Wild Heaven Sunburst IPA launches this, marking just the third year-round IPA the brewery has released in 12 years.
More than a decade ago, Wild Heaven launched with just two beers – Ode to Mercy (Imperial Brown Ale with coffee) and Invocation (Belgian Golden Strong Ale). An IPA release by the brewery was years away from being brewed, even with strong consumer demand. According to co-founder Eric Johnson at the time, “we’ll make one when I think there is a recipe good enough.”
Finally, in 2016, Wise Blood IPA hit the lineup year-round. A year later, and 100 test batches and water chemistry adjustments, their first imperial IPA – Good Vice hit taps. Wild Heaven initially intended it to be year-round, but the brewery’s passion for that recipe faded fast. Then came Altair IPA in 2018. Each beer was a stop on a hoppy journey to now.
Wise Blood and Altair are now ghosts.
Here at the brewery, the canning line is busy filling cans of Sunburst IPA – a new and now only year-round IPA the brewery will have for the foreseeable future. It’s aptly named. Sunburst is every bit bright and juicy as it’s billed. A big flavor departure from the brewery’s IPA predecessors, it’s looking to be one of the premier southern IPAs.
That spawned a debate with Josh Franks, head brewer at Wild Heaven. Could Southern IPA be a thing? India pale ale is undoubtedly the style juggernaut of the craft beer world. Going back about 15 years ago you’d find popularity with the English IPA. Soon to be taken over by West Coast IPA. Then a steady sequence of hoppy variants- the Belgian IPA, the Black IPA (aka the Cascadian Dark Ale), the New England IPA, and lactose heavy milkshake IPA. Should The South have its own?
Maybe they already do.
It’s not an official style but perhaps it should be. Think of an IPA that’s hoppy and bright. Juicy like a hazy IPA but still fairly clear, still holding on to some West Coast IPA bitterness. A subtle hybrid of two dominant styles. Creature Comforts Tropicalia and Scofflaw Basement IPA would be great examples. A (highly theoretical) southern IPA would be bright and sunny. Just like the sun-soaked, pollen heavy, 3 weeks of cold weather region they were born into.
Wild Heaven Sunburst IPA hits retailers this week year-round in 12-ounce cans and draft.
Hops: Citra, Talus, Galaxy, Mosaic, Cascade, Chinook, Amarillo
Availability: 12oz Cans, Draft.
Wild Heaven Smiling Eyes, a dry Irish stout debuts Friday at both brewery locations.
This lower alcohol beer is brewed with black and chocolate malts, for a pronounced roasted flavor.
A super-abridged Dry Irish Stout history.
The Irish Stout started in London over 300 years ago. Then, it was called a porter, specifically a London Porter, not a stout. The base malt was a dry, acrid, low-grade brown malt that gave the beer a “smoaky tang” flavor, as described by writers at the time. The malt was placed on a metal floor and a fire was lit underneath it to roast it. The smoke would pass through it grain, and the metal would heat up and char the grain. The resulting roasts were inconsistent at best.
The London Porter popularity spread to Ireland where for years, stayed pretty much the same until 1817. That’s when a man named Daniel Wheeler invented a malt roaster that would make bitter, dark roasts without a weird “smoaky tang” as the flavor was previously described. The malt was roasted in a metal drum, away from near direct contact to the flame. (Similar to coffee roasting.) The malts could be roasted darker and more consistently.
Wheeler created “Black Patent” malt in his new kiln, still widely used today. Irish brewers adopted the use of Black Patent and darker malts, while English brewers continued with brown malt in the following years. The Irish Stout officially/unofficially born.
Interestingly, before stout became a beer style, “stout” was more of a beer descriptor. Stout basically meant “strong” to drinkers in British pubs in the 1700’s.
In the instance of the Dry Irish Stout, the name is a bit contradictory – as they weren’t strong at all, most hovering around 4% alcohol by volume.
Wild Heaven’s Smiling Eyes keeps the style tradition alive ahead of Saint Patrick’s Day, minus the black patent malt, yet still dry and roasty. Available starting March 10th in 16-ounce cans and draft for a limited time.
Style: Dry Irish Stout
Availability: 16oz Cans, Draft. Limited Release
Wild Heaven Fest Beer returns for a 4th time (if our drinking memory serves us well) this weekend.
A few years ago, brewery co-founder Eric Johnson debuted Autumn Defense, a creative rendition of the popular fall lager. In that case, [Defense] was actually ale, with “pronounced bright citrus flavors, brewed heavy-handedly with Munich malt.” A festbier in spirit, but as Johnson admits – not very traditional. “You’re not a brewer if you’re not experimenting I guess,” Johnson once told us.
