Metamodern Tastes in Country Beer, Part III: Antidoot Wilde Fermenten

“We had the idea that what’s lacking somehow today is this stubbornness, to stick to something—and to create something distinct in that way,” says Tom Jacobs. “For us, we want to do something that lasts.”

Joe Stange May 24, 2022 - 14 min read

Metamodern Tastes in Country Beer, Part III: Antidoot Wilde Fermenten Primary Image

Photo: Jamie Bogner

Terroir need not affect our beer. A feature of the postmodern era is that we can easily choose to avoid that sense of place—in fact, that’s become our default position as brewers.

Does that mean that terroir is irrelevant to beer? No. It only means that terroir has become a choice. Over the years we’ve written about (and recorded podcasts with) numerous North American brewers who have made that choice to limit their choices, to make beers that somehow taste of their places—such as Jester King in Texas, Wolves & People in Oregon, Garden Path in Washington State, Wheatland Spring in Virginia, and more.

For perspective on how the whole paradigm of “farmhouse brewing” is expanding and shifting, here we spotlight three European breweries: Eik & Tid in Norway, Kemker Kultuur in Germany, and Antidoot in Belgium. Each is brewing with mixed cultures its own way, and each is inspired as much by what contemporary brewers have done as by the cultures and histories of their own places in the world.

Antidoot Wilde Fermenten

Kortenaken, Flemish Brabant, Belgium


When brothers Tom and Wim Jacobs started homebrewing, they were buying packets of yeast like anybody else. They also had friends who worked for modern breweries, including Duvel Moortgat. There may have been bemusement at the brothers buying miniature copies of their company yeast.

“And there is something very weird,” Tom says. “Because the craft world, they argue that they’re bringing something new and fresh to the scene. But actually, they are just buying, say Duvel yeast, or Chimay yeast. So, at the end, the ones who are creating the diversity are not craft brewers … because there’s no stubbornness with them.”

That realization became a driving force behind the evolution of Antidoot Wilde Fermenten: “We had the idea that what’s lacking somehow today is this stubbornness, to stick to something—and to create something distinct in that way,” Tom says. “Like, you’re not creating diversity by just brewing 40 different beer styles, because that’s just going with the hype and what’s fashionable today. That’s not something that lasts. For us, we want to do something that lasts.”

Taking It Further

Not only a brewery, but also a cidery and small-scale winery—sometimes those products mingle in the bottle to form new ones—Antidoot dabbles in a variety of mixed-culture adventures.


The Jacobs founded Antidoot in 2018, after several years of experimenting as homebrewers. That evolution was something that Tom says happened organically after he and his wife moved to the small town of Kortenaken around 2009. “The idea was to live more self-sufficient on the countryside—so, have our own vegetables, have our own meat,” he says. “And we really liked to drink some beer. So, then we started homebrewing. It was just actually a way of making things ourselves. But that was kind of a thing that got a bit out of hand.”

Tom says he and Wim were never serious beer geeks, but they enjoyed drinking Saison Dupont, Orval, and the black-label Gueuze Girardin. At first, they brewed tripels or other classic ale styles, but within a few years they were adding Brett-laced Orval dregs to their fermentations. Things snowballed from there. They began buying oak barrels, seeking a more complex bacterial profile. “Before we knew it, we had too many big wine barrels in my brother’s cellar,” Tom says, “and then we had to make a decision. Like, ‘What are we going to do with this? Are we going to take it further, or not?’”

For Tom, who was tired of his day job as a philosophy lecturer, the choice was easy. In 2017 they built a small but professional brewery at his house. “In some ways it’s still homebrew,” he says, “because it’s literally at my home that we do it. And it’s still very similar to homebrew—it’s just that the kettles are a bit bigger.” They brew 10 hectoliters per batch, enough to fill three wine barrels each time. Currently they brew only 15 to 20 batches of beer per year, primarily in winter.

Antidoot beers are dependent on the seasons and climate. When I speak with Tom in early December, they’ve just finished their two-month cider season of picking and pressing. The next step is to clean up and start the beer-brewing season, when the cooler weather allows use of the coolship.


They use the coolship for its original purpose—it cools wort. “We don’t have a plate chiller,” Tom says. “Everything goes through the coolship. … We have learned to brew only when it’s really cold enough because we’ve seen some problematic infections when it’s too warm. So, we’re very careful with that.”

They prepare a starter of their house culture and pitch it to get fermentation going quickly, Tom says. This helps to get the pH down, since they’re not acidifying their wort. It also helps to ensure fermentation progresses despite the cool temperatures of their winter brewing season. Inevitably, the culture must also live in those barrels.


Photos: Tom Jacobs

The Origins of A Mixed Culture

The Jacobs brothers describe their house culture of yeast and bacteria as “indigenous.” Over the years, they have done a fair amount of yeast-wrangling around their rural brewery. The popular Milk the Funk website gave them lots of ideas on how to collect the local micro-critters and ferment starters with them.

“We tried different wild captures until we had a kind of capture that we were happy about,” Tom says. “We used different plants and fruits from the garden and the surroundings. And it was a few years of experiments with that.”


Whenever they got one they liked, it would wind up in the mixed culture.

