Wildflower

As the Australian craft beer world becomes ever more crowded with breweries, it’s increasingly difficult for new businesses to stand out from the crowd. Wildflower is one of the most unique to open in recent times.

Started by American expat Topher Boehm and Australian brother in law Chris Allen, theirs is not a brewery in the typical sense, in that it does not have the equipment necessary to brew beer. Their Marrickville warehouse is, instead, full of barrels. It is a blendery, and understanding how that works is key to understanding what Wildflower is.

Many – perhaps most – local breweries now dabble in some form of barrel ageing, but at Wildflower it is effectively the sole focus. And many – if not all – local breweries use yeast supplied by a laboratory, but Wildflower has gone au naturel: Topher travelled around New South Wales collecting and culturing wild yeasts, taken from things like flowers and bark, then propagated them over a number of years until he had something viable for brewing. That is the ‘wild’ part of Wildflower. It was blended with a Belgian saison strain and become the house culture, used to ferment all the beers. This is the one thing they have that will always, in some way, be different to every other brewer in the country. And it is the reason they have taken to calling their beers Australian Wild Ales.

Because they don't have a brewhouse, the base beer is made by their friends down the road at Batch Brewing before being transported back to the Wildflower warehouse. Next, the beer gets fermented with the aforementioned yeast and transferred into barrels where it is left to develop for several months. After the allotted time in oak, Topher tastes the contents of every barrel and blends the various batches into a finished beer. It is a complex and constantly evolving thing, to blend beer, with the amount of barrel stock increasing and developing different characters over time, meaning the possibilities for blending become almost exponential and the beer does not become the same thing in perpetuity, but a constant progression. 

The Wildflower concept, and the beers they produce, is based on the methods of some of the great breweries of the Old World – in particular those around the Franco-Belgian border like Brasserie Thiriez – plus some of those on the cutting edge of the New World – such as Jester King from Texas and London’s Partizan. These are breweries where yeast is held up as the hero of the whole operation and the beer exists merely to serve it. Topher spent time working and learning at these places, being immersed in a specialised beer community and bringing their secrets back to Marrickville.

It is all manifested in just three beers: a gold, an amber and a table beer. The first two are the pillars of the barrel project and, while they have certain parameters they will maintain in terms of profile, they can be expected to change over time as the amount of barrel stock expands and ages and the yeast does whatever it is want to do. The outlier is the table beer which is bottled without seeing the inside of a barrel as it is a beer meant be drunk fresh; as such, the only place you will find the table beer is at Wildflower.

The warehouse itself has plenty of charm and a distinctly European feel; dating back to the 19th century, the old exposed wooden beams form a rustic skeleton which complements the wooden barrels while contrasting with the new corrugated aluminium walls. The repurposed wooden furniture completes the picture perfectly, which is little surprise considering Topher built it all that way with his own hands.

In keeping with the slightly unconventional and often slower pace of the Wildflower way, the warehouse is only open to the public on Saturday afternoons for tastings and takeaways. There are, however, opportunities to join Topher on a tour before the offical opening, which is as good an introduction to the experimental world of wild beer as you could want. In fact, if you’re not into beer, go to Wildflower with an open mind, take a tour and be prepared to fall in love with it. And if you already love beer, take a tour anyway. You may well fall in love all over again.

Nick Oscilowski

NB If you want to go deeper still, here is Nick's original article on Wildflower published a few weeks before they had their first beers ready.

Name
Wildflower
Address

11-13 Brompton Street
Marrickville
NSW 2204

Website
Hours

Tuesday to Thursday: 10am to 4pm (for takeaway sales only)
Friday & Saturday: 2pm to 6pm

Tours

Saturdays: 12pm to 1.30pm. Includes a tour, tasting and barrel samples. $25. Bookings via the website.