Wild Heaven Fest Beer follows a much more traditional path. This release is a true Marzen lager, leaving the idea of an “ale festbier” behind for good. Before even getting to here, tweaks to the recipe were in order. Johnson used Gungeist hops in years 1 and 2 of this release – a European hop of Hallertauer parentage. These hops did make a good lager, but ultimately traditional brewing just wins out. Now the lager is brewed solely with timeless (and traditional) Noble hops from Germany.
Brewing Fest Beer after giving up Autumn Defense was a journey unto itself. The result is definitely worth tasting, especially as fall looms.
Wild Heaven Fest Beer will be available on draft and 12-ounces cans seasonally starting this week.
Availability: 12oz Cans, Draft.
Latest Return: Early September 2021
Wild Heaven 4 Stories Quad
While 2020 was basically a stopped-up toilet in a dirty truck stop for everyone, Atlanta-based Wild Heaven Beer and Bulleit Bourbon gave us something tasty to help us cope with the mess. It was the boozy goodness we needed to round out a weird year.
Since the beginning, Bulleit was stingy with their empty bourbon barrels, sending most, if not all, overseas to be repurposed for whisky. Craft brewers never had the chance to age their beers in Bulleit. All that’s changed now.
Building off of the success of two 2020 releases – 437 Miles South Imperial Stout, and 95 Shilling Scotch Ale will be two new Bulleit barrel-aged releases released by Wild Heaven this year. Brewmaster and co-owner Eric Johnson is going Belgian-style for these next two creations.
This month Johnson, along with brewer Josh Franks created the Belgian-style tripel, started aging in in wet 10-year Bulleit Bourbon barrels yesterday. “It came out a touch higher in ABV than I expected – 10.75% going into the barrels. So it will most likely be 11-11.25% coming out. But it already is pretty great,” says Franks.
Expect a Labor Day release for the first beer.
The second collaboration will arrive by Christmas, a quadrupel aged a blend of Bulleit Rye and Bulleit Bourbon barrels.
Both beers will be available in limited quantities in 16-ounces cans.
The sun is setting over Wild Heaven brewery in Avondale Estates. It’s finally turning cooler in the south, which is perfect “beer and bourbon” weather. But then again, what weather isn’t.
This beer collaboration wasn’t easy to come by. Bulleit Bourbon barrels have never really been available to the broker market. You couldn’t broker a few barrels to age your beer of choice. The whole project exists thanks to industry networking, planning, discussions with the distillery, and of course, your PR push. Remember, beer is as much sales as it is an art form.
There’s Bulleit/Beer cocktails and food from Chef Shay Lavi cooking outside, but I’m here for the beer.
Drawing on something I said in part one of this series. Years ago, possessing a bourbon barrel-aged beer in your cellar meant you were winning. Being good at brewing barrel-aged beer meant understanding where the beer and barrel came together in a unity of amazing flavor. That means making sure it and doesn’t fall flat with no barrel notes, or worse the barrel overruns it. “Not enough barrel aging” was the “too hoppy” 1-Star rating on Untappd of a decade ago.
That’s not the case with Wild Heaven 95 Shilling. It’s the balance of toasty caramel, and rich vanilla oak that blend together in a greater sum of the parts of the process. Exactly what it should be. This beer is an instant reminder of the well-made classics that got so many addicted to craft beer in the first place. Beer meets barrel extremely well with fresh Bulleit barrels for the win.
Josh Franks has been brewing at Wild Heaven for years. In my head, I’ve always thought of him as a quiet creative. A talented brewer that has neither a beard nor a cocky attitude. Franks worked hard creating 95 Shilling, and you can just see the pride beaming through his persistent humility as we talk about this new beer. “I can’t believe how this turned out,” he tells me, trying not to smile mid-sentence. “I was just shooting for it to be good.”
“For me, this is one of the more rewarding parts of what we do,” says Executive Vice President Sarah Young. “The more we can spread Wild Heaven around in front of more than just beer people, is always something we look for.” The list of local partnerships nearly doubled in just 2020 alone. To date, they have worked with Atlanta icons like Giving Kitchen, Mercedes Benz Stadium, The Fox Theater, 680 TheFan radio station, Atlanta Botanical Garden, Big Peach Running Co, CURE Childhood Cancer, Stuckey’s Corporation, and more. Basically, Young has been busy.
One thing I can tell you for certain. Not every bourbon barrel makes great barrel-aged beer, but after trying Wild Heaven’s and Bulleit barrel collaboration, Bulleit definitely does.
Standing here drinking this beer at the brewery’s bar, campfire smoke heavy cold fall air whips through the open garage doors. For a second it feels like a fun dream after the year we’ve all had. The excitement about beer releases has returned to me. I’ve missed this.
Wild Heaven and Bulleit created a great beer here, with a second creation just a week away. Not everything in 2020 is terrible.