Dienstag, 23. August 2016

Science meets Lager beer - a report from the European Beer Bloggers & Writers conference in Amsterdam

EBBC2016 Report #1

H41 Lager

For me as scientist, congresses are very essential. It’s the way you can get a concentrated amount of information during the small amount of time. You can meet your idol and you can hear the background stories, you would never learn before.

Being on my first beer-related congress, I have realized one more thing – you can also try beer that you would never try in your life.

Some background story – at the time I was starting my adventure with beer, Poland was a beer desert. Major production was lagers (and there were some more lagers available). Then I have moved to Germany, sadly, Germans would also prefer lagers and pils – type beers (and whatever they claim, their commercial its almost the same – boring). All this years lead to the situation, that even if I would stumble upon the bottle of the new lager from Heineken  - I wouldn’t bother to open it.

But during the EBWC2016, we have heard the story from Willem van Waesberghe - the master brewer of Heineken (I think that the official title is: Global Craft and Brew Master, Global Commerce Innovation. He definitely has got my attention the moment he have started describing the yeast strain that is used to brew Heineken lagers. As I said before – I wouldn’t care about lagers, but the yeast strain is really exciting. So the strain – called the A-strain (I think that the taxonomical name is Saccharomyces pastorianus) is a hybrid of the most common yeast  - Saccharomyces cerevisae and the unknown strain. Willem described the story of the identification of the second parental strain by Diego Libkind in Patagonia (for freaks like me - see the original publication in PNAS https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3167505/). S. eubayanus was found on Cyttaria fungi that are know parasites of the tree bark in Patagonia (for me exciting, sorry).
At some point Heineken decided to start to experiment with Saccharomyces eubayanus (btw. I think that the strain is accessible at the yeast repository in Utrecht and as long as you are not going commercial, you could obtain it).
The way from yeast to beer was painful, but at the end Heineken has managed to optimize the process so that the lager could be made. On top, after signing the commercial agreement – Heineken is the only company worldwide (with the exception of Argentina) that can use S. eubayanus for brewing.
At this part, the science was over and so was my interest – very interesting story, but just another lager.

But we got some bottles per table and were asked to try.

Holly wack! I admit, I knew that yeast can do a lot to the beer, but given that Heineken is not using any of modern aroma hops this beer is a blast!
No, no sarcasm. This may be the most innovative lager I have tried since years. You know, it is not hard (relative) to put some Cascade hops in the lager process and be happy that your lager has now interesting fruity aromas.
But to exchange yeast stain and get a beer that is full of fruity aromas is really something.

For now I have two questions – where I can get a box to keep it in my beer basement. Second  - XX, I never thought I will be asking – do you mind sharing some bottles?

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