Beers made with foraged foods and herbs. And historic fruits, like Cornish apple variety Queenie, and the famous Kea plums, from near Truro. These are the ingredients from a local wild larder that make Stuart Woodman’s Wild Ales stand out from the crowd, and they’re currently being showcased in a tap takeover at The Front, in Falmouth.
Stuart Woodman at the start of his tap takeover in The Front, Falmouth
Among the four brews on, Gruit seemed the most intimidating: no hops, but bog myrtle, ground ivy and yarrow instead against a robust malt bill. You know what, not wacky at all, beautifully smooth, like a particularly flavoursome stout – milk stout even. And nicely sessionable at 4.8% ABV.
Kea Porter (5.2%) was an absolute delight, and possibly my favourite of the four beers on tap. Described by Gary Watts at Truro’s Sonder bar (where Woodman has a dedicated tap) as a “Marmite beer”, it was definitely to my taste, with plum notes abounding (as they should after two months’ conditioning) against a good, robust malty porter. Some describe the fruit notes as sour, but I’d go for nicely tart, which continues right through to the finish.
The other two beers were made with Cornish apples. Queenie, at a hearty 8.1%, is, simplistically, like liquid toffee apple, but there are notes of raisins, too, and a hint of woodiness (in a good way). Rich amber/red, it’s an enticing brew, and possibly a little too drinkable! Cornish Mother, at a mere 6.6%, completes the quartet and is an apple Weizenbock, with slightly more defined malt notes than Queenie, to me; more fruit flavour coming through and some subtle spiciness.
In a short time, Stuart’s beers have gone down well, enjoying good reviews on the net and getting into key marketplaces such as EeBria Trade. An experienced home brewer – he recalls winning a John Bull brewing kit in a raffle when he was 12, although he got an uncle to actually make the beer (he insists) – Stuart has come to Cornwall from his home territory of North London, via a spell in Bristol.
He’s influenced by Belgian brewers and, having taken up foraging about five years ago, soon saw a way to bring these two interests together.
“I want to start trying to culture wild yeast,” this self-effacing brewer tells me. He sees it as beer’s answer to wine ‘terroir’.
“I want to look at barrel ageing, too.” I can see why. Barrel-aged Kea Plum Porter would clearly be a thing of great beauty.
The tap takeover runs at the Front until Sunday (March 12) – I suggest you get yourself down there to try beers that push the boundaries of brewing while retaining popular appeal.