Reviews, Commentary and Opinions on Midwest Craft Beer and Microbreweries


Beer Reviews

Modus Vivendi

Wild Beer Co.
United Kingdom

Style: Old Ale
ABV: 7.0%

Nigel’s Rating:
one beerone beerone beerone beerone beer   (Outstanding within its style.)

Signs of the Apocalypse, 2016 edition:

-There are 29 days this February. How the hell do we just randomly have an extra day one year?

-Donald Trump.

-The Oscars are still a big deal, despite the fact that nobody has ever seen any of the nominated films in a day and age where everyone sees everything.

-Nigel has written two reviews in a month, doubling his 2015 output.

While we prepare for the impending demise of the universe, we might as well enjoy ourselves by drinking good beer. And with the 54th Annual International Beer Month drawing to a close, we might as well enjoy something unique from overseas. After all, if Trump is in fact our next President, I’m pretty sure all of us, regardless of political affiliation, will be looking to move overseas.

In my first IBM review, for Italian craft brewer Brewfist, I touched on how influential the American craft beer revolution has been for beer drinkers across the globe. My latest selection further demonstrates that fact, although it comes from England, which was cutting edge in terms of beer creativity long before the U.S. broke out of the macro doldrums the past few decades.

Wild Beer Co. is situated in a rural area in southwestern England, south of Bath in Somerset County. Wild Beer began brewing in late 2012 and was in full production by 2013. As the name implies, Wild Beer is all about experimentation, utilizing a variety of hops, malts, and of course, wild yeast. They also have an eclectic barrel-aging program, which has allowed for a lineup that is diverse to say the least. Styles run the gamut, from standard hop-centric ales, to fruit beers, sours, and many variants of Belgians (the ales, not the people). Wild Beer also collaborates with a number of breweries, most notably infamous Scottish brewer BrewDog and equally cutting-edge English brewer Beavertown.

Modus Vivendi is Wild Beer’s “manifesto” beer, one that they use to exemplify who they are as a brewery. Called Modus Operandi outside of the U.S. (name likely changed due to potential copyright infringement), it’s base is an Old Ale, a somewhat archaic style that utilizes wild yeast and is aged 90 days in oak barrels.

Modus Vivendi pours nicely, with a thick, pillowy white head about an inch or so thick that slowly dissipates, leaving a slight ring around the side of the glass. A deep, dark, reddish-brown with some lingering sediment, it looks like a nice dark beer in the glass, though somewhat generic.

Aromas begin to demonstrate Modus Vivendi’s true colors, as an instant cascade of scent pounds the nostrils the second you begin to pour. Sweet, dark fruity esters dominate initially with sour notes. The hints of oak barrel aging come through next, to the point that it takes on an aroma of a sweet red wine, similar to a port. It’s not my favorite aroma… as a fan of red wine, I prefer my reds dry or semi-dry. The combination of sweet, tart, and sour is pungent to say the least and not for the faint of heart.

Flavors are much more manageable, in my opinion, than the complex, rich aromas. That’s somewhat ironic to say, as the flavor is also complex and rich. However, while the aroma reminds me of a sweet red wine, the taste falls back into the sour beer category. Sours are the “it” thing in the craft beer world right now, and as they become more popular, it’s more common to find mediocre versions of them. That is not the case with Modus Vivendi, as the flavors are complex across the board but never overwhelming. Sweet, dark fruit (cherry and fig) dominate, followed quickly by a subtle tartness, then full-blown sour. The use of wild yeast adds to the overall complexity, as does the barrel-aging process. The oak barrels give it subtle earthy, woody tone that helps cut through the overall sour notes just a touch. Acidic, tannic, alcoholic notes are also helpful in cutting through the potentially overwhelming trifecta of sweet, tart, and sour. Overall the mouthfeel is tolerable, though there is an astringency that bites the tongue on occasion. And, obviously… if you aren’t a sour beer fan, it’ll likely curl your tongue and make you gag.

While I won’t say this is in the top echelon of barrel-aged sours, a sub-category that is very much in vogue right now, overall Modus Vivendi is a solid beer. There are enough unique, tasty notes that I’m definitely intrigued to try more brews from Wild Beer. If you’re looking for the best of the best in sours, you can probably stick with the plethora of domestic options (I recently sampled New Glarus 2016 Oud Bruin… it blows this one out of the water). But if you’re looking for something unique and to sample a solid beer that exemplifies the experimentation going on in the craft beer world at the moment, Modus Vivendi is a good choice.


Reviewed by Nigel Tanner on February 29, 2016.
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