Picture this; you move away from the country you call home to a foreign land, you cannot work due to government red tape and you are a bit short of Great British Sterling. What do you do? Work out of sight of the Immigration Office, making a living illegally perhaps? Or maybe you could learn to juggle chainsaws whilst riding a unicycle on a tightrope and start busking on the streets of Bristol? Or you could just start brewing beer. That is what exactly how Brett Ellis of Wild Beer Co. passed the time waiting for his visa after crossing the Atlantic.
A trained chef turned brewer, Brett previously plied his trade at Bristol Beer Factory but abandoned ship with credited Beer Sommelier and former BBF Business Development Manager, Andrew Cooper to set sail on their own beer adventure brewing with Belgian-style wild yeast. In just a few years, Brett, Andrew and Wild Beer have caused many a wave in the UK brewing industry, picking up their fair share of awards and are one of the UK’s most exciting breweries, and so I’m delighted to introduce, Mr. Brett Ellis…
Well, when I first moved over to the UK from California to marry my wife I was not allowed to work due to visa issues so I did what anyone would do with too much time, not that much money, and a lack of beer…I bought a homebrew bucket and brew kit. I found building flavours and working with the ingredients fairly natural and comfortable. As I had been training to be a chef from 17-years-old, I found that something that demanded my entire attention, that myself and others consumed, which entirely focused on our senses and was fully ephemeral, was normal for me. It was the science and process that was so foreign that it was inspiring.
If you were washed up on a desert island and only one beer could be washed up beside you, what would it be?
I think it would have to be a Armand’s Doesjel of Drie Fonteinen.
If you could brew a collab beer with anyone in the world, dead or alive, real or fictional, human or not, who would it be?
Maybe an ancient Egyptian from the iron age. To be a bit more realistic I would love to hand over the keys, sorta speak, to the WBC barrel cellar to a group of people who really know their shit when it comes to blending drinks. Maybe a group like Armand of Drie Fonteinen, Lauren Salazar of New Belgium, Jerome Rebetez of BFM, Andrew Nelson of Le Grappin and allow them to create a blend. That would be a true collaboration for me. I made and cellared the beer and they use the barrels as if pulling ingredients from a larder. It would be freaky to let go of the beer and direction that much but I think that approach would yield something that no one could have ever made on there own. Innovation comes from letting go, not squeezing tighter.
When you’re not brewing, what are you doing?
If I am not playing with and watching my son, I am either trying to get out for a bike and try to find some trails or the typical stuff like attempting to build a pizza oven (I’ve turned out to be shit at it). I love cooking and eating or just zoning out with a good movie and beer.
What was your first every beer experience?
It was not that worth noting really so I’ll say one of the best early memories was drinking bottles of Negro Mondelo with lime and fresh Steinlager on a locals beach on the Big Island of Hawaii and then just falling asleep till dawn. Happy days.
Which Wild Beer are you most proud of?
I suppose Modus Operandi (Modus Vivendi in the USA). It is the beer that Andrew and I built the brewery to brew and we are only now getting to know that beer. From our first brew, brewed at Arbor Ales in Bristol, which was aged in three lonely bourbon barrels to our most recent blends of at least 15 barrels, comprised of first to third use barrels and wine and bourbon we are forever allowing it to show us who it is and wants to be.
If you weren’t a brewer, what would you be?
Oh I don’t know. Cider maker or kombucha maker or chef or, oh I know, a house husband or an activist for women and children rights.