Almost two years after recording with The Hospopreneurs Podcast, Blake Hall has solidified his role as the Patient Wolf Brand Ambassador and is the leading mind behind the Front Of House at the popular Melbourne gin brand’s new Southbank distillery.
Outgrowing its original Brunswick site, Patient Wolf has stepped toward co-owners, Matt Argus and Dave Irwin’s vision for an urban distillery, in the heart of Melbourne.
Two years on, Blake is as charismatic as ever and continues to go from strength to strength, now managing an operation with many more moving parts – but an operation that he’s equally as passionate about and proud of.
It was a pleasure to catch up again and hear about their new distillery release, Rogue Barrel (made in collaboration with Wolf of the Willows Brewing Co.), that will be available when the new doors open very very soon.
What is Rogue Barrel? (ABV, tasting notes, barrel and history, cooperage, yeast, is the grain different to what Patient Wolf normally uses?)
We’ve seen some amazing barrel aged gins that are really bridging the gap with whisky drinkers. Instead, we wanted to look at a barrel as another botanical, adding new layers of complexity. To do so, we used a barrel from our friends at Wolf of the Willows, who released a ‘Brett Saison’.
The 200L barrel is made from French Oak and first came from a winery in country Victoria – we don’t know which one. It was used for ageing Chardonnay. Wolf of the Willows then picked it up to use as a fermentation vessel for 100% Brettanomyces Bruxellensis ferments (known as Brett Yeast – more on this available at the bottom of the article), which create their own microflora environment in the wood. This is a very unusual and unique process. The beer fermented in these barrels produced their Barrel-Fermented Brett Saison Beer.
Blake, other than the obvious Wolf-themed name, what made Wolf of the Willows appeal for a collaboration?
Wolf of the Willows is a craft brewery in Cheltenham, Melbourne. We recently did a collab beer for GABS festival – a Tom Collins inspired Sour Beer. It was hugely successful, rating third in the People’s Choice Award.
Wolf of the Willows are a well respected Australian brewery. Other than the similarity with ‘Wolf’ in our names, there is great brand alignment and fit between us. Collabs such as this, drive a point of differentiation and hype.
How does this release fundamentally differ to other craft gin releases?
The key difference we can see is how unique the barrel is.
First you have French Oak, imparting more savoury characters than its American cousin. Fill it with Chardonnay and you create something great. Ferment a beer with a rare, unique and aggressive yeast strain in said barrel… How could you turn that down?
Each element – be it gin, beer, wine or barrel – offers something unique to the final product. Lastly, this is a single barrel product. We’ll never be able to recreate the flavours in each bottle, as the barrel has now evolved.
What does it mean for the Patient Wolf portfolio?
The next big step for us is our new distillery.
With a great bar, atmosphere and new stills on the way next year, this means we have a platform and space to release more experimental gins. This is hopefully the first in a long line of unique and interesting gins, and we’re incredibly proud of the end result.
Is this a way for you to test the market for a permanent position in the Patient Wolf line-up?
Yes, however we put so much thought and consideration into everything we do, it really is more of a reveal and offering a great gin rather than testing. However if it absolutely kills it and everyone is loving it, absolutely, we’ll consider whether it moves into our core range or we go to a bigger scale with it.
Do you have any hints on the next distillery release?
We have a few ideas. We have some really interesting barrel ideas among other things. Stay tuned.
With many other brands now producing pink gins, what’s Patient Wolf’s position on the potential for a pink gin in the future?
We love the creative freedom that gin, as a spirit, offers the producer. We are open to anything, as long as the final product is a world-class product. We don’t compromise on quality.
There is a fine line between a gimmick and a credible product.
More on Brettanomyces Bruxellensis (aka: Brett or Brett Yeast):
Forward-thinking breweries have been looking at Brett yeast for a while now (I remember pouring an expression at Brisbane Brewing Co. in 2017) but what interested me, was its application in the barrel-ageing process of gin.
Blake Hall had this to say:
Brettanomyces (or Brett), is a wild yeast strain. It’s volatile and is considered a bit ‘rouge.’ Many think that Brett beers are funky and dry, however it can produce incredible tropical fruit flavours, like regular IPAs in hyper-drive.
And Scott McKinnon (Founder and Brewer of Wolf of the Willows) made this comment:
‘Brett is a very aggressive mircoflora, and needs to be handled with respect in the brewery. Wine makers loath it. For our barrel, I got lots of white peach and white pepper aromas and flavours from the barrel.’
The use of Brettanomyces Bruxellensis has been tempting-emergence in the United States over the past 18 months but is still currently an underground yeast strain.
Beer-Nerds and Industry are across it but The Common Gin Drinker isn’t.