors.

Use high-quality ingredients and experiment with different yeast strains to find your perfect flavor profile. Keep everything sanitized to avoid unwanted bacteria.

Common Challenges

One common challenge is achieving the right balance of sourness and funkiness. Start with a lower amount of wild yeast and adjust in future batches.

Another challenge is ensuring a clean fermentation environment to avoid off-flavors. Proper sanitation and temperature control are crucial.

Trends in Wild Ales

Current Trends

Wild ales are gaining popularity in the craft beer world. Breweries are experimenting with barrel aging, blending different batches, and adding fruits and spices.

The use of local and seasonal ingredients is also becoming more common, creating unique and innovative flavors.

Future Predictions

Looking ahead, we can expect more creative experimentation with wild ales. Hybrid styles that blend wild fermentation with other beer styles, such as IPAs or stouts, will likely emerge.

The focus on sustainability and local sourcing will continue to influence the production of wild ales, resulting in even more diverse and exciting beers.


To wrap things up, wild ales are a fantastic choice for those looking for unique and complex beers. Whether you’re enjoying a commercial example or brewing your own, wild ales offer a world of flavor and excitement.

Their versatility in food pairings and their rich history make them a beloved style among beer enthusiasts. So next time you’re feeling adventurous, reach for a wild ale and savor the experience. Cheers!

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