Volume Twelve: From the Ruins of a Subterranean Feasting Hall at a glance:
- Wunderkammer Bier is the side project of Hill Farmstead Head Brewer and Production Manager, Vasilios Gletsos.
- From the Ruins of a Subterranean Feasting Hall is a 6% ABV mixed fermentation ale brewed with cedar, spruce, fir, and pine tips, and then aged in oak barrels.
- The ingredients for each Wunderkammer brew are foraged in the Vermont countryside by Gletsos.
Why you should care:
It’s fascinating how our memories work. Every time I smell a fresh pumpkin pie, I’m 10 years old again, baking pies in my kitchen before Thanksgiving. When I hear “Diane Young” by Vampire Weekend, I’m driving through New York City with my mom.
Wunderkammer is a German word for a Cabinet of Curiosities or Wonder; a small museum of memories, found objects, and items from nature that transport you to the past. Vasilios Gletsos, founder of Wunderkammer Bier, started this side project as a way to put the beauty of the natural world on display for drinkers.
Gletsos began the concept of Wunderkammer long before accepting his job with Hill Farmstead in Greensboro, Vermont. At home, he’d brewed with plants from his garden and gathered ingredients, but his role at Hill Farmstead allowed him the space to start a side brand.
“I hadn’t started making beers with foraged ingredients in a commercial setting until I started participating in ‘Beers Made By Walking‘ that my friend Eric Steen created,” Gletsos shared. “Brewer participants were to make beers inspired by a walk in the woods. It was literally making brewers think outside the confines of their breweries.”
To make the beers for Wunderkammer, Gletsos typically sets off on a walk through the woods without a specific beer in mind, letting the ingredients he finds shape the beer rather than having a concept direct him. There are exceptions, like when he and Ryan Witter-Merithew, founder of Casita Cerveceria, attempted to make their interpretation of a Gotslandsricka, a smokey, primitive juniper beer that originated in Gotland, off the coast of Sweden.
“The beer was smokey from drying the malt over fires and the juniper was used to separate the mash in the brewing process, infusing the beer with its mellow resiny character,” Glatsos explained.
More often than not, Gletsos seeks out new plants and flavors or ingredients that he’s worked with before that can be incorporated into future beers: “Sumac, lichen, yarrow, goldenrod, pine, mushrooms.” No two beers are the same, though. The varying combinations of ingredients and the different amounts and applications of each mushroom or spruce tip results in a completely unique beer — one that takes you on a journey. The central ethos of Wunderkammer Bier can be summed up in the Heraclitus quote: “You could not step in the same river twice.” It’s how Vasilios Gletsos approaches each Wunderkammer creation.
From the Ruins of a Subterranean Feasting Hall is a trip into Gletsos’ past. The beer was brewed as a call-back to the Gotslandsricka he brewed with Witter-Merithew, which used juniper and cedar.
“We had some good times together and I consider him a close friend,” Gletsos said. “It was sad to see him go and it made me think of the good times we had.”
Gletsos approached From the Ruins with a new perspective, brewing it on his own instead of with a collaborator. He also used new ingredients like spruce and fir. And the esoteric name?
“When I was a kid, I remember some discovery of an underground structure they believed to be an ancient feasting hall,” Gletsos explained. “Maybe in Ireland or England or somewhere. It was a big archeological find. I’m sure I saw all about it in National Geographic. It captured my imagination, having a special hall to gather your friends and relations around you and celebrate your kinship.”
“I do wish to evoke transporting aromas and flavors; unexpected sensations from your experience; smell memories, flavors, that take you to a time and place,” said Gletsos. It’s a tall order to ask a beer to whisk you away to the shores of Sweden or the thick woods of Vermont, but like the scent of pumpkin pie that brings me back to my mom’s kitchen or the tune of a Vampire Weekend song that puts me in a Toyota Camry in Central Park, Wunderkammer succeeds.
What From the Ruins is like:
- Fluffy, white head that doesn’t stick around too long.
- A little bit of woodiness and Saison funk on the nose.
- The first sip is an explosion of flavor. Where the aroma was a little muted and subtle, the taste bursts with notes of pine and lemon. Autumnal flavors linger and one gets notes of cider apples.
- After a few sips, the flavor feels reigned in and extremely pleasant. There’s a nice carbonation prickle and a little vinous quality.
- This beer is refreshing and wholly unique. It transports you alongside Vasilios, collecting his spruce and pine tips in the Vermont woodlands.
Where to get it:
Gletsos’ beer is released in small batches throughout Vermont at bottle shops, bars, and restaurants. The beer moves quickly, though, so if you see a bottle on the shelf, definitely grab it.
Volume Twelve: From the Ruins of a Subterranean Feasting Hall was evocative and special. Gletsos’ use of foraged ingredients puts him in the same camp as The Ale Apothecary, Scratch, or Suarez, whose beers are intentional and natural. Each brewery accomplishes something different, though. Wunderkammer is a love letter to the past and an opportunity to showcase the beauty of nature. Each individual ingredient is simple on its own, but Gletsos skillfully weaves them together for a unique drinking experience.
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