“He was a wise man who invented beer”
-Plato. Not fake news.
Everyone knows that beer is the best food.
Not everyone knows that yeast is the key ingredient in every can of liquid sunshine. Hops and malt get lots of love: yeast is too often left out of the conversation. Yeast, if you weren’t paying attention in high school biology, are microscopic single celled critters that naturally produce alcohol. Yeast could be called the mother of booze: it’s what allows fermentation to happen and as the poet John Ciardi wisely pointed out, “fermentation and civilization are inseparable.”
But yeast itself isn’t exactly civilized. It floats free and invisibly through the air around us. Which makes it all the more serendipitous that Argentinian scientist Diego Libkind quite literally stumbled upon an entirely new type of yeast in the Patagonian forest. This yeast wasn’t just any yeast either: it’s the so called “mother yeast,” the previously undiscovered source of Heineken’s famous A-Yeast.
Now, we love science. But, in all frankness, we love beer even more than science. The only thing we love more than beer is adventure. When we heard about the new brew Heineken was sourcing from this Patagonian mother yeast, we knew we had to investigate. Thus, we sent a crack team of New York hospitality legends and CONVICTS’ finest camera jockeys to Patagonia to get to the bottom of the tale of the yeast behind the new Heineken H41 Wild Lager.
What resulted can only be described as a beerventure of the most epic proportions. We sent the following gang down: Gavin Mosley, of Den Hospitality; Grant Wheeler, proprietor of The Garret East and West; Zac Nichols, the creative director at Sixty Hotels and Eric Marx, of The Metric company. New Yorkers through and through, this quad-pack of hospitality gurus took a walk on the wild side in Patagonia. Literally.
Ankles were rolled, mountain vistas appreciated, beer quaffed, and food eaten. They met with Willem Van Waesberghe, Heineken’s master brewer, along the way. Willem is a brewing legend. His relationship with Heineken is borderline spiritual: he knows the ins and outs of creating everyone’s favorite beverage, from top to bottom. Willem, along with Diego himself, pulled back the curtain on H41’s unique process for the curious foursome.
The thing is, wild yeast doesn’t behave like domesticated yeast: Heineken had to recalibrate their entire brewing process to accommodate this variability. The result was a beer that’s perfectly middle-grounded between a heavy craft brew and a refreshing lager. The trip itself was as refreshing for the city-slicking foursome as any beer. With food served by Francis Mallmann, the trip was more than a rugged trek: it was a journey to the heart of an ancient and deeply human product: beer.
As Grant explained, “I was totally taken away by the process that Diego and Willem went through to produce this beer…Diego found this yeast in the forest outside of Bariloche and put that yeast into scientific journals. Willem read the scientific journal and was like ‘I want to put this to market.’ That’s how Heineken won the process of maximizing this mother of all the lager yeasts. I was really into it. I like fermentation. I think fermentation is super cool and amazing. Nothing tastes good, compared to that same thing being fermented.” We at CONVICTS are passionate about fermentation and its freshest byproduct, H41. As Francis Mallmann said during the trip, “passion is the heart of life.” So we ask you:
What better to be passionate about than beer?