So, what exactly is in that culture? “We have no idea,” Tom says. “We’ve never run lab tests of those cultures. We just know it works. It’s a bit like when you have a sourdough culture—you know how to use it, you know how to feed it, you know how to keep it alive. You know somehow what it does, what its effects are. … But we don’t know the details, say, on a microbiological level.”

However, based on how the yeast behave, Antidoot can make some safe assumptions: There are Saccharomyces strains driving the fermentation; there is Pediococcus, since the beer develops a telltale “ropey” viscosity early in its maturation; since the ropiness doesn’t last, there is likely some Brettanomyces chewing up the exopolysaccharides that cause the ropiness.

Naturally, there are also lactic-acid bacteria, which they keep under control by using hops. They have been experimenting with the quantity and blend of hops, to get gentler acidity and a more balanced beer. “We want to limit, early on, the Lactobacillus,” Tom says. “We don’t want any quick Lactobacillus growth. We’ve seen a big difference if we use very few hops, that we get beer with a different acidic profile, which we don’t like so much. We prefer the slow acidification, which probably comes through Pediococcus.


The Elements of an Antidoot Beer

The hops Antidoot uses are Belgian, and they’re literally a mixed bag: some homegrown, some aged hops, and a few fresh ones. They’re also functional: “It’s all for the antibacterial effects,” Tom says.

The hops go in the kettle for the entire three-hour boil. Why such a long boil? “I cannot really explain it, let’s say, on a scientific level,” Tom says. “It’s an intuition. When you boil that long, it’s [denser]. It’s not about the acidity, but the mouthfeel is also very important for us. We’re looking for a beer … with a bit of a creamy mouthfeel. And we have the idea that with a longer boil, together with all the raw grains that we use, it’s a [denser] wort.”

They also conduct a lambic-style turbid mash for all their beers, to produce more dextrins for their culture to chew on over time. The grist is typically one-third unmalted wheat, or occasionally spelt or a bit of oats. The unmalted grains always come from a local farmer—but that’s not always possible. This season, Tom says, the farmer has no wheat because of an insect problem. So, Antidoot will use spelt while looking for another local source of unmalted wheat.

The rest of the grist is organic pale malt from Dingemans or Weyermann. Tom says they would buy it from a smaller, more local outfit if they could; there are no small maltings in Belgium, though nearby Hof ten Dormaal brewery is beginning to experiment with malting its own barley.


They typically bottle their drinks in attractively labeled 75 cl bottles. About a third of what they produce is cider, and the rest beer. While they do grow their own grapes and make natural wine, they don’t sell the wine; instead, much of it ends up blended with either the beer or cider. “But for us, it’s very similar,” Tom says. “We don’t make a distinction between those.”

Bottles are hard to come by. The brewery is tiny, and early accolades led to an uncomfortable amount of attention from traders and speculators who were re-selling at many times their price for personal profit. So, Antidoot established a club, which received many more applicants than there were spots. They chose 300 successful applications at random. Their website’s membership page currently reads, “Unfortunately, there are no more spots available for 2022. There is also no waiting list.”

Taming Their Own Creature

When they were experimenting with wild captures of yeast, they knew they wanted to focus on capturing Saccharomyces, Tom says. They wanted their culture to be a reliable and hardy fermenter—but they also wanted it to be their own. In reading American sources on mixed fermentation, Tom says, “what they mostly do is they use a commercial Saccharomyces strain, and then they mix it with, say, Lactobacillus, or they add some Brettanomyces to it. And that was something we didn’t want to do at all because for us, that’s not wild fermentation.”

They didn’t want the same domesticated strains that anyone can get. “We really wanted to see, what’s the effect of the wild Saccharomyces on the beer? With these wild captures, we saw very interesting profiles that had nothing to do with what people normally associate with wild beers—namely, Brettanomyces and bacteria. It had all to do with the character of the Saccharomyces.”


Of course, there are limits to what their culture can do well—but those limits are part of the point. Their culture produces a lot of fruity esters and some spicier phenolics, too. It would not ferment a nice IPA, Tom says, because the hops wouldn’t shine. However, after two or three weeks of fermentation, he says, the beer resembles a Belgian saison. Those fruity esters mellow over time in the barrel while the house character develops further.

One of the things that makes Tom happiest is when people can identify that house character and say, “Oh, that’s an Antidoot beer.”

In describing the profile, Tom says a typical Antidoot beer tastes herbal, even when they don’t add herbs; the esters are mellow and “aged”; it’s gently acidic, not sour; and there’s a creamy mouthfeel that persists in the bottle. One thing he and his brother don’t like much is Brett funk—too much can be distracting, while also tasting too much like other Brett beers. As an example, Tom cites natural wine makers making very clean, vivid wines using indigenous yeast.

“Because I think what’s for us interesting is to create, somehow, diversity in the beer scene,” he says. “And what annoys me a bit is that a lot of breweries are just copying each other somehow, or just looking too much at each other.”

So, he believes the main way they can stand out on their own is via fermentation. “The backbone of a beer for us is mostly yeast-driven. And it’s interesting just to be a bit stubborn, and stick to that character, and try to build a house identity on that—rather than on these kind of artificial tricks.”