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The yeast wranglers of Kortenaken, Belgium, got better at it over the years.
In the beginning, homebrewers Tom and Wim Jacobs would leave out wort samples in small Erlenmeyer flasks. Typically, they would add local berries or other produce, to see what they could harvest from nature’s own tiny fermentations. Out of 10 samples, maybe one or two would turn out pleasant enough to step up and try in a brew. As they developed experience and a sense for what works, about half of those indigenous yeast samples would succeed.
Those successful experiments survive, in a form, as part of the house mixed culture of Antidoot Wilde Fermenten, which—like the culture—has taken on a life of its own. The Jacobs brothers released their first commercial beer in 2019, and aficionados have been hunting bottles ever since. In 2020, Ratebeer—based on the scores of its users—named Antidoot one of the top three breweries in the world for wild beers, alongside Side Project of St. Louis and Casey Brewing and Blending of Glenwood Springs, Colorado.
For more about Antidoot and its approach to locally rooted mixed-culture fermentation, check out “Metamodern Tastes in Country Beer”—also featuring Eik & Tid of Norway and Kemker Kultuur of Germany—in our February–March 2022 issue. For more tips on capturing local yeast, see Spontaneity: Prospecting for Bugs.
Here, Antidoot brewer Tom Jacobs shares practical advice based on their earlier experiences in gathering the kinds of wild cultures that can ferment tasty beer.