Brewer Warren Wiese says it all started with an email. Which sparked a big idea. And then, “suddenly this passionate American dude shows up here in Cape Town and together we’re making a beer that sings with hops.” That American was Markus Stinson, an accomplished brewer and ingredients specialist for Elysian Brewing, our Seattle-based craft brand. And the email? A challenge – to create a pioneering beer, using hops from both countries.
What brought the idea of ‘10,000 miles’ to life?
Markus: I wanted to do a collaboration after meeting our South Africa colleagues at AB InBev’s Global Hops Summit. Right away I knew we could do great, innovative things together using hops from both of our countries. I reached out to Warren of our Newlands Spring brewery, one of South Africa’s oldest breweries.
Warren: When I met Markus, I knew this project would rock. He has huge, contagious energy, massive practical experience and a passion for hops like no one else.
Markus: I really liked Warren’s almost youthful passion for this crazy idea. And it got only better from there.
Two countries, one beer – no easy task. What were the biggest challenges?
Markus: The challenge was to make a beer featuring fresh hops from our farm in George, South Africa as well as hops from Elk Mountain Farm here in the U.S. Here’s the tricky part: fresh hop beer can only be made during hop harvests, so scheduling is a real roll of the dice. We asked Lauren Steytler, the General Manager of South African Breweries Hop Farms, to predict when our desired hops would be ready. From that, we chose our brew date and I boarded my 21-hour flight to Cape Town with my fingers crossed.
Warren: With fresh hop beer, you’ve only got six hours to pick the hops and use them before they start to degenerate – and our hop farm is 420 km (260 mi) away, on a largely one-lane road. Our brew house wasn’t designed for a project of this magnitude either, so Markus and I had to develop a lot of unconventional brewing processes to make it work.
What was the final recipe for the beer?
Warren: We eventually chose a combination of 13 varieties of fresh and dry hops from South Africa, dry hops from the US, and three varieties of malt. Watching Markus’ hands turn green as he helped remove 75 kg / 165 lb of sticky hop cones from the lauter tun at 1:30am showed me how committed and passionate he was about this project!
Markus: Once I arrived, it was a marathon day of picking and brewing. It’s a ‘wet hop’ beer, and we added a large amount of hops at the end of the brew house process. That makes the beer less bitter, with an incredibly fresh smell and a bright fruity character for maximum flavor.
How did you come up with the name ’10,000 miles’?
Markus: I was pretty stoked when everyone agreed to my suggestion that it be named 10,000 Miles Fresh Hop Ale, representing the distance between the Elysian and Newlands Spring breweries.
The 10,000 miles challenger crew after creating the first-of-its-kind brew.
What’s been your biggest take-aways from this challenge?
Markus: For me it was discovering the rich brewing history of South Africa. The breweries are complex, picturesque and super impressive: they sit in the shadow of Table Mountain and the original spring still runs through the complex. And after spending time with the Newlands crew and Lauren Steytler of SAB Hop Farms, I’ve seen that the passion for beer – especially craft beer – is alive and well in South Africa, with more exciting developments to come.
Warren: I learned that a journey of 10,000 miles really does start with a single step. For years, I dreamed about doing something new, exciting and relevant in the craft beer space at our company. I’d like to thank Markus for dreaming big. If you fight for what you want and articulate it well, it can happen.
10,000 Miles is in limited release, made available at select Cape Town outlets in April and starting July 12 at all Elysian Brewing locations.