For the first time in its history, Budweiser Budvar has collaborated with another brewery – Wild Beer Co – to produce a limited edition beer: SAAZ TREK.
With its name a nod to the Czech Saaz hop prominent in the finish, this is actually a dark beer that brings together two different brews – a dark lager and a dark ale – created from a blend of Czech and English ingredients and the breweries’ own house brewing yeasts. The recipe was developed over 6 months and a thousand miles and, as well as two different yeast, it brings together two different fermentations: one bottom, the other top. These brews are then blended and matured at Wild Beer Co. in Somerset to create a beer you’d never be able to make in one batch.
Fusing Budvar’s dedication to tradition and ingredients with the innovation and experimentation of Wild Beer Co, SAAZ TREK is a beer that boldly goes where no beer has gone before. Deep roasted tones with a balanced bitterness in the finish; crisp but with rich fruity notes – it’s unforgettably good.
On the first brew day we travelled to Wild Beer Co’s brewhouse in the rolling countryside near Glastonbury to catch up with Brett Ellis, co-founder of Wild Beer Co. and Aleš Dvořák, beer sommelier at Budweiser Budvar, to get the lowdown on this landmark project.
Brett Ellis & Aleš Dvořák
BE - Well we started the brewery six years ago. The aim was to pursue alternative ways of making beer and alternative flavours in beer to challenge our own perceptions and to challenge those of Britain and the world.What’s your role at the brewery?
BE - I head up all the world of flavour and beer creation. I came into the world of beer from being a chef so taste and flavour have always been at the heart of what inspires me. We set up the brewery to try to discover and find innovative new ways of brewing for ourselves. And also, to introduce new flavours and beers that stand rooted in tradition, but try to take another step and go beyond it. So, our beers are rooted in tradition, but yet seek to take a step beyond it and discover a world after tradition, and where tradition can take us.The Cellarman Project is the name of your collaboration series. What’s it all about?
BE - It’s really about three things: collaboration, cask and innovation. We knocked on a number of doors of our friends, breweries; brewers we respect and breweries we like. We’ve asked them to be involved in this cask-only collaboration project so we can share our own information and findings about making beer but also they can share. And in that collaborative spirit create something new that neither one of us would have been able to create by ourselves.
AD - Budweiser Budvar is very traditional producer of lager-beer. We make a hand-made traditional lager where consistency and quality is everything and we have never collaborated before. But my first impression in this brewery is that this is real craft: it feels modern but real old-fashioned too and I’m very excited. I like it and when I see these wooden barrels, I’m surprised. I’m really excited.
BE - I moved to England from America 11 years ago. When I moved I already enjoyed beer, but it was all American craft beer. I had a pint of Budweiser Budvar and it blew my mind. This Budweiser didn’t taste anything like the ‘Budweiser’ back home because it wasn’t. It’s a memory that stuck with me forever. And it tasted so much better. The more I found out about them, the more interested I got. The Czech history, the tradition. So, in one way, Budvar and Wild Beer Co seem, in my mind, complete opposites in the approach to making beer: one is hyper-traditional, the other is inspired by tradition but wanting to break that mold. But it’s more like two-sides of a coin. We approach beer differently but with the same focus of making the best, tastiest drink of beer in the end results.This is Budvar’s first collaboration. So how did you decide what to make?
AD - When we planned this collaboration, I talked to the brewmaster and we discussed using raw materials, those things that meant this would be a real collaboration. I was thinking about traces on both sides what embodies the breweries – Wild Beer Co. and Budvar. Budvar trace is really its malt, yeast and hop – all from Czech Republic – and Wild Beer Co. side it is atmosphere, the British technology, British style of brewing and bringing both sides together to produce what I think is a great result.
BE – Yeah, we talked a lot and laboured over many emails and decided upon being inspired by both brewing yeasts. Also, at the Wild Beer Co, we’re very heavily into the art of blending. How you have to make two different beers, age them, let them process and them blend them together. And then blend them together. And that produces a beer you’d never be able to make in one batch because you have two different flavours and two different fermentations. So, Saaz Trek is going to be a blend of two dark beers. This week we’re brewing dark lager using Budvar yeast and then next week we will be brewing a dark ale with Wild Beer Co house yeast. After they’re done fermenting we will blend them together and allow them to have a natural cask condition and then pull it through on a traditional English hand-pump and enjoy.How would you describe SAAZ TREK then? What is going into its creation?
BE – To craft this beer we’re using techniques and processes from the traditional Budvar way and a bit more British rudimentary “let’s just make it happen”. We’re going to be combining great basic brewing principles and process, of combining English malts and Czech malts, including some roasted character, with Czech Saaz hops. So, first we’re taking the grain, half of it from the Czech Republic and half of it from Britain. We’re doing a single infusion mash, which means it’s one temperature. And after about an hour that beer has now turned from starch to sugar at which point we’ll boil that with the traditional Saaz hops. One point of differentiation is we’ll be using more of a heavy-handed ale approach to hopping this dark beer. So, it’s gonna have a bigger hop bouquet combined with the roasted malts that we’re using and mixed with the residual sugars from fermentation – you’re gonna have a good balanced blend of hops and roasted malts and leftover sugars and melanoidin flavour. The innovating and combining of worlds of Budvar and Wild Beer is going to be the fermentations where we have Budvar yeast and Wild Beer Co yeast happening at the same time, blended together to make the final pint. Which is going to be a great roasty, full-bodied but balanced with the hops. Great for the winter.
AD – It will be interesting to have the hops in the dark, roasted malt flavours. I think that the Czech Saaz hop is like the Bohemian green gold. And it brings to the beer a great and noble aroma and big spirit of Czech-style brewing.
BE – The ingredients going into this beer don’t stray too far away from the classic four: malt, yeast, water, hops. Actually, they don’t stray further than that at all. Where the wild element and innovation’s coming from is having two different fermentations happening at the same time and then blending those two fermentations together to create a new flavour that wouldn’t have been able to be made before.Budvar is obviously known for the quality of its ingredients and process…
BE – Exactly and when approaching beer, I have that same mentality. I was taught as a chef to have quality in to make quality out. The same approach of focusing at the very beginning on where your ingredients come from and the flavour and the quality of those ingredients is the same approach that Budvar and Wild Beer share.
BE – Well one amazing thing about this beer and this project is that we are standing on the edge of what we know and when you do that, sometimes you don’t know what’s going to happen when you take that step. And in this beer we don’t fully know exactly what’s going to be created in the nuances and final flavours. We’re confident in that the raw materials are amazing and the process is spot on. So we know we’re going to make a great winter dark beer but there’s an opportunity to make something completely brand new and above that that we haven’t tried before. And that’s what this blending and co-fermentation is all about.This is going to produce something special. Why are collaborations so important today?
AD – Beer is a great world but you need discover the way into the whole world of beer. And right now, after 25 years, I’ve realised that beer has many faces and collaboration is a way to discovering something exciting and different and new for all of us.
BE – I collaborate so I can learn and give something too. We’ve sought to bring something to the table and as well as take something away from the table so we as individuals and breweries can learn from it and evolve our own processes and selves. We are all limited by our own knowledge so we can only be as good as we know, but if we couple up with someone else to bring their knowledge into it we can go beyond. I guess that’s it really: the spirit of collaboration can take us beyond where we can go ourselves.
SAAZ TREK was released in bars and pubs across the UK on 29th November 2018, debuting at The Euston Tap in London where it sold out in record time.