I first ran into Brad Hickey (winemaker at Brash Higgins) at Rootstock Wine Festival in 2016. That year, I joined along as a volunteer and I have to say, it shaped many directions that we have explored here at Wildflower, so a huge huge thanks to the founders and organisers of that awesome, temporal and seminal series of festivals. Back to Brad... as soon as we met, he immediately pulled out a strangely shaped bottle under cork and yellow wax, poured some into my glass and it blew my mind. What I would come to learn was that Brad had just given me a look at his Bloom 2008. An oxidative chardonnay aged under flor for 8 years. From that moment, I made a point to seek out his wines.
While every wine in the range is precise and balanced, one stood out to me in particular, the ZBO. With huge aromas, it reminded me so much of our Gold and a few hops in particular. I knew I had to get back in touch, and on a trip to Adelaide in early 2017, I visited BH HQ at the Omensetter Vineyard in the McLaren. It was on that visit we hatched a plan to marry this wine with our beer at the next vintage.
The wine is unique itself, so this was never going to be a case of a simple refermentation. Brad describes the making of the wine in 2018 as: "Hand picked, the golf ball sized, bronze fruit was destemmed into waiting terracotta amphorae. A wild ferment ensued with the caps hand plunged twice daily until the ferment finished and the skins sank into the wine. The skins, seeds and juice remained covered in situ for six months. A natural FLOR layer of yeast volunteers itself and covers and helps protect the wine. The ‘free run’ was siphoned off in Spring and combined with the pressings. The wine settles before being racked and sent to bottle unfiltered and unfined."
Instead of marrying fresh fruit and aged beer, I decided to experiment with the pressed skins out of the amphora, after that 6 month fermentation/ageing in clay. So, when time came to empty the amphora in late August 2018, Brad put the pressings into sealed containers that were gassed and immediately sent to Sydney. Upon receiving them a few days later, we transferred the skins to a stainless steel vessel and blended in a barrel of 8 month old Gold (#1770) and an equal volume of freshly fermented Gold. By adding young beer, I wanted to give some food for fermentation by the diversity of living microbes on the skins, even though they had been under wine for some time. The beer then aged and slowly fermented, getting drier for 4 months in contact with the skins. It was packaged on 3 January 2019 with a small dosing of sugar for natural carbonation through refermentation in bottle for 11 weeks.
Upon release, it's nose is dominated by the Muscat skins. Hop-like aromas of citrus, ripe peach, musk/perfume and earthy spice. The palate shows strongly of the gold beer base, focussed and taut. Strong pithy citrus fruits drive the palate along, keeping the beer fresh and energetic. Subtle vinous elements add to the beer's length and overall acid drive. In time expect the palate to soften and gain texture from the skin component.
We are excited to release Zibeerbo on Saturday 23 March when we have our friend Matt Storm (from the Masonry beer bar in Seattle) in Sydney. Matt is in town to make a beer with us and will be making his signature pizzas from 2pm till sold out.
If you can't tell by now, I'm really excited about this beer.
Like all our beers, Zibeerbo is best enjoyed when decanted off a settled natural yeast sediment at cellar temperatures (10-12°C).