Forager Brewing Co.’s upcoming new beer, Twisted Zweig, is the Rochester brewpub’s first collaboration, but it is also the result of a circuitous journey that began unbeknownst to Forager head brewer Austin Jevne, and Vagabund Brauerei brewmaster Erik Mell.
In 2014 Jevne was in Berlin, Germany, visiting a friend who was finishing doctoral studies. On a whim, that friend suggested they visit a local brewery, Vagabund, that made the kinds of beers Jevne liked.
“I was just able to get in and get one pint and I was like, ‘This is awesome, I’ll just order another one right now,’” Jevne recalled.
Fast forward to summer of 2015 and a Rochester resident is enjoying beer at the newly opened Forager. She immediately sent off an email to Mell, her brother and current brewmaster of the brewery Jevne had visited just a year ago, raving about the beer she just tasted.
Mell recalls reading this email on a beach in Croatia and thinking, “Great, Rochester’s finally getting some breweries.”
But he then dug a bit further, and found himself thinking about how Forager “looked really good … so I was like, cool, maybe we can do a collaboration,” Mell said.
Mell quickly reached out to Jevne, who in turn was excited to inform Mell of his 2014 visit to Vagabund. A collaboration over the holiday (Mell would be in town for the same informative sister’s wedding) quickly brewed up.
The collaboration beer the duo cooked up is described as a “real” collaboration by both brewers because it will use spontaneously fermented lactobacillus yeast from Vagabund, a yeast culture from Forager, and raspberries foraged from around Rochester.
“A lot of brewers get together and I think just make a beer,” Jevne said. “This is really special because it’s literally us taking what he has from his part of the world, bringing it over here, taking what we have, and using those ingredients directly together.”
Twisted Zweig, or Twisted Twig (Zweig is German for twig), is the result of the brewers combining their collective beer knowledge and creativity.
It will be a berliner weisse style of beer, which is experiencing a type of renaissance after its popularity spike in Berlin during the 1800s and subsequent plummet to obscurity.
Twisted Zweig will be slightly sour, with more alcohol than a traditional weisse, something atypical of the style that fits in with American craft brewing philosophy.
“We’re trying to combine a little bit of tradition with something new,” said Mell, who is a diplom braumeister (or a diploma brewmaster thanks to his successful course studies at a German university). “We’re going to get a pretty cool mix of both worlds, east and west. We’re going to get something new, something a bit sour.”
Jevne brings the creativity and if-we-can-think-it-we-can-do-it approach of a homebrewer to the table, whereas Mell provides a scientific approach taught to him by Germany’s much vaunted brewing scientists, but also the American inclination that maybe bigger and bolder is better (something epitomized by the salted lime gose he brews for Vagabund).
Mell sums it up succinctly: “I went away, learned my trade, and now I’m coming back and we’re going to make a beer from my new home, in my old home, which is a really cool feeling; it makes me really happy.”