Wild Mind Artisan Ales is doing something different, and they emphasize that point in their new South Minneapolis brewery. Behind a wall-sized window, visitors will get a good look at their foudres—large wooden vessels where mixed-fermentation beers will age for anywhere from six to 12 months.
Foudres are uncommon in most American craft breweries—they’re big and unwieldy, and they come with cost and time challenges. Wild Mind founder Mat Waddell embraces them, though, because they’re the key to getting more Minnesotans to experience wood-aged sour and wild ales.
These ales become sour and wild thanks to yeast like Brettanomyces and bacteria like Lactobacillus that acidify the beer during a long rest in the foudres. For Waddell, it’s the acidic and tropical flavors that distinguish these beer styles from others. “I love the complexity behind it and the fact that it’s almost everything you don’t do with a regular beer,” he says. “My favorite descriptor is ‘horse blanket.’ What is that flavor?” he asks sarcastically.
Waddell plans to have roughly 12 of his 16 draft lines dedicated to wild and farmhouse-style ales, while also carrying a few more familiar styles like pale ale and stout. Wild beers aren’t for everyone, but he’s up for the challenge. “My ultimate goal is to brew a saison that my dad likes,” Waddell says, noting that every time he brews the style now, his dad will take a sip and push it aside.
Wild and farmhouse-style beers are more variable than the standard styles, thanks to the bacteria, the foudres, and microflora that can change the flavor of the beer. So instead of regular flagship beers, Waddell envisions his core recipes will change based on the barrel or an infused fruit, among other variations. “I don’t use the word vintage, but it will be similar to that,” he says.
To make Wild Mind’s beer more local and distinct, Waddell is creating his own library of yeast cultures that includes samples from Minneapolis, St. Paul, and near Elk River. “The yeast I’ve harvested has been surprisingly unique,” Waddell says. “The one I got in my backyard is almost a funkier version of a wit, a similar Belgian profile. A good portion of our house yeast has a blend with microflora around us. Our pale ale has a really fruity, funky, dry profile, not the overly ripe pineapple that some Brett strains produce.”
At the beginning, Wild Mind will serve quick-conditioned beers with minimal acidity or complexity, introducing different saisons that feature local microflora and Brett. Once the launch beers are ready, he says, he’ll fill the foudres and let time run its course. He expects the first wood-fermented saison to come out in three to four months, followed by another saison shortly after, then a longer-aged batch anywhere from six to 12 months later.
Waddell has industry experience at Badger Hill Brewing and Capital Brewing, but has mostly made sour and wild ales on his system at home. But with push-button precision (and through controls on his phone) on his new 10-barrel brewhouse with six fermenters, he expects the process to be more reliable than working on “my janky basement set-up.” The risk, of course, is more significant as a batch that doesn’t condition properly doesn’t just cost him the raw ingredients, but anywhere from six months to a year of his time.
The taproom will operate on limited hours and sell beer in-house only to start. Wild Mind will not sell growlers, at least initially, because Waddell says he’s wary of growler quality and his ability to produce enough beer for the taproom.
The large beer garden is likely to be a main draw, in addition to the unique beers. With custom-designed picnic tables and artwork from Aaron Wittkamper and Amy Reiff (whose work is on display inside Tattersall), as well as beer featuring the flavors captured from Minnesota’s environment, Wild Mind Artisan Ales hopes to pour a new taste of Minnesota, and carve out a new niche in the Land of 100+ Breweries when they open on July 28.
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Photos by Aaron Davidson, The Growler
Brewer: Mat Waddell
Beer: Table Beer, Hoppy French Saison, Hoppy Rye Wild Ale, Dark Farmhouse Aged in Pinot noir barrels with currents, House Farmhouse Ale, Wild Pale Ale. Barrel-fermented saisons and wild ales will start arriving in September.
Visit: 6031 Pillsbury Ave S, Minneapolis (click for map)
Hours: Thursday 3-10pm; Friday 2-11pm; Saturday 12-11pm; Sunday 12-8pm