Wildflower Regulars

Wildflower Solera – Pull #2

Tapped September 13th, 2018
Three months after Wildflower's Solera beer made its maiden appearance, the Marrickville brewer/blender has released the second pull from its foudre (aka big wooden barrel). And, while it is the second release in the series, it’s arguably the first that really takes in the full spirit of the project by being a blend of old and new beer. The concept for Solera involves pulling half the liquid from the foudre, packaging it, then topping up the empty portion of the barrel with fresh beer. This process… Read more
Style
Foudre Beer

Wildflower Solera #1

Tapped June 4th, 2018
At some point towards the end of 2017, Wildflower rolled in a couple of foudres – essentially oversized oak barrels that hold somewhere in the region of two and a half thousand litres of liquid. Into one of them they poured a base beer not too dissimilar to their signature Gold blend, with the notable difference being to switch raw wheat with raw spelt. It then sat around for about three months before half the liquid was packaged. The beer that was pulled from the foudre has now been opened up… Read more
Style
Foudre Beer
Strength
5.0%

Wildflower Table Beer

A beer to prove that simple need not be boring, Wildflower’s Table Beer is based on the Belgian style of the same name – although in Flemish they, quite naturally, have their own name for their own beer: ‘tafelbier’. The style itself is generally an approachable, light bodied, low alcohol beer that can act as kind of a catchall accompaniment to meals. Wildflower’s take on this is based on a simple wheat malt base, a sparing amount of hops, their house yeast - and that’s it. Unlike the… Read more
Style
Australian Wild Ale
Strength
3.0%

Wildflower Gold

One of the central forces driving Wildflower is change. The nature of their barrel ageing and blending process means that consistency between bottled batches of beer is more of an aim than it is a requisite feature. That said, there’s a natural progression based on a general guideline. Take the Gold beer, for example. It sits in saison territory (however broadly you might want to apply that brush to the style) and the first batches could be succinctly described as showing citrus and stone fruit… Read more
Style
Australian Wild Ale
Strength
5.0%

Wildflower Amber

A counterpoint to the lighter gold beer, Wildflower’s Amber leans on a longer boil in order to generate its copper colour and a slightly sweeter, more robust malt body. Once it’s been through fermentation with the house yeast it’s transferred to oak barrels where the yeast really goes to town, producing funky and fruity characters up front and a lingering sourness. But the key, as with a lot of things in life, is balance. And that is in large part due to the art of blending and being able to… Read more
Style
Australian Wild Ale
Strength
6.0%

Wildflower Specials

Wildflower & Mike Bennie Foudre #1

Tapped October 11th, 2018
You’ll notice, if you care for such details, that there are two especially large oak barrels at Wildflower. They’re called foudres and each holds around 2,500 litres of liquid. One of them belongs to Wildflower. The other belongs to drinks writer Mike Bennie who realised a promise made in the early days of Wildflower to, one day, stake out a small corner of the place to be his own. In December of 2017, both were filled. Wildflower’s would go on to house the Solera series. Bennie’s would produce… Read more
Style
Foudre Beer
Strength
5.2%

Wildflower As It Were

Tapped October 10th, 2018
To know what this beer is is more about knowing what it’s not. Rather, we’ll never truly know what it’s meant to be and only what it is, as it were. This is Wildflower’s salute to a classic Old World saison, the kind they, the peasant toilers, would drink or might have drunk “back in the day” but which we cannot, but for the development of time travel, truly confirm. Certainly, some highly regarded examples exist, occupying the upper reaches of the unimpeachable pantheon of classic beers,… Read more
Style
Saison
Strength
5.0%

Wildflower St Florence 2018: Sauvignon Blanc & Pinot Noir

Tapped September 13th, 2018
When Wildflower launched St Florence in 2017, it was a bit special. The beer is named in honour and was released in celebration of the birth of chief blender Topher’s first child. It also represented Wildflower’s first foray into fruit additions in their beer (in this instance wine grapes). And it was voted one of the best new NSW beers of the year by our panel of contributors and industry folk. A year on, Florence’s fusion of beer and wine worlds has returned in two ways with sauvignon blanc… Read more
Style
Fruited Wild Ales

Wildflower Good As Gold Blend #1

Tapped September 13th, 2018
Something old and something new makes Wildflower’s gold blended brew. Good As Gold is the latest in the brewer/blender’s sub-series that, starting with July’s Keen As Mustard, takes its naming convention from raiding the long list of Aussie lexicon. It’s a half-half kind of beer, where they’ve taken the ever-versatile barrel aged Gold base beer and blended it with a fresh version of itself. That mix makes it feel like it's absorbed and released more of the initial power of the primary… Read more
Style
Australian Wild Ale
Strength
5.0%

Wildflower St Phoebe 2018

Tapped August 8th, 2018
Little more than three weeks after their last limited release fruit beer, Wildflower has launched another one. And, sigh, it’s just as bloody lovely. Then again, well over a year in, with the barrel stock having expanded significantly and the core Gold blend – from which so many other beers are derived and dependent – arguably having never tasted so good, you kind of have to accept that if they started fermenting their beers with a bucket of turnips it’d still taste great. Doing it with raspberries… Read more
Style
Raspberry Wild Ale
Strength
5.0%

Wildflower Keen As Mustard

Tapped July 13th, 2018
For the first in a new subset of releases, Wildflower has decided to eschew its usual naming convention – the one which has seen beer given titles inspired by Greek characters, Saints and children (or both) and the occasional ancient ageing process – in favour of becoming an enthusiastic adopter of Aussie colloquialisms. First up: Keen As Mustard. In principle this beer has gone through the same process as all Wildflower’s flagship blends; primary fermentation in barriques, secondary fermentation… Read more
Style
Australian Wild Ale
Strength
5.0%

Wildflower St Thomas

Tapped July 13th, 2018
Before Wildflower opened its doors, and in much of the subsequent time since, the steadfast focus for the Marrickville blender was on the progression and development of their core beers, Gold and Amber. These are the bread and butter of the business. Their babies. But more babies have arrived – real ones. Co-founders Topher and Chris have a few between them and for each birthday they were determined to release a new fruit beer, in celebration. But when your beers take a long time to produce, that… Read more
Style
Cherry Saison
Strength
6.0%

Wildflower The International

Tapped June 1st, 2018
On the anniversary of their first year of existence, Wildflower has released its first collaboration. It’s not a hands-on collaborative effort in that no one else actually came to their home to get their hands dirty. No one even bothered coming around to chat. Instead, it’s the result of being part of the rather niche sounding Saison, Bière de Garde & Farmhouse Ale Appreciation Society, a group that counts amongst its active members some of the most renowned producers and enthusiasts of… Read more
Style
Australian Wild Ale
Strength
5.0%

Wildflower St Henry 2018

Tapped May 12th, 2018
In 2017, Wildflower was widely lauded for many reasons, but one of the particular highlights was St Florence. Named in honour of the daughter of chief brewer/blender Topher, this was a spontaneously fermented ale featuring grapes, several rounds of blending and various bouts of ageing inside different vessels. Some six months – and one hard act to follow – later, the second saint in the series has arrived: St Henry is an Australian wild ale that’s been re-fermented with apricots and, in keeping… Read more
Style
Blended Apricot Wild Ale
Strength
5.5%
Stockists

Launched at the blendery on May 12

Wildflower Waratah

Tapped October 21st, 2017
Somewhere deep down you get the feeling it’s all been building to this. In recent years, as craft beer has spread outward to seek new audiences, many brewers have looked inward towards local production as a point of pride and distinction. That’s most frequently manifested in a brewery supplying exclusively, or predominantly, to its local area, but the concept runs right through the chain to the sourcing of ingredients. You’ll hear many breweries proudly, and quite rightfully, preaching of… Read more
Style
Wild NSW Ale
Strength
5.0%

Wildflower – St Florence

Tapped October 14th, 2017
Wildflower has a way of making every beer feel a bit special, but its newest release is particularly so. Called St Florence, it’s been made in celebration of the recent birth of head brewer Topher’s daughter and the beer appears to have had a gestation as complex as the miracle occurring in the womb. At the beginning of the year it started life spontaneously, from fruit grown down south in Gerringong and Sauvignon Blanc grapes from out west in Orange. After spending a week macerating, a barrel… Read more
Style
Wild Ale
Strength
7.0%
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