The beauty of beer is the same as the beauty of music; the choice is ample and the possibilities are endless. This is the reason you start a music magazine or a brewery, you just want to be the guide that points people in the right direction to wonderful things. This simple philosophy is that which drives Nick Purdy of Wild Heaven Brewing and Paste Magazine. He and his friend Eric Johnson, the beer consultant of Wild Heaven and Brewmaster and Beermaster at Trapeze Pub came together and decided to explore the field of craft brewing and since September of 2010, they have tried to stake their land in the high gravity corners of the frontiers of the Atlanta beer.
Emphasizing the collegiality of the brewers of the Atlanta area, Purdy sees no reason to compete. “There is already a brewery with a great Pale Ale. You can find good examples of the basic low gravity styles in Georgia, why compete with them?” Purdy decided to take his challenge cues from the famed high gravity brewers of Allagash, out of Maine, and Russian River, out of California. It is this brewing boldness that has started to push Wild Heaven onto the scene in Atlanta with their two phenomenal beers out thus far, Ode to Mercy (an imperial brown ale) and Invocation (a spiced Belgian Golden Strong).
For those new to craft brewing, this is a risky move. In general, most breweries start out with what are known as small beers. These are of basic, popular styles and lower gravity, between 4-5.5% alcohol. This is because the higher the gravity, the more expensive, on an exponential scale; they require more yeast, grain, and the added sweetness requires more hops. With their emphasis on using whole grain as well, Wild Heaven beers are exploding with complexity and flavor. Their Ode to Mercy, for example, is aged on oak and infused with coffee, mingling with complex flavors of an articulate grain bill. This beer is to be savored, just the way Purdy wants it. “Both our beers to date introduce the drinkers to classic European styles, but with distinct American flavors.” This is noticeable in the citrus flavors in the west coast hops detectable in the Ode to Mercy and the spicy northern hop flavor in the Invocation.
As his brand expands, Purdy is quick to look to the future. They are currently outsourcing brewing to Thomas Creek in South Carolina, but they are building their own brewery in Decatur. However, he tries to stay grounded to the local scene. “Sweetwater and Terrapin are the ones who really plowed the soil and made all this possible. Sweetwater is almost a father figure to the local industry.”
Wild Heaven is living up to their motto of “Serve your Neighbor” in the most honest way the can. Purdy emphasized that the beer pie is growing and that craft brewing only gets about 9%, but that the craft brew community is the most supportive of any he has worked for.
What’s next for Wild Heaven? Purdy told the Dudeletter that the next beer coming out is an all-grain Belgian Quad coming out in August, which at 11% abv is right up their alley. “Smaller beers are in the pipeline, but we want to establish our name as the big brewer.” With any luck, they will not only establish their name here, but nationwide. The Atlanta beer scene has a lot of great beer, but thanks to people like Purdy and Johnson, more of it is ours, hopefully with many more fantastic beers to come.
Nick Purdy is the cofounder of Wild Heaven along with Eric Johnson and the co-founder of Paste Magazine with Josh Jackson and Tim Porter. After nearly a year without a print edition, Paste has launched a new digital weekly edition called mPlayer. Check Paste Magazine online at http://pastemagazine.com/ and sign up for mPlayer to get free mp3s! Check out Wild Heaven at http://wildheavencraftbeers.com/