Tucked away in an industrial estate in Walthamstow, East London, Wild Card Brewery boasts a small Brewhouse and taproom. It began as a project for two friends from Nottingham, William John Harris and Andrew Birkby who brought in Jaega Wise, a close friend with a degree in chemical engineering, on board as their head brewer.
In the early days, they contract brewed at Brentwood Brewing Company, but in January 2014, Wild Card moved into their current premises in E17.
On a pleasant Saturday in August, tables were lined up outside, attracting a stream of thirsty locals from about noon onwards. A small, tidy bar offers a selection of beers on cask and keg from Wild Card and other local breweries.
Tours are kept intimate – with a maximum of eight people per session – and include a tasting of five beers alongside some food pairings. We were led by the erudite Des de Moor, Beer Sommelier and author of the award-winning CAMRA Guide to London’s Best Beer, Pubs and Bars, whose knowledge covered brewing history, beer styles, tasting notes and a background of Wild Card’s evolution as a brewery. Happy to take questions and engage with the group, he was a skilled guide and storyteller.
Wild Card specialise in contemporary and accessible beers with a core range aptly named: a Joker lager, Jack of Clubs ruby ale, a Queen of Diamonds IPA, King of Hearts blonde and an Ace of Spades porter. Each of the beers was sampled, opening on the lager as a palate cleanser and moving on to the King of Hearts, paired with crunchy corn tortillas chips. The beer is light and fragrant, but has a zippy citrus character thanks to a dry-hopping.
Their Queen of Diamonds was crowned the winner of the Beautiful Brew category at the Urban Food Awards in 2016 and is a standout beer- here, it was paired with chorizo. The Queen of Diamonds is packed with intense flavours and aromas due to its continuous dry-hopping, giving it a huge citrus profile and a refreshing bitter edge.
The Jack of Clubs, a red ale, is the perfect balance of sweet maltiness and bitterness, making it a commendable modern take on the style. The first sip imparts notes of caramel and biscuit, rounded off with some citrus from a bill of American hops. This was paired with creamy cheeses and was the most satisfying match, with sweetness balancing the savoury cheese on the palate and carbonation cutting through the fats. This was the first beer that Wild Card brewed commercially, a daring move given that it’s just not a boilerplate attempt at a more popular style.
Finally, our session concluded with a pairing of the Ace of Spades porter, a luxurious beer with intense cocoa notes. Rich and deep, this was naturally paired with 70% dark chocolate with a hint of salt- it was an effortless marriage of flavours.
Our tasting was briefly halted for a tour of the brewery, where we huddled among the fermenter tanks and mash tun and Des guided us through the brewing process. The site is compact with six fermenter tanks, so it’s not surprising that they’re on the hunt for a second premises in the area to grow. Today, they've launched a crowdfunding opportunity via Crowdcube for investors to assist with their future expansion plans, which includes a larger production site and bar in Blackhorse, plans to improve their current facilities and launch a barrel aging programme.
The tasting and tour sessions are an insightful introduction to Wild Card and an afternoon well spent. The beers were exceptional and we were expertly guided through each one. Following the tasting, we stuck around to enjoy another taste of the range, following suit with the locals and soaking in the easy-going E17 vibes.
Wild Card tours are offered every Saturday. Tickets are £18 and can be purchased here.