Olde Burnside Brewing Highland Wild Ale
One 16 oz fliptop bottle, $11.99 + $1.50 Dep, 10% ABV
Purchased at Parkview Wine & Spirits, West Hartford
Congratulations. Right now, at this very moment, you are reading about the Connecticut beer that is, perhaps, the single best, most complex, most impressive and interesting beer that NO ONE ever talks about. And it comes in (came, anyway) in a very cool-looking botttle to boot.
Bold claim, I know. But as one who has had and thought about as many different Connecticut beers than, dare I say, almost anyone, I just sat here and ran through my list of unsung beery heroes… and I can’t really come up with anything else.
Cottrell’s Perry’s Revenge Scotch Ale?
Thimble Island’s Coffee Stout?
Back East’s Summer Ale?
Broad Brook’s Pink Dragon Wit?
Beer’d’s 8 Days a Week?
Everything by OEC?
Worthy contenders all, but I’d eliminate anything from Beer’d because that secret is out of the bag. Same goes for Back East’s poorly named “Summer” and I think Thimble’s coffee stout has gotten its due. OEC will be the next Farmstead, so that’s already annoying to me. Perry’s Revenge just isn’t nearly as good as the Highland Wild and my love of the Pink Dragon Wit is too strange and confusing (to me) to mention in mixed company. Shhh.
So here we are. A wild ale, made from barrel aged scotch ale. Not exactly run-of-the-mill stuff here. By Olde Burnside Brewing in East Hartford. If only you knew about this delicous beast, eh?
True story: Just yesterday I had lunch at Max Burger and had a good long chat with Doug the manager. (No, this wasn’t weird, he’s my friend.) I brought up Olde Burnside and our mutual friend there, Jason. I said that they make a bunch of really great beers that no one really knows about and not only that, their flagships are all pretty good too.
Now Doug knows his beer. And he knows Olde Burnside and knows Jason very well. I mentioned this very beer, the Highland Wild, and Doug looked confused. I was thusly inspired to write this page as my next beer review.
Olde Burnside says:
Belgian breweries have made Scottish Ales for years. Beginning during World War I, the breweries in Belgium made beers for Scottish troops stationed in their country and continue to do so today. We here at Olde Burnside Brewing have decided to return the favor by brewing a Belgian style sour. The Belgians have always allowed nature to help “brew” their beers by utilizing the natural yeast and bacteria present in the air to impart the wonderful tastes and aromas that Belgian beers have to this day.
Our Highland Wild Ale starts as our award winning Ten Penny Reserve that we made “wild” by aging it in some bourbon barrels that had some “helpful” bacteria. These bacteria added a wonderful tartness and acidity to an already spectacular ale. Almost ruby red, the beer is unlike anything we’ve made at Olde Burnside and we hope you enjoy drinking it as much as we did making it.
Keep in mind Olde Burnside was making this wild ale several years ago, way before wilds and sours became the rage in 2014. Maybe that’s why this remains an unknown quantity? They haven’t done it again since… I believe 2011.
Yeah, let’s not have a wild throw of that at the Highland Games
But OB has been sort of rebranding themselves and putting out their “special” beers in new packaging at more accessible price points. They did it first with their Amazing Grace Wee Heavy (another high quality beer you may not know about), so they may do another wild soon. I don’t know.
But I would bet yes – and I’d also bet they’ll do a stronger marketing push with it.
OB is an OG in the CT brewing world. Hooker, Cottrell and Old Burnside have been rocking this game longer than any other ones around today – and here in Hartford county, Cottrell is a rather non-entity.
Anyway, everyone knows OB’s Ten Penny Ale. And everyone agrees that it’s good. But everyone should know that OB is a great company; one that is actively charitable and is a major part of a few great events around the Hartford area. And for you beer geeks that are reading this, please do yourself a favor and check out their lesser known offerings.
Not only that, they’ve built a handsome little beer garden (in admittedly less-than-ideal surroundings) where you can go sample – and purchase growlers of – some stuff you had no idea they are brewing these days.
Go ahead, scroll up and re-read their description of this unique wild ale. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to correct people who lament the lack of wild ales made in Connecticut. Yes, they are few and far between: New England Brewing’s super rare and only twice-brewed Chardonneighbor of the Beast, One-time limited released Two Roads’ recent Urban Funk, WilliBrew has done one or two, and the “you’ll never get it” home brewer extraordinaire Lasting Brass’ Dirty Water Sour Series are the others I know of.
And no one mentions this one! Argh!
Anyway, the Highland Wild was a perfect wild ale. (And it still is, if you can find a now-vintage bottle) It’s tart and sweet. Funky, yet sublime. Sour cherry dominates, but as this is a bourbon barrel aged scotch ale, odd in its own right, there is the subtle sweetness from the vanilla and bourbon. Just the right amount of little critters in there to muck it up, in a good way.
There is a LOT going on here, and it all works. With sours and wilds, there is a fine line between perfection and vomitous.
Consider yourself very fortunate if you find one of these 2011 bad boys gathering dust somewhere. I’m an idiot for not stocking up.
Overall Rating: A+
Rating vs. Similar style: A+