Q and A with Jaega Wise: Singer, TV Presenter and Head Brewer at Wild Card

Jaega Wise tells us how she got the recipe of her award-winning DDH IPA singing!

Wild Card Brewery shone at the 2020 London Beer Competition. We speak to head brewer Jaega Wise about IPAs, Covid-19 and the city’s beer scene

Jaega Wise is a woman of many talents. Singer, TV and radio Presenter, engineering graduate, beer sommelier, and - most importantly for our purposes - among the most respected brewers in London. The 32-year-old has helped make Wild Card, a Walthamstow brewery founded in 2012, a big draw for the city’s beer-lovers.

This year has been a difficult one for everybody, but Wild Card has battled on, and there have been moments of triumph amidst the gloom. At this year’s London Beer Competition, Wild Card’s DDH IPA walked away with a Gold Medal, no mean feat given how popular a category that is. 

We caught up with her to find out about that, the ever-evolving London beer scene, and her favourite place for a beer in East London.

Winning a Gold Medal at the London Beer Competition must have brightened up a difficult year? 

“It's actually proved really super useful - both in terms of the kind of assessing yourself against others and in terms of, this is the stuff that investors really look for. To be able to say you're ‘award-winning’ is something that's attractive to investors. And then there’s feedback, especially feedback from people who know what they're talking about; that’s really valuable. When it comes to your own beers, you think it's great because it's your baby, but it's important to get that external feedback to kind of keep you on your toes.

“It's been actually a really great year for us in terms of competitions because we won that one, and we won quite a few awards at Love Beer London and the SIBA digital competition. We try and enter the ones which we think are going to be really good.

And was it especially pleasing to win with an IPA?

“It's really competitive because London is known for its hazy, hoppy IPAs. There are lots of breweries doing that to a very high standard here. I'm always cautious about entering those categories because the competition is really high, so if you manage to win or get an award, you've done a good job. You've done well. So we were really pleased with that!”

Can you tell us a little bit about your award-winning beer, DDH IPA?

“It's taken a long, long, long time to really hone that recipe down and really get it singing. It’s made with Citra and Simcoe hops. The higher ABV beers can be extremely challenging in a way that's very different from kind of medium ABV beers.

“That’s because you're fighting a lot of stresses. So the yeast is not in its favorite place to be, with such a high ABV. You have to be able to produce beer without those heavy, higher alcohol flavors. If the yeast is unhappy in any way because it's already quite stressed out because it's higher ABV, it will let you know about it, and it's really easy to pump out off-flavors. It's a lot easier to make a 4% pale consistently well than it is to make a 7.5% hoppy. You're just dealing with a lot of factors like it has to smell good, it has to look good.”

How are things at Wild Card this year? A lot of breweries are suffering.

“I would say things are steady. We were quite lucky in the fact that we had a bit of business lined up, and I think we were quite lucky that we have our taprooms. I like to say we're like a spider, so when one leg goes down, there's another seven to prop them up. Obviously, with COVID, half the spider went down! We set up an online shop, and we worked really hard to get customers' direct delivery. And even now, we're still doing same-day delivery across East London. So we just focused on really great service and just making sure that the beer was getting to customers. It's obviously been hard like it has for everyone, but we now have a shop, which we never had before an online shop.

“That's positive, but I'd be lying if I'd said things weren't tough. Things are difficult, especially with this 10 pm closing happening at the moment. So the government hasn't made it easy, but we're all doing our best, the best we can.”

The London beer scene has changed hugely since you arrived in 2012.

“It has changed a huge amount! So in the beginning, it was just so exciting to be a part of something that was emerging so quickly. And it wasn't just London, it was all around the UK, where breweries felt like they were popping upon, it was like a weekly to monthly basis, wasn't it? New breweries here, there and everywhere. It was just a really exciting time. And now kind of things have kind of settled down a bit, and things have plateaued or what have you. But now London is still at the forefront of what is happening around the world in beer, which is really quite exciting.

“I was at an event in San Sebastian [Spain], and I was going around all their bars, and I said to one of the publicans, "Oh, you've not got any American beers on." And he was like, "Oh, America. Why would I get beer from America now? I've got London down the road." Do you know what I mean? There are so many breweries here making beer so well that it really pushes you to be of your highest standard. And I know us in the brewery, whenever we're tasting anything or we've got anything new coming out, we're not aiming for medium. We're aiming for world-class, which is a really exciting thing, to be pushing your team and pushing yourself, to be like, how can we constantly make this better?”

Where do you like to go for a drink?

“One of my favorite places to go is really local to me, called Biddle Bros. It's in Clapton, and it is... I'll describe it as a dive bar, right? So what the guy does is, he must have like six taps, and he has one pale, right? And you have no idea what that beer is. And I know because we sell to him, but it's a combination of our beer, Pressure Drop, and Hackney. And it's just those on rotation. But if you ask them, like, "What beer is this?" that would be a difficult question. It's like, "Oh, let me have a look, let me have a look."

“But it's a really nice place to go because they just do one pale that's always, always of the highest, highest standards. The beer just tastes great. Before Covid, you could go there on your own, not knowing anyone, and you would leave with about six friends. And the guy, Rob, that runs it, he's a real talker. He's a bit grumpy but in a positive way. He's like, "Oh, so what have you been up to today?" Do you know what I mean? It's a real place where you can make a good friend. So I would highly, highly recommend it.”

Image Credit: @carmelkingphoto

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