When hops and yeast go on tour
When Bitburger seal hops and Bitburger natural yeast (“Diva”) go on tour…
…an unmistakable beer is born. But before the finished Collaboration Brew in early 2019 can be created, many further challenges await those involved. As Bitburger seal hops and Bitburger natural yeast are to be used in the brew, these must first be brought to the brewery. A road trip full of adventure, exciting incidents and an emotional reunion. But let’s start at the beginning…
It all started with an idea – and a load of paperwork
As with so many large-scale projects, cooperation between the two traditional breweries, Bitburger and Sierra Nevada, began with a lively exchange: Where was the joint beer to be brewed? What sort of beer should it be? And what should it look like overall? Soon one thing became clear: It was to be a collaborative festbier with very special character. This suited the ideas of both brewery owners, Jan Niewodniczanski and Ken Grossman, because both wanted a combination of German and American brewing ingredients – the best of both worlds. So it happened that Stefan Meyna, Stefan Hanke, Scott Jennings and Matt Ruzich developed a recipe containing the raw ingredients of both breweries. To be precise: Alongside Bitburger seal hops, the Collaboration Brew would also use Bitburger natural yeast. An absolute novelty, as the Bitburger natural yeast had so far never left the protective walls of the Bitburger brewery.
On the way to our American friends
To get the first brew started at the Sierra Nevada pilot brewery in Mills River, the Bitburger seal hops and Bitburger natural yeast first had to make the journey from Germany’s Eifel mountains to the USA. It was not an easy decision to start with – and not a simple operation, either. After all, hops is a plant in the hemp family, while yeast, of course, consists of living microorganisms – facts that can make any customs official sit up and pay attention. This meant transport was not easy, as first the necessary documentation for the brewing ingredients shipment had to be produced. Finally, when all the certificates had been obtained, the precious package made its way to our brewing partners. It was carefully packed and protected and sent by air mail to North Carolina. Even if a sack of green hops and small tubes of yeast could have looked very suspicious to a custom official, the good preparation paid off and everything passed the border without an issue.
Learning to handle Bitburger natural yeast takes time
While the Bitburger seal hops were sturdy and resilient, Bitburger natural yeast turned out to be very challenging to deal with when brewing in the USA. The yeast from Bitburg is very demanding and sensitive to handle – which is why the Bitburg brewers lovingly call it “Diva”. So that it didn’t settle too quickly in fermentation or remain in suspension, the American brewers had to take note of certain facts about its propagation. For this reason, they received detailed instructions from Germany, with which they were able to produce an entire fermenter full of yeast. Of course, the occasional call came in from the land of unlimited possibilities, and doubts were quickly put to bed. Because in Mills River too, they place great value on quality and on having well-trained employees who match the star power of the Bitburger yeast.
The long wait pays off – the first beer is brewed
After weeks of preparation, numerous adjustments and many bureaucratic hurdles, the day everyone had been working towards finally came: The first batch of the new festbier was brewed in the Sierra Nevada test brewery. Of course, there was no way the Bitburger master brewer Stefan Meyna was going to miss it. He flew in to the idyllic Mills River, North Carolina, and was received there by an old friend: Stefan Meyna and Scott Jennings, the Sierra Nevada master brewer, knew each other when they were students, and now met again for the first time in 18 years. No surprise that the two old friends went directly from the airport to a popular pub to try the local beer. But as happy as their reunion was, their shared project took center stage. Already the next day they both went to the brewery in Mills River. One of Stefan’s most frequent sentences there was: “Oh yes, that is just the way we do it.” Because both family breweries combine a passion for the best raw materials with high quality thresholds for their beer. Thus, malts and hops for the festbier were inspected in fine detail over the next few days, and finally, the first batch of the exclusive Collaboration Brew began. The greatest challenge at this time was certainly converting measures, as the USA uses the imperial system of pounds, barrels etc., while Germany uses the metric system. Thus, the first official act of both brewers was to download an app that converted between the two systems. Thank you, technology!
The unmistakable result – a festbier of character
The flavor of our collaborative beer speaks for itself – the combination of German and American brewing ingredients has created a festival beer of exceptional character. Chocolatey and caramel-like flavors meet those of a classic Pilsner malt, while fruity notes from the US hops combine with the famous tangy bitterness of Bitburger seal hops. But even if this Collaboration Brew is only going to be available in the USA, there is cause for excitement in Germany – because the Sierra Nevada brewers and very interested to find out about brewing in Bitburg. The best is yet to